1-23: The best World Cup players for each squad number

Date published: Friday 13th July 2018 1:56

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Justice for the third-place play-off
For me, without a well contested 3rd place play off, England have no chance to make this a good world cup.

Let’s look at what England have achieved.

Group stages. We beat Tunisia and Panama. Then we played Belgium. Does anyone remember what happened? Does anyone care? Oh, we lost, in one of the least engaged games of all time. Essentially we played 2 games in the world cup. We won both of them against very limited opposition. Against the more limited we even ran rampant.

Round of 16
Possibly the highlight? For two reasons. We won a penalty shootout, and we didn’t lost to a decent team. But what does “decent team” mean? This is a team that was missing their talisman, that Japan beat in normal time, and that was in many ways about as much of a football match as Belgium albeit for very different reasons. We survived a battle of shithousery, by becoming shithouses. Make no mistake, for all the jingoistic tripe and being smarter and doing what needed to be done, both teams behaved despicably in that match and if there was an anti fairplay award we should have shared it with Colombia for that match.

Quarter-Final
Maybe this was the highlight. Facing Sweden could easily have been a qualifying match that we’d have been satisfied with a draw in. It was composed and relatively safe, but I really don’t think anyone will be looking back and saying “Remember when we beat Sweden 2-0?” Ironically, drawing this and winning a second penalty shootout in a row may actually have seemed more impressive.

Semi-Final
A plucky team with real quality at some points on the pitch. We lost.

The main difference in this world-cup is that our team wasn’t composed of internationally respected players, so we expected less. We used to be composed of star players – players that stood up and carried the English teams that gave us 3 semi finalists in the Champions League. Teams that took on the best of what mainland Europe had to offer and expected to win. In this world cup we got pretty much the same as we always got – going out to the first decent team we faced – but we were happy because relative to our players, this was not a bad world cup. But it very definitely didn’t contain anything good. This was mediocre – and without outplaying a motivated Belgium side, it can’t be anything better than that. Unfortunately, as your article pointed out, it’s very unlikely we’ll get the chance to do that.
Indie, North London

 

Interesting views on the 3rd place playoff, which I do not necessarily disagree is perhaps unhelpful after the disappointment of the Semis. My mother is from Holland and so I support them in the same way I support England, and the 3rd place playoff has appeared odd the last two times, but in 2014 it did feel like a celebration of how far Holland had gone – much better than expected even though they reached the final in 2010. I think that is how we should view tomorrow’s game, a celebration of how the team has performed.

Funnily enough that is what Martinez said about the first game between the two sides – it should be seen as a celebration. When he said that about the last group game I thought it was an odd thing to say – both sides could still win the group, there was something to play for. If he were to say it about this game I think it would make perfect sense. Both teams have done well to get this far, whilst obviously disappointed not to make it to the final, this gives the country a chance to enjoy one last game and have another piss up. Could we do without it? Probably, but let’s just enjoy them at the tournament one last time!

Cheers,
Tim Harrington (QPR), London

 

Am I the only England fan who wants England to win tomorrow? It’s not the final but you’re better off going home on the back of a win. And we don’t want to be beaten by Belgium twice.

I understand the desire to rest players who’ve had a longer tournament than usual this year, but I also feel that Kane will still want to prove he deserves the golden boot and it’s worth trying to keep our competitive edge.
My line up would be Butland, Jones, Stones, Cahill; Trent AA, Loftus-Cheek, Henderson (please not Dier), Delph, Rose; Vardy, Kane.

Btw excellent contributions to the mailbox yesterday. Echoed a lot of my feelings.
Paul in Brussels (Belgium taking the match lightly too and planning a massive party for the team’s return)

 

Harry Kane: The knackered riddle wrapped in a goalscoring enigma
I happen to agree
, and I say this as a Spurs fan, but it’s been quite similar of his season this year at club level too.

While at times he’s been brilliant, he’s frequently looked tired and lethargic, and not the player we know he can be.

And yet somehow, he still ends up scoring a truck load of goals and is likely to get the golden boot. Wrap it up however you want, but he’s just one of those players that’s difficult to drop whatever his form.

He looks exhausted, for sure, and if the World Cup is anything to go by, August will be a pretty dry one again, but he’s undoubtedly a goal getter of the highest quality and when he’s purring he’s up there with the very best. It’s a shame he wasn’t at that level for this tournament…I guess he’ll just have to settle for a semi-final and a golden boot…
From Nick, an objective England and Spurs fan

 

Just taking exception to the point that, as 3 of Harry Kane’s goals were penalties, they carry less merit. I see your point, but in a tournament where Messi, Ronaldo, Modric and Sigurdsson all missed from the spot – the fact that Kane scored all of his (plus 1 in a shootout) isn’t to be sniffed at.

