Russia 2018: Team of the tournament so far…

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2018 World Cup XI – Round One

World Champions stumbling at the first hurdle, Argentina’s saviour failing from the spot against an Icelandic film-maker and Spain playing out a six-goal thriller with Portugal (or rather Ronaldo) – we’ve just about seen it all in round one of the Russia World Cup!

We’ve got the challenging task of picking the best XI from the opening round of an epic 2018 World Cup so far.

GOALKEEPER (4-4-2)

Hannes Halldorsson (Iceland, 34-years-old, Randers FC)

Man of the match in an impressive 1-1 draw against Argentina. Icelandic stopper Halldorsson, who not only saved a penalty against Messi, but also faced a record 11 shots from the Argentina captain in what turned out to be an inspired performance from the part-time filmmaker. Iceland could provide more upsets in Russia if their number one continues this sort of form.

RIGHT BACK

Kieran Trippier (England, 27-years-old, Tottenham Hotspur)

England’s standout performer in their opening win over Tunisia was surprisingly Trippier, who thrived in Gareth Southgate’s 3-5-2 formation where he has license to bomb down the right wing and feed the dangerous Harry Kane. The Spurs man ended round one as the tournament’s most creative player with six chances created, Tunisia managed four in total and England managed 14 altogether. The Bury-born defender’s pin-point crossing caused the Tunisians problems all game. If England’s young guns had a better night in front of goal Trippier would have ended Monday night with a hat-trick of assists. He could be an unlikely threat as the tournament progresses for Southgate’s Three Lions.

CENTRE BACK

Diego Godin (Uruguay, 32-years-old, Atletico Madrid)

Godin showed why Atletico boss Diego Simeone has held him in such high regard in recent years as he led an underwhelming Uruguay team to a crucial 1-0 win over Egypt in their opening match. Oscar Tabarez’ side went to Russia with their impressive attacking duo of Suarez and Cavani carrying the hope of a nation, but it was their defensive unit led by the rock that is Godin who proved decisive. If their striking partnership hit form and Godin helps keep things tight at the back, Uruguay may well go deep into the tournament.

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CENTRE BACK

Hector Moreno (Mexico, 30-years-old, Real Sociedad)

Mexico out played defending champions Germany in all departments on Sunday and experienced centre-back Moreno was key to an assured defensive display and clean sheet in their shock 1-0 win. Germany posses some of the tournament’s most feared attacking talent but Moreno wasn’t fazed and made some crucial blocks as his team ran out of steam and Germany started to influence the game as the match wore on.

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LEFT BACK

Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia, 32-years-old, Roma)

One of the highlights of the opening round has been the sheer quality of free kicks – Cristiano Ronaldo, Juan Quintero, Aleksandr Golovin and Aleksandar Kolarov have all found the net with exquisite efforts for their countries. There are few players in world football who can hit a ball with the venom and power that Kolarov possesses and Costa Rica were on the receiving end of a trademark strike from the Serb in the 56th minute with the only goal of the match. The 32-year-old captain is coming off an impressive season for Roma and looks to be continuing his form in Russia.

RIGHT MIDFIELD

Hirving Lozano (Mexico, 22-years-old, PSV)

The Germans couldn’t have got off to worse start in the defence of their title as Mexico’s high tempo game along with a neat finish from Lozano handed Joachim Low’s men a defeat in their opener. The Mexicans were everything the Germans weren’t – energetic, incisive and the PSV man was at the heart of everything positive. Lozano’s stock has risen since Sunday’s performance with him being linked with a number of Premier League clubs already.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

Aleksandr Golovin (Russia, 22-years-old, CSKA Moscow)

Golovin announced himself to the world in some style as he helped Russia put five past Saudi Arabia with two assists and a sumptuous free kick in injury time. The World Cup transfer mill has gone into overdrive after Golovin’s outstanding performance with Chelsea, Arsenal and Juventus all linked to the youngster. Despite being in the early stages of the tournament, there’s still much more to come from the CSKA Moscow playmaker with Russia on the brink of qualifying for the knockout rounds after their 3-1 win over Egypt last night.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

Luka Modric (Croatia, 32-years-old, Real Madrid)

Croatia were many supporters’ dark horses heading into the tournament but failed to set the world alight in their opening 2-0 win against a poor Nigeria side. Modric was the shining light for Croatia as he buzzed about in midfield, in what we’ve been accustomed to seeing in recent years for Real Madrid. Wearing the captain’s armband on the night, Modric then stepped up to double Croatia’s lead in the 71st minute from the penalty spot. The ex-Spurs man continues to press his claim as the best playmaker in world football.

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LEFT MIDFIELD

Denis Cheryshev (Russia, 22-years-old, Villarreal)

There’s no doubt Russia were the outstanding performers of the opening round with the host nation storming to a 5-0 win over sorry Saudi Arabia. Amongst a number of standout performers was ex-Real Madrid winger Cheryshev who scored an emphatic double including an audacious touch to scoop the ball over two sliding Saudi Arabia defenders before finishing with aplomb just before half time and then scoring a sublime half volley with the outside of his foot from 20 yards in the 91st minute. Cheryshev’s first goals for his country and well worth the wait since making his debut in 2012, even adding a third goal against Egypt last night to take him level with Ronaldo as the tournament’s top scorer.

STRIKER

Harry Kane (England, 24-years-old, Tottenham Hotspur)

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Captain Kane sent every pub in England into a state of delirium when he snatched victory for England in injury time with his second of the match against Tunisia. Despite having a quiet game for Gareth Southgate’s men his two goals were crucial to getting England off to a winning start. Kane was the first Englishman since Gary Lineker to score a double in an international tournament, and if the Spurs man can continue to find the back of the net, football might just be coming home.

STRIKER

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, 33-years-old, Real Madrid)

Ronaldo took his tally to 84 goals in 151 games for Portugal as he single-handedly dragged his team towards a thrilling 3-3 draw against Spain on Friday evening with a majestic hat-trick. We all knew CR7 would deliver on the biggest stage but didn’t expect three goals including an early goal of the tournament contender in his first game alone. Portugal might have a centre-back combined partnership age of 69, but when Ronaldo is your captain anything is possible.

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All image sources from PA Images

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