The group stage of the World Cup is over and it was a wild ride. We had only one goalless draw and recorded a massive rise in penalties thanks to the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). However, we have been exposed to some of the best football we have seen for some time in the FIFA World Cup and standout performances from key players.
Here is a list of the most outstanding players in the first round of the World Cup. The list does not contain players from teams that have been knocked out and it was not intentional, but it acts as a justification to their exclusion from the list, which plays in a 4-3-3 formation.
Goalkeeper – Fernando Muslera (Uruguay)
Uruguayan goalkeeper Muslera has been integral to the success of Uruguay at the World Cup so far. Muslera is yet to concede a goal in their three games and got his 100th cap for Uruguay in their 3-0 victory over Russia in their last game to ensure maximum points for his country.
Right Back – Kieran Trippier (England)
Kieran Trippier has shown his class so far with his performances. His set pieces and crosses have been pivotal to England’s success so far at the World Cup. His performances have ensured that Kyle Walker can be included in the Three Lions starting lineup as a right centre-back.
Centre Back – Yerry Mina (Colombia)
Yerry Mina has been immense for Colombia especially since his introduction in their game against Poland, and he has grabbed two goals in as many games. He grabbed the winner against Senegal, ensuring the Colombians secured top spot as Group H winners. It is rumoured Barcelona want to sell the young centre-back and he is using the World Cup to prove them wrong.
Centre Back – Diego Godin (Uruguay)
Assured centre back and Uruguay captain has been the central figure in Uruguay’s impressive defensive display that has ensured they are yet to concede a goal so far in the World Cup. He partners with his Atletico Madrid teammate Jose Gimenez and they have formed a formidable pairing for the South American side – one to worry many sides.
Left Back – Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland)
Ricardo Rodriguez has been as reliable as ever for Switzerland and has shown defensive stability and attacking prowess in the left side of the Swiss defence. The AC Milan defender is a target for many teams in Europe and he is proving his worth in the World Cup.
Midfielder – Jordan Henderson (England)
Liverpool’s captain Henderson has been a key figure for the Three Lions operating in the midfield pivot and has performed immensely with impressive displays against the less prominent teams in England’s group, with pirloesque passes to forward players. Gareth Southgate gave him the nod ahead of Dier, and Henderson has rewarded him.
Midfielder – Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)
Coutinho has been hands down Brazil’s best performer in the World Cup so far. His stunning goal against Switzerland and a decisive goal against Costa Rica has set him ahead of the rest. Coutinho has been a real playmaker in the Brazilian team and it is hard to see them function without him especially with Neymar’s disappointing form in the group stages.
Midfielder – Luka Modric (Croatia)
Real Madrid midfield maestro Luka Modric has given a masterpiece in the tournament so far and has scored two goals. His performance against Argentina was his most notable. He and his midfield pair, Ivan Rakitic have proved to be immense. Croatia are a formidable side and their midfield is perhaps the strongest among the teams in the World Cup.
Forward – Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Lukaku has been a top target man for Belgium grabbing four goals in two games. His finishing seems very assured and it is quite obvious he has stepped up his game for Belgium in the World Cup. Yes! I picked him ahead of Harry Kane. Lukaku’s aggression and physicality has been hard to contain in the World Cup and he will hope to rally Belgium to World Cup glory.
Forward – Aleksandr Golovin (Russia)
Russian playmaker Golovin might be a sceptical choice but his performances in his first two games were very impressive, and his absence against Uruguay left a gaping hole in Russia’s attacking quality. Golovin is a technical player able to make the right decisions at the right moments and is more of a creator than a goalscorer. Golovin will look to power his team to victory against a tough Spanish side on Saturday.
Forward – Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
There is basically no list in the World Cup right now that will not include Cristiano Ronaldo, his performance against Spain where he grabbed a hat-trick will surely be one of the highlights of the World Cup for years to come. Ronaldo has rightly grabbed four goals in the World Cup so far. His performances have sparked for the first time in a while who the real G.O.A.T. is, between him and Messi.
Croatia’s coach, Zlatko Dalic will be my pick to coach the team of the tournament so far. He has been under the radar and despite his recent appointment to a troubled camp, he has led them expertly.
- Harry Kane – yes, I did not select Kane in my team. So far, Kane has not greatly impressed in his general play and the quality of Lukaku’s goals are more desirable than Kane’s penalties and back post tap-ins.
- Eden Hazard – Hazard has been immense for Belgium and a key player in the team, but I do not feel he has done something truly outstanding that will indicate that he has raised his game; the quality of opposition also plays a part in his exclusion. However, I feel he will light it up in the second round.
- Juan Quintero – Quintero has been a revelation for Colombia in this World Cup. His stunning left foot has been one of the stories of the World Cup, and the playmaker has been great for Colombia so far. Most notably his left foot freekick against Japan in the opening game.
- Casemiro – The midfielder has played decently for Brazil that helped Brazil to concede only one goal in the group stage.
- Thiago Silva – Thiago Silva’s defensive prowess for Brazil has been integral to their success in the first round. The defender was able to grab a goal in their last group game against Serbia.