World Cup 100: Ranking the Top Players in Russia After the Final

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 15, 2018

World Cup 100: Ranking the Top Players in Russia After the Final

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    Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

    The 2018 World Cup is now in the books. France won a thrilling final against Croatia on Sunday, lifting the trophy for the first time since 1998.

    It's time to update our World Cup 100—a position-by-position ranking of the top-performing players in Russia—for the last time. With every match played, every performance delivered, it's time to make a definitive judgement.

    We've watched every game, rated every player and constructed a top 10 or 20 for each spot and crowned the kings of each. Bear in mind that only performances at the World Cup were considered for these rankings. Reputations count for nothing. 

    In terms of categorising player positions, we've introduced the following rule:

    • If someone played multiple positions, he is placed in the one he played the most minutes in.
    • If he played the same number of minutes in two separate positions, he is placed in the one he played in most recently.

    Because of team eliminations and rotating lineups, some players appeared in more matches than others. In such instances, those who kept consistently higher performances over a larger number of games were rewarded with a higher rank.


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    Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

    Thibaut Courtois rounded off a brilliant campaign with a clean sheet in the third-placed playoff. His excellence wasn't given that much airtime over the course of the tournament—presumably because he didn't go through a penalty shootout—but he made excellent saves every step of the way, becoming a genuine factor in his nation's run.

    He's a deserved winner of the Golden Glove.

    The only goalkeepers that were left with a chance of challenging Courtois for the award were Hugo Lloris, who made a horrendous error in the final, and Danijel Subasic, who conceded more goals (four) than shots saved (three) in the final.

    Biggest rise: Thibaut Courtois (+1)

    Biggest fall: Hugo Lloris (-3)


    Top 10 Goalkeepers
    1Thibaut Courtois (+1)Belgium
    2Kasper Schmeichel (-1)Denmark
    3Jordan Pickford (Stay)England
    4Danijel Subasic (Stay)Croatia
    5Guillermo Ochoa (Stay)Mexico
    6Jo Hyeon-woo (Stay)Korea Republic
    7Alireza Beiranvand (+1)Iran
    8Robin Olsen (+1)Sweden
    9Yann Sommer (+1)Switzerland
    10Hugo Lloris (-3)

Right-Backs/Right Wing-Backs

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    Allsport Co./Getty Images

    Roberto Martinez's full-throttle attacking tactics suit Thomas Meunier well. He was one of Belgium's best performers in Russia, and his goal against England on Saturday was the cherry on top of an impressive-looking cake.

    It wasn't enough to overhaul our top two, though.

    Mario Fernandes was incredible for Russia, while Kieran Trippier was arguably England's best player. Between them, they offered forward drive, excellent defending and set-piece mastery.

    Biggest rise: Thomas Meunier (+1)

    Biggest fall: Sime Vrsaljko (-1)


    Top 10 Right-Backs/Right Wing-Backs
    1Kieran Trippier (Stay)England
    2Mario Fernandes (Stay)Russia
    3Thomas Meunier (+1)Belgium
    4Sime Vrsaljko (-1)Croatia
    5Benjamin Pavard (Stay)France
    6Martin Caceres (Stay)Uruguay
    7Ramin Rezaeian (Stay)Iran
    8Luis Advincula (Stay)Peru
    9Henrik Dalsgaard (Stay)Denmark
    10Moussa Wague (Stay)Senegal

Left-Backs/Left Wing-Backs

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    Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

    Only two of the top 10 left-backs played this weekend, as England's Ashley Young didn't play and Belgium's rotation of options at this position produced no stellar long-term performers.

    Fortunately, one of the performances was worth talking about: Lucas Hernandez's. Another powerful, combative showing completed an excellent World Cup for him, and he even picked up an assist for Kylian Mbappe's strike. He ends up on top.

    Biggest rise: Lucas Hernandez (+2)

    Biggest fall: Multiple (-1)


    Top 10 Left-Backs/Left Wing-Backs
    1Lucas Hernandez (+2)France
    2Diego Laxalt (-1)Uruguay
    3Ludwig Augustinsson (-1)Sweden
    4Yuto Nagatomo (Stay)Japan
    5Yuri Zhirkov (Stay)Russia
    6Youssouf Sabaly (Stay)Senegal
    7Jesus Gallardo (Stay)Mexico
    8Ivan Strinic (+1)Croatia
    9Ashley Young (-1)England
    10Ehsan Haji Safi (Stay)Iran


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    Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

    The centre-backs were consistently hard to judge, as many of them struggled to find a consistently high level.

    That's why two centre-backs who bowed out at the quarter-final stage still occupy the top spots. Having held the positions to this point, they don't deserve to be displaced.

    Harry Maguire impressed enough in the third-place game to overtake John Stones, and Raphael Varane look unsettled enough not to take his presumed path to the top.

