The Team of the Tournament of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will not be anymore shocking as the Tournament itself which had several favourites crash out early in the Mundial.
Here are the players who played a very integral role in the success of their respective teams.
Jordan Pickford (England) Perennially a problem position for the England national team with many who have worn the number one jersey unable to perform on the biggest stage. Pickford picked up from former stalwart Joe Hart, who coincidentally, lost his international place as a result of a poor season at club level, and it may have looked a bit of a gamble to put such an inexperienced keeper in from the start of the tournament.
The 24-year-old, however, looked solid throughout the group stages and really picked up his levels in the knock-out stages, most notably when he made that wonder save from Mateus Uribe, before becoming the hero in the subsequent penalty shootout.
Pickford was instrumental in the quarterfinals, singlehandedly preventing a Sweden fightback with some excellent saves.
Worth noting that Thibaut Courtois was named keeper of the tournament. Hugo Lloris ruled himself out of the reckoning with that howler in the final.
Raphael Varane (France) The team that Deschamps built relies heavily on a stingy defence to allow the flair players to attack in numbers.
And France conceded just one goal in the three group matches – a penalty against Australia, while clean sheets in the quarter-finals and semi-finals guided the 1998 winners into the final.
The centre-half pairing of Varane and Samuel Umtiti is still in its embryonic stages, however, they are looking more and more like a partnership as the tournament has gone on.
Both scored vital goals and should still be together in four years’ time as France defend the trophy in Qatar.
Yerry Mina (Colombia) It was Colombia’s attacking quartet that was meant to carry this team through to the latter stages of the tournament, yet it was their commanding centre-half who outshone the superstars in the side.
Colombia got off to the worst possible start, reduced to ten men just three minutes into their World Cup campaign. That opening-day defeat to Japan put their knock-out chances at real risk. But with Mina leading from the back and driving his side forward, they would outclass Poland before putting in a rock-solid defensive performance to hold off the threat of Senegal.
Mina did not start in that Japan defeat but went on to score the opener against Poland, the winner against Senegal and was again on hand to head home in injury time to take England all the way to penalties, where they bowed out. Mina joined Barcelona last season but has not established himself in the side.
The centre-half could be on his way to the Premier League next season and expect him to have a major impact.
Harry Maguire (England) Another man with little or no competitive international experience ahead of the tournament, Maguire looked completely at home at the World Cup, playing a significant role in England’s journey to the semi-finals.
Playing in a three alongside John Stones and Kyle Walker, manager Gareth Southgate put a huge amount of trust in the Leicester City defender and was repaid in full as Maguire barely put a foot wrong in Russia.
Maguire was often found deep inside the opponents’ half starting attacks with neat and measured passing, while also chipped in with a fine headed effort to open the scoring in the quarter-final clash with Sweden.
Benjamin Pavard (France) The France right-back will be remembered at this tournament for his sublime effort against Argentina, which levelled matters at 2-2 before Didier Deschamps side secured a 4-3 victory.
And while Pavard has proved very strong, attacking down the right flank throughout, his defensive contribution has been vital to a team that has a tendency to sit deep and invite teams on.
The French defence nullifyied the incredible attacking threat of Belgium and Pavard, as always, was instrumental in that most valuable clean sheet.
Ante Rebic (Croatia) Just gets the nod ahead of compatriots Ivan Perisic and Sime Vrsaljko, the most energetic midfielder brought real energy and passion to this Croatia side en route to the World Cup final.
Rebic fought fire with fire in the group match with Argentina, and helped his side to win the physical battle ahead of securing the 3-0 victory.
Possibly lucky to be still on the pitch in the 53rd minute of that particular affair as he scored one of the most memorable goals of the World Cup, which spelt the end of Willy Caballero’s tournament.
Rebic, again, proved a real thorn in England’s side as his physicality proved a real disruptive influence. Another yellow card late in that one for a trademark lunge, followed swiftly by a substitution as Zlatko Dalic did not want to lose him should they reach the final. They did.