Tournament penalties are uniquely different. Kane knows if he misses v Colombia the momentum dramatically changes, panic sets in. This is a young team who is unsettled in new territory. How different were England once Croatia got back into the game in the semi final? You can even make the case that, at 1-0 v Panama. If Kane misses, there’s no way we end up 5-0 clear at half time, the buoyancy changes, the bandwagon slows.

I agree Kane’s tournament tailed off slightly, perhaps because of quality of opposition but more likely he looked injured. Regardless, it’s fatuous to pull his record apart. It’s difficult scoring at big tournaments – how many did Lewandowski, Higuain, Salah, Messi, etc get? It’s hard enough just managing to get there fit and firing.
Andy Jones

 

I’ll start this by stating that I’m a Tottenham fan so I may be biased but I also tend to look at things with a sense of perspective.

I see statements like those contained in Alex, (*apologies for this, I really couldn’t help myself), Ayr email quite often regarding Harry Kane but the same statements can be said about many, if not all top strikers.  Said statements being:

two headers from 1 yard out where he can’t miss
Harry Kane’s World Cup summarised as three fortunate goals and three penalties

Now, leaving aside the fact that the first goal was a close range shot not a header and the back-heel for the hat trick was incredibly fortunate so no arguments there, the reason these ‘tap ins’ look so easy is because of the movement and anticipation that gets him there.  Yes, the chance is easy but I guarantee if you were playing up top for England you wouldn’t be in the position to get in front of your man and anticipate where the ball would land to score from these’easy’ tap ins.  In a packed penalty area it’s not a coincidence that these chances ‘fall’ to Kane rather than anyone else.  Also, three were penalties but he dispatched them extremely well which is to be applauded.  Messi, Ronaldo and Modric have all missed haven taken less penalties this tournament.

Again, I’m not saying that he’s been on top form this World Cup and he looks unfit to me but if you’re going to dissect the ‘greatness’ of Harry Kane, do it over the last three seasons, not five games where although he’s been far from the best striker at the tournament, he’s still looking extremely likely to walk away with the Golden Boot.
Ross (Great, another friendly against Belgium) Norwich Spurs

 

Alex’s email on Harry Kane this morning was of interest but then simply boils down his performances as “three fortunate goals and three penalties, mostly against cannon fodder, interspersed with some lovely passing from deep that resulted in balls getting put in to an empty box”.  Surely this is the type of analysis that his mail was supposed to be against?

Trying to be a bit more analytical (but also being quite concise) I’d say Kane didn’t play his best this tournament partly due to fitness/form, partly due to England’s inability to create chances in open play (we don’t have an Eriksen) and also partly due to playing a different position, dropping off to let Sterling run in behind.  Kane’s strength is shooting low from the 12-20 yard range, but I can only think of one shot he had like this and it was a snap shot against Sweden.

Being a bit more specific, his second goal against Tunisia (which was absolutely vital by the way) is clearly not a “fortunate goal”, his movement to anticipate the ball and lose his marker, and then the power generated and then the direction to put it in quite a small space.  His performance against Colombia – he was the best player on the pitch putting in a masterclass of forward play in holding up play and winning free kicks, he also won a penalty, scored a penalty and then scored again in the shootout.

Finally, he took 4 penalties in this tournament and scored them all, which is not easy to do (for an Englishman).

TL;DR Kane played well up until the Colombia game but then faded badly.
Kevin G

 

One player away
On one hand they’ve reached the semi-final, on the other they didn’t beat anybody of note. How good are this England team? In my opinion they’re very good indeed. I would go so far as to say that England are one player away from winning the World Cup.

The defence is good enough. They’ve got the golden boot winner elect so up top is sorted. Behind Kane though you have Alli, Lingard and Sterling – 3 very mobile attackers great at running into space and getting on the end of things. What’s missing is someone to supply the pass to get on the end of like Alli has at Spurs with Erikson. As it is it’s like an American Football team with 3 elite receivers and a ho-hum quarterback firing the bullets.

Imagine this England team with 2 of the above 3 and Modric, Ozil or Erikson? It’s coming home! The irony is that it’s precisely this type of player that, going back to the days of Glenn Hoddle, England haven’t rated. Look at the amount of criticism Ozil has shipped at Arsenal because body language is somehow appreciated more than assists and key passes. When Modric himself was at Spurs that most English of English managers Harry Redknapp used to play him on the left because he didn’t trust him to handle the rough and tumble of central midfield.