    Biggest rise: Toby Alderweireld (+3)

    Biggest fall: Multiple (-1)


    Top 20 Centre-Backs
    1Andreas Granqvist (Stay)Sweden
    2Diego Godin (Stay)Uruguay
    3Harry Maguire (+2)England
    4Raphael Varane (-1)France
    5John Stones (-1)England
    6Yerry Mina (Stay)Colombia
    7Jose Gimenez (Stay)Uruguay
    8Thiago Silva (Stay)Brazil
    9Toby Alderweireld (+3)Belgium
    10Miranda (-1)Brazil
    11Samuel Umtiti (-1)France
    12Manuel Akanji (-1)Switzerland
    13Jan Vertonghen (+2)
    14Simon Kjaer (Stay)Denmark
    15Morteza Pouraliganji (Stay)Iran
    16Kyle Walker (Stay)England
    17Domagoj Vida (Stay)Croatia
    18Ilya Kutepov (Stay)Russia
    19Nikola Milenkovic (Stay)Serbia
    20Carlos Salcedo (Stay)

Defensive Midfielders/Central Midfielders

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    Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

    The beauty of football is found in its unpredictability. You never know what's going to happen.

    N'Golo Kante's horror show in the final could not have been foreseen. He had been the tournament's best central midfielder to that point, but he was woefully off the pace on Sunday. The performance was bad enough to push Golden Ball winner Luka Modric into first.

    Kevin De Bruyne's ability to slice and dice with his passing is well-known, but particularly so in England, where he does it on a weekly basis. England and John Stones succumbed to it on Saturday, proving practice (against certain things) does not always make perfect.

    Marcelo Brozovic is a big mover thanks to his battling performances over the final two games.

    Biggest rise: Marcelo Brozovic (+10)

    Biggest fall: Casemiro (-2)


    Top 20 Defensive Midfielders/Central Midfielders
    1Luka Modric (+1)Croatia
    2N'Golo Kante (-1)France
    3Paul Pogba (Stay)France
    4Kevin De Bruyne (+2)Belgium
    5Ivan Rakitic (Stay)Croatia
    6Casemiro (-2)Brazil
    7Philippe Coutinho (Stay)Brazil
    8Roman Zobnin (Stay)Russia
    9Marcelo Brozovic (+10)Croatia
    10Andres Iniesta (-1)Spain
    11Jordan Henderson (Stay)England
    12Valon Behrami (Stay)Switzerland
    13Idrissa Gueye (Stay)Senegal
    14Hector Herrera (-1)Mexico
    15Nahitan Nandez (-1)Uruguay
    16Wilmar Barrios (-1)Colombia
    17Jesse Lingard (-1)England
    18Omid Ebrahimi (-1)Iran
    19Gaku Shibasaki (-1)
    20Axel Witsel (Stay)Belgium

Attacking Midfielders/Wingers

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    Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

    Eden Hazard put in a spectacular showing against England on Saturday, weaving his way through tackles and fooling defenders consistently. His late goal to wrap up the win was well-deserved.

    After such a performance, it was going to take something remarkable from Kylian Mbappe in the final to stave him off for the top spot. While Mbappe did score a lovely goal, Hazard deserves top billing on balance.

    Ivan Perisic is a big mover due to his impressive performances in Croatia's two most important games. He overtakes Ante Rebic, who started fast but trailed off gradually.

    Biggest rise: Ivan Perisic (+8)

    Biggest fall: Aleksandr Golovin (-3)


    Top 20 Attacking Midfielders/Wingers
    1Eden Hazard (+1)Belgium
    2Kylian Mbappe (-1)France
    3Antoine Griezmann (+4)France
    4Ivan Perisic (+8)Croatia
    5Ante Rebic (Stay)Croatia
    6Isco (-3)Spain
    7Aleksandr Golovin (-3)Russia
    8Denis Cheryshev (-2)
    9Nordin Amrabat (-1)Morocco
    10Takashi Inui (-1)Japan
    11Hirving Lozano (-1)Mexico
    12Dries Mertens (-1)Belgium
    13Neymar (Stay)Brazil
    14Rodrigo Bentancur (Stay)Uruguay
    15Andre Carrillo (Stay)Peru
    16Carlos Vela (Stay)Mexico
    17Juan Quintero (Stay)Colombia
    18Yurary Poulsen (Stay)Denmark
    19Xherdan Shaqiri (Stay)Switzerland
    20Shinji Kagawa (Stay)Japan


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    YVES HERMAN/Getty Images

    Saturday's match between Belgium and England pit the top two strikers of the tournament against one another. It was a chance for one of them to assert their dominance over the position and end their spell in Russia on a high. We expected fireworks.

    Instead, both Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane looked off-colour. Lukaku worked some good positions but was consistently stopped one-on-one, while Kane wasn't moving in the way he usually does, as his predatory instincts in the box were strangely missing.

    Biggest rise: None

    Biggest fall: None

    Top 10 Strikers
    1Romelu Lukaku (Stay)Belgium
    2Harry Kane (Stay)England
    3Edinson Cavani (Stay)Uruguay
    4Artem Dzyuba (Stay)Russia
    5Cristiano Ronaldo (Stay)Portugal
    6Mario Mandzukic (Stay)Croatia
    7Luis Suarez (Stay)Uruguay
    8Diego Costa (Stay)Spain
    9Olivier Giroud (Stay)France
    10Ahmed Musa (Stay)Nigeria