CHIEF Sports Writer Scott Wilson has picked his 2018 World Cup team of the tournament. Do you agree?


The Northern Echo:

Started the World Cup as a potential weak link – ended it as England’s Player of the Tournament. The Wearsider was superb throughout, with his obvious high point coming courtesy of his penalty-saving heroics against Colombia. His best save also came in that game, as he acrobatically clawed away Mateus Uribe’s long-range volley, and he was still coming to his defenders’ rescue in the third-place play-off with Belgium. Now looks certain to be England’s first-choice goalkeeper for many years to come.


The Northern Echo: Kieran Trippier celebrates after England reached the World Cup quarter-final

England’s best outfield player was their right-back, and while Thomas Meunier was a hugely important player for Belgium, Trippier deserves his place in the Team of the Tournament. His lung-bursting runs down the right-hand side were a major part of England’s success in the group stage, along with his pinpoint delivery from set-pieces. He rarely wasted a corner, and he sent the nation into raptures when his free-kick opener against Croatia briefly raised hopes of a place in the World Cup final.


The Northern Echo: Raphael Varane

Both of France’s centre-halves had excellent tournaments, but Varane just gets the nod over his team-mate Samuel Umtiti. His unflappable nature helped ensure France boasted the best defence on display in Russia, and unlike so many other defenders from supposedly top teams, he was never caught out of position. He scored in France’s quarter-final win over Uruguay, and now boasts a truly remarkable haul of four Champions League titles, three club World Cups, two La Liga crowns and a World Cup winners’ medal.


The Northern Echo: Diego Godin

Uruguay might have gone out at the quarter-final stage, but that shouldn’t detract from Godin’s excellence. On the evidence of his five appearances in Russia, the Atletico Madrid centre-half can justifiably claim to be the world’s best defender. He was utterly unpassable as Uruguay progressed through the group stage without conceding a goal, and helped successfully shackle Cristiano Ronaldo in the last 16. Defensively, few sides came close to matching the Uruguayans, and Godin was the South American side’s stand-out performer.


The Northern Echo: Martin Caceres

Caceres played in both full-back berths during Uruguay’s five matches in Russia, but his versatility is only one of his many assets. Rugged and uncompromising, he is a full-back who knows how to defend, but he also boasts a blend of athleticism and pace that makes him a major threat in the opposition’s half. He is in his 30s now, and having briefly played for Southampton on loan, signed a short-term contract with Lazio at the start of the year. On the evidence of his World Cup displays, the Italian side have got themselves a bargain.


The Northern Echo: Blaise Matuidi

Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante might hog the headlines, and there were times during the World Cup when the pair performed superbly. However, it was Matuidi that was the heartbeat of the French midfield, with his consistently excellent displays helping to hold the entire France team together. In many ways, he is the perfect blend of the two players he plays alongside, matching Kante for tackles and energy while also mimicking Pogba when it comes to passes and dribbles. He is in his 30s now, but Didier Deschamps will be hoping the Juventus midfielder lasts to the next World Cup.


The Northern Echo: Luka Modric

He might not have a World Cup winners’ medal, but Modric was rightly awarded the Golden Ball as FIFA’s Player of the Tournament. His creative abilities have long been obvious, but this was the first major tournament where he was able to truly dictate a series of big games. He tore Argentina apart as Croatia topped their group, and was the key difference in the second half of the semi-final as his passing and prompting forced England onto the back foot. He wasn’t quite at his best in the final, but comfortably outshone Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar over the tournament as a whole.


The Northern Echo: Kylian Mbappe

Prior to the start of the tournament, people were asking whether 19-year-old Mbappe was really ready for the World Cup stage. It is safe to say that question was well and truly answered as France were crowned world champions. Mbappe scored four goals during the tournament, with his best performance coming as he ripped the Argentinian defence to shreds in the second half of a sensational last-16 game. He capped France’s win in the final by scoring his side’s fourth goal, and is being tipped as a future Ballon d’Or winner despite his teenage years.


The Northern Echo: Eden Hazard

Of all the players who failed to appear in the World Cup final, Hazard was perhaps the most unfortunate. The Chelsea midfielder could not have done much more to try to drag Belgium beyond the last four. He impressed during the group stage, as Belgium cruised through to the last 16, but his tournament really set alight in the knockout phases. He was instrumental in his side’s dramatic comeback against South Korea, and impressed again in the quarter-final win over Brazil. Just for good measure, he even added another goal in Saturday’s consolation win over England.


The Northern Echo: Ivan Perisic

The Croatian midfield was rightly lauded as the most exciting at the tournament, and Perisic was a key component of his side’s creative excellence. His incisive attacks down the left were a big part of Croatia’s success, with his opening goal of the tournament securing a group-stage victory over Iceland. He found the net again in the semi-final, bursting between English defenders to convert a cross from the left, and was one of the best players on the pitch on Sunday, briefly drawing Croatia level with a superb first-half strike.


The Northern Echo: Romelu Lukaku

Harry Kane might have claimed the Golden Boot after scoring six goals, but three of those came from the penalty spot and another was via a fortuitous deflection off his boot. Lukaku delivered a series of more rounded displays, with his pace and power forming the cornerstone of Belgium’s attacking threat. He started with a bang, scoring two goals in an opening-game win over Panama, and bagged another brace as his side thrashed Tunisia. He produced a wonderful step-over to set up Nacer Chadli’s last-minute winner against South Korea, and led the line superbly in Belgium’s dramatic win over Brazil.



The Northern Echo: Gareth Southgate

Didier Deschamps might have added a managerial World Cup medal to the one he won as a player, but even the France boss cannot claim to have had the same transformative effect as Southgate. The England manager oversaw a complete overhaul of the way in which the England team is viewed, successfully rebuilding the relationship between his players and a fanbase that had grown weary of repeated failures. Over the next few years, it will be fascinating to see how he and his young team progress.


Thibaut Courtois (Belgium), Thomas Meunier (Belgium), Samuel Umtiti (France), N’Golo Kante (France), Denis Cheryshev (Russia), Hirving Lozano (Mexico), Harry Kane (England)

Do you agree with Scott Wilson's 2018 World Cup team of the tournament?

Do you agree with Scott Wilson's 2018 World Cup team of the tournament?

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