N’Golo Kante (France) The midfielder did it at Leicester, he is doing it at Chelsea and has again proved he can do it at the top level by being France’s most consistent player at the World Cup.
Didier Deschamps dropped him at Euro 2016 and he spent the final on the bench as the coach could not fit Kante into his preferred XI, however, this time around, the midfield general is first name on the sheet.
An early yellow card in the final resulted in a second-half substitution but Kante left the match with his side leading 2-1, so the least his team-mates could do was finish the job.
Luka Modric (Croatia) It takes something special to get a country the size of Croatia all the way to the World Cup final and it has been the Real Madrid midfielder who has been their top performer throughout.
While all eyes were on Lionel Messi in the group stages encounter with Argentina, Modric put in a midfield masterclass, topped off by a fine goal from distance in the 3-0 victory.
Croatia actually struggled in the latter stages against Denmark and Russia, but it was Modric’s energy that kept his side in both games all the way to penalties. His second-half performance against England was one of the best we have seen at this tournament.
Scant consolation, perhaps, as Modric was deservedly named Golden Ball winner as player of the tournament.
Takashi Inui (Japan) One from left-field perhaps but Japan’s journey at this World Cup was one of the many highlights of the tournament. And they came oh-so-close to causing the biggest upset of the World Cup as they had Belgium on the ropes at 2-0 in the last-16.
Inui scored a spectacular effort as Japan finally succumbed 3-2 to the eventual third-placed finishers and the skilful attacking midfielder was a bright light for Japan throughout.
Playing on the left flank, Inui’s trademark manoeuvre was to cut inside and attack with that pin-point right foot. The future Real Betis man also scored against Senegal in the group stages, while he proved instrumental in Japan’s opening victory over Colombia.
Eden Hazard (Belgium) Questions were asked when Eden Hazard was made captain of Belgium, the playmaking midfielder more known for his individual brilliance rather than leadership traits.
Yet the Chelsea midfielder led by example throughout as Belgium’s attractive, attacking style won plaudits from pundits and punters from that opening victory against Panama, through to their remarkable comeback against Japan and on to the semi-finals.
Hazard & Co were unable to break through that stubborn French defence and fell at the last hurdle, but the midfielder’s enthusiasm and involvement should see him remain on the international scene and go again for Euro 2020.
“I’d prefer to lose with this Belgium, than to win with that France,” said Hazard after the semi-final defeat.
We hear you, Eden…!!
Kylian Mbappe (France) The teenager has been hyped up throughout Europe on the club scene over the past two years. But everyone was keen to see how he would fare on the international scene.
And Mbappe did not disappoint as be really established himself in the group stages before bursting into life in the last-16 victory over Argentina. The flying forward rounded it all off in style with a goal in the World Cup final. Mbappe was also named young player of the tournament.
Diego Godin (Uruguay) Guided his side to the quarter-finals, the Atletico Madrid man was at his brilliant best up to that point.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland) Showed moments of the quality he possesses throughout Switzerland’s campaign. Failed to shine as Sweden overpowered them in the last-16.
Casemiro (Brazil) The organiser in the middle of the park for Brazil looked unflappable throughout but a second yellow card against Mexico ruled him out of the crucial quarter-final against Belgium, thus taking him out of contention for a starting spot on this fantasy selection.
Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Injury ruled him out of the vital clash with France. And Uruguay looked ordinary without him when they finally bowed out.
Hirving Lozano (Mexico) The Central Americans peaked too early and Lozano was instrumental as they beat the Germans.
Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Almost single-handedly dragged an average side all the way to the quarter-finals. Fond of a penalty as well.
Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Fell at the final hurdle with Belgium. Consolation of being named goalkeeper of the tournament.
Nacer Chadli (Belgium) Made a huge difference to Belgium when the manager finally dropped Yannick Carrasco and utilised the former Spurs man perfectly.
Coach of the tournament
Didier Deschamps (France) As much as we would love to give it to Gareth Southgate, there is no denying that Didier Deschamps has been the coach of the tournament. The France coach joins a very elite group who have both captained and coached a team to World Cup glory.