World Cup Team of the Group Stage: Ronaldo features, but who else?
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating his third versus Spain/Credit: Maddie Meyer

World Cup Team of the Group Stage: Ronaldo features, but who else?

With the group stages having come to a close, it's time to have a look at the top performers.

DominicScottBone
Dominic Scott-Bone

The group stages finished rather anticlimactically with Belgium and England already through to the round of 16.

That game didn't do the World Cup justice after what has been a roller-coaster past 15 days where we have seen current holders Germany knocked out before reaching a knock-out round.

Drama has been at its highest this month and it's set to continue as we delve further into the competition.

But, with 75% of the tournament already complete, which players were the top performers?

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Alireza Beiranvand (Iran)

Fernando Muslera has been part of my fantasy football team from right at the start of the tournament, and although he's served me terrifically being the only goal-keeper yet to concede at this summer's finals, the Uruguayan has been protected by an excellent defence and, in truth, has had few saves to make.

So, the shot-stopper who has performed most valiantly in my eyes is Iran's Alireza Beiranvand.

Apart from stealing Cristiano Ronaldo's limelight by rather unorthodoxly saving the Real Madrid star's spot-kick with his head, the 25-year-old had an 80% save success rate and mate eight stops in total in the three games.

He conceded just two goals in games versus tournament favourites Spain and Portugal (one each), and kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory over Morocco.

The Iranian should be hot property this summer after his sublime efforts.

He only conceded goals from Ricardo Quaresma's unstoppable outside-of-the-boot top corner finish and Ramin Rezaeian's attempted clearance which deflected off Diego Costa's legs.

Unlucky, right...

 

Kieran Trippier (England)

I've gone for a 5-3-2 or 3-5-2 formation, however you see it, and only England have used a variant of this so far in the World Cup.

Consequently, with Gareth Southgate moving Kyle Walker into a centre-back role it was always going to be a big task in filling his boots on the right-hand flank.

And although Kieran Trippier lacks his former team-mate's explosive speed, the technical aspects to his game have shone.

The Tottenham man has excelled in England's 5-3-2 formation as the right wing-back and his crossing ability and link-up play has been admirable.

Delievery from set-pieces has been nothing short of outstanding and we have truly seen their impact with Harry Maguire and John Stones in particular causing constant mayhem in the opposition box, not to mention Harry Kane who thrived against Tunisia with two goals from resulting Trippier set-plays.

Six of the Three Lions' eight goals have come via dead balls (including penalties). No defender has made more key passes thus far.

Yes Roy, this is what happens when Kane doesn't take corners...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jose Maria Gimenez (Uruguay)

Diego Godin has been phenominal at the back for Uruguay and has lead by example alongside Jose Maria Gimenez.

The Atleti duo have been integral to their nation, having not conceded so far at this tournament.

However, though the former has shown defensive brilliance, it's his Athletico Madrid central defensive partner who just about clinches the spot in this team.

This is largely because of his last minute winner securing all three points for Oscar Tabarez's side against Egypt.

After winning the initial free-kick, the 23-year-old rose highest and attacked the ball with some vigour to head home Carlos Sanchez's ball into the danger area.

 

 

Andreas Granqvist (Sweden)

Not just at the back has Andreas Granqvist performed considerably well, up the other end he has also bagged two goals of his own.

The 33-year-old captain has been the leader his national side have needed and was a major part of surprising everyone in topping a group which included Germany.

Granqvist marshalled Sweden's back-line throughout the group stage which only conceded two goals to German duo Marco Reus and Toni Kroos in a last gasp win.

With penalties against South Korea and Mexico, the central defender who plays his football at Krasnodar stayed cool, calm and composed as he safely dispatched both into the top left-hand corner.

 

 

Yerry Mina

Yerry Mina on the whole is a rather unknown young and upcoming talent which Barcelona transferred in from Palmeiras during the January transfer window.

Although he failed to hit the ground running at the Nou Camp, Mina has presented his class so far in this tournament.

The 23-year-old has been crucial at both ends for Colombia after their poor performance against Japan in which he didn't feature.

In the South American side's last two group games he's scored the opening goal and kept a clean sheet.

His winner over Senegal was vital for Colombia in securing a place amongst the last 16, and so far this World Cup has won nine aerial duels, made three tackles and has an 88% pass accuracy.

 

 

Denis Cheryshev

No one before this month would have tipped Denis Cheryshev to even be starting in Russia's World Cup campaign let alone be their top goal-scorer.

He was a surprise inclusion in Stanislav Cherchesov’s squad and was only implemented into the side mid-game when Alan Dzagoev was injured inside 18 minutes against Saudi Arabia.

The Real Madrid winger who spent last season on loan at Villarreal has actually scored more goals in this World Cup (3) than in last season's La Liga (2).

Cheryshev lit up the tournament's opener versus Saudi Arabia with two beautifully taken goals in a 5-0 thrashing. 

 

 

Luka Modric

It's safe to say Luka Modric's World Cup campaign has signified why he is widely regarded as the best midfielder on the planet.

The Croatian maestro has been at the centre of all Vatreni's positiveness that established them at the top of Group D.

His class was typified with his audacious effort that flew into the bottom corner of Willy Caballero's Argentinian net.

Alike Granqvist the Los Blancos midfielder has been as composed as anyone at the tournament and had no qualms in scoring his penalty in the first round against Nigeria.

The 32-year-old has also presented his defensive qualities and his hunger to win the ball back, which has been incredibly impressive in the group stages.

Croatia are now tipped to go far in this tournament with the run they now have in the knockout stages, and much of that is down to the brilliant Modric.

 

 

Philippe Coutinho

Brazil have previously been heavily reliant on their talisman Neymar, however it has been former Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho that has impressed in the group stages.

The 26-year-old has been outstanding for the Brazilians and has been wonderful to watch when he gets on the ball.

His goal against Switzerland was absolutely sublime and Coutinho-esque most would say after scoring so many goals in this manner during his career.

A goal versus Costa Rica also showed another side to his game. The anticipation and ability to read the game was exquisite as he latched onto a loose ball to poke home a winner in the dying embers.

Overall, Coutinho seems to have advanced to another level which pundits were unsure he could reach.

His performances in Russia really have earned him a place in this squad.

 

 

Eden Hazard

We all know and appreciate Eden Hazard's class but it is his consistency at the top level which has been questioned.

For Belgium he has been at the heart of everything going forward with two goals and an assist to his name.

It seems that finally on the international stage that he's living up to his potential and will be key in taking the game to the opposition come the knockout stages.

The Chelsea star's all-round performances in Russia have been thrilling and exciting. The intricacies of his passing and movement has been fabulous to watch.

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

He is Portugal's main man and boy has he delivered so far in the World Cup.

This is at no detriment to the Portuguese team around him who have played well in the group stages, but the Real Madrid frontman has taken his nation to a completely different level.

A hat-trick against one of the tournament favourites Spain personified this in what was the best individual display of the tournament so far.

The formidable goal-scorer also earned his side the victory with a fourth minute header against Morocco.

Although it wasn't his day when he missed a penalty as Portugal drew with Iran, he has been the difference maker and best player at the World Cup.

 

 

Harry Kane

Without Kane's goals, England would've only advanced from the group stages on goal difference.

This represents how key and influential he is to this English side who dream of big things in Russia.

Although his two goals against Tunisia were from very close range and two of the three versus Panama were penalties, the other accidental, his intentions and desire to deliver at this World Cup have gotten England to where they are now.

The Spurs striker has taken the captaincy in his stride and has also proven he is one of the best forwards around with one hand on the Golden Boot.

 

 

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