The group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup has drawn to it's conclusion and it's been a rollercoaster ride. So far this has been one of the best World Cups ever, we've seen goals, excitement, drama and some huge shocks along the way in the lead up to revealing the 16 nations who'll be battling it out for the famous Jules Rimet Trophy.
Almost every game has delivered entertainment and the introduction of VAR has certainly provided plenty of talking points - both good and bad. There's been a few high profile casualties from the opening stage of the tournament with Poland and defending Champions Germany making shock exits. That's opened the door for several nations and it's going to be interesting to see how the rest of the tournament unfolds!
With the Group Stage now drawn to it's conclusion we've put together what we believe to be the best team of players so far. Each of these have been exceptional for their nations over the opening three games of the tournament and there's a couple of surprise names in there - so read below and tweet your thoughts to us @FootyAccums!
First up as our goalkeeper we've gone for Leicester City and Denmark #1 Kasper Schmeichel. The 31 year-old has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League over the last few years, something which makes him an important player for the national team. He's a key component of a Danish backline which conceded just 8 times in 10 games in qualification and just once so far in Russia. Two clean sheets in three games helped his side finish second behind France in Group C with 5 points and he's really enhanced his reputation with his performances this summer.
Next up we've gone for a real warrior at the back in Diego Godin. This man has been an absolute beast over the years for Atletico Madrid and he brings through his dogged determination and organisation through to the national team. When it comes to leaders at the back there aren't many better in world football than the 32 year-old and he's been magnificent in what could potentially be his last World Cup. He played a huge role in Uruguay's 100% run through to the last sixteen - 3 wins, 9 points & 3 clean sheets, job done.
In the middle of our back three we've opted for England man John Stones. This is a huge tournament for the Manchester City man with him the most settled member of England's back three and a man Gareth Southgate clearly trusts. And so far he's repaid his faith with 2 goals and 2 excellent performances. A classy ball player along with a solid defender, Stones is the epitome of the modern day centre half with the ability to both stop and start attacks.
Finally, the last component of our back three is a surprise one in Sweden skipper Andreas Granqvist. The 33 year-old was pushed hard for this spot by Croatia's Dejan Lovren but his composure in pressure situations has played a massive part in Sweden stunning Germany and winning qualification through to the last 16. Some may remember him from his time playing for Wigan back in the 2007-08 season but quite frankly his club career hasn't hit huge heights. However, he's so influential for Sweden which is shown by them keeping 2 clean sheets and him popping up with 2 massive goals from the penalty spot - leader.
On the right there was a few contenders but in our opinion there's only one man to fill this spot, with Kieran Trippier enjoying a magnificent start to the World Cup. The 27 year-old has waited a long time to make his mark on the international stage but he's more than delivered in Russia so far, becoming a major weapon for England. He's an extremely capable defender but going forward is where he comes alive, with his technical ability leading to plenty of opportunities for the Three Lions from both open play and set pieces - adding a new dimension to the Three Lions' game. England have been excellent from corners in Russia and a large part of it is down to the pin point accuracy of the Tottenham man.
Next up is Croatia skipper and arguably player of the tournament so far Luka Modric. The 32 year-old came into the World Cup fresh from winning the Champions League with Real Madrid and he has hit sights firmly set on more success with the national team following an excellent start. Croatia won all 3 of their group games and Modric played a massive part in that run, scoring 2 goals and producing a man of the match performance during their superb 3-0 win over Argentina - this guy is a class act.
Joining him in midfield is domestic rival Philippe Coutinho who's been right at the heart of everything positive for Brazil this summer. The £146 million man is an extremely important part of Tite's attacking unit and he knits midfield and attack together beautifully, which allows the likes of Neymar, Willian and Gabriel Jesus to do their thing. The Selecao haven't been as prolific as many expected going into the tournament, but Coutinho has been hugely influential, contributing 3 goals (2G 1A) in 3 appearances at crucial stages to steer the favourites through the group stage.
The final component of our midfield is Mexico hero Hirving Lozano. He may just be 22 years-old but this guy is forging a big reputation in the game following a couple of fantastic performances, which has led to reports that Barcelona are monitoring his situation at PSV. A goal & assist in 3 games played a massive part in Mexico making it through Group F and recording a stunning 1-0 win over Germany on match day one. They're one of the side to watch in Russia and the way they play brings the best out of Lozano, who has enough trouble