All England are lacking is the type of creative midfielder that they’re undervalued for decades. The luxury is now a necessity.
Conor Malone, Donegal

 

1-23
In an effort to pass some time whilst bored at work I came up with a list of the best players based on their squad numbers from this World Cup, so one player from each number 1 – 23. Why? Because I can.

Some conclusions: it was bloody hard for two extreme reasons, some numbers had a wealth of talent to chose from (such as the obvious ones like 1, 7 and 10) and some hard hardly anyone (15, 16 and 19 were the most tricky and has let in some average performers).

It was also hard choosing three goalkeepers given the restrictions on the numbers they have so I have gone with two. I could have chosen one at No 13 but there is no way I am leaving out my beloved Kante.

And finally, perhaps most tellingly, there is barely a player that is the standout obvious candidate for any particular number.  I think that just goes to show that this hasn’t really been the World Cup of the individual talent taking the tournament by the scruff of the neck but the teams with the best tactical plans and togetherness winning through to the latter stages.

For what it’s worth, depending on who wins the final, the Golden Ball will go to either Mbappe or Modric. So I reserve the right to change the Number 10 position depending on that outcome!

Here is the list (with other contenders in brackets). Remember, this is based on WC performances only, hence why Henderson gets in over Kroos!

1 Courtois (Lloris, Pickford)
2 Pavard (Fernandes, Gimenez)
3 Godin
4 Varane (Perisic, Granqvist)
5 Umtiti (Stones)
6 Maguire (Pogba, Cheryshev)
7 Griezmann (Rakitic, De Bruyne)
8 Henderson (Fellani, Kovacic)
9 Lukaku (Kane, Suarez)
10 Mbappe (Modric, Hazard)
11 Coutinho (Brozovic)
12 Trippier
13 Kante (Mina, Ochoa)
14 Matuidi (Inui)
15 Paulinho
16 Amrabat (Phil Jones)
17 Mandzukic (Golovin, Laxalt)
18 Rebic
19 Willian (Aguero, Samedov, Costa)
20 Quintero (Firmino)
21 Cavani (L Hernandez, Vida)
22 Isco (Dzyuba, Lozano)
23 Subasic (Hyon-Woo, D Sanchez)
Rob (spot the #bantz option!), Leicester

 

Not buying the Mbappe hype
Am I the only one who doesn’t see Kylian Mbappe as the favourite for the Golden Boot? I’ll admit he’s been very good but I wouldn’t say he’s been the best player throughout the tournament. He had a quiet group stages, with the exception of a one yard tap-in against Peru. Admittedly his performance against Argentina was arguably the best individual performance, but is that enough? You could argue that Lukaku’s performance against a much better Brazil side was as impressive, but for different reasons.

Meanwhile Luka Modric has probably been the best player on the pitch in every game he’s played, like Mbappe he humbled Argentina, and has dragged his country through three 120 minute games in a row. If Croatia manages to win on Sunday then he will likely win the award, but even if they lose, Modric has still been by far the best player of this World Cup.
Kieran (Maybe I’m just bitter that I have to let go of the idea that Rashford might be as good as Mbappe now) Éire

 

Blame David Hartrick
In reply to Lauro’s email this morning quite rightly pointing out I did say ‘Please, please, please be good Croatia’ in my group preview I can only say two things;

1. I’m really sorry

2. Please, please, please be good Brighton & Hove Albion

Yours in deepest regret,
Dave Hartrick

 

Conte’s demise started with Costa
Friday is always a quiet day it seems, but then Chelsea finally drop the news we knew about since May, Antonio Conte has gone, some may feel it is a typical Chelsea sacking, I was a huge fan of Antonio Conte, the way he brought his classic Wing Back formation to the Premier League, turned so called flops in Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses into top performing players, brought us a Premier League and an FA Cup in his two seasons at the helm.

However ,where I feel not only the club but also the fans started to fall out of love with him was that incredibly daft text he sent to Diego Costa, a player adored by the fans, who after years of searching finally broke that striker curse that the club had, then you cast your eye over at last season, playing Eden Hazard in a position he didn’t like, frustrating other team players and then towards the end of the season clearly displaying a “I don’t care” attitude.

If he had of stayed on it would have likely resulted in Hazard and many others wanting out of the club, so overall it is the right choice for the future of the club.
Mikey, CFC (If Croatia win the World Cup does that mean Lovren and Modric won’t end up in prison for their perjury charges?)

 

 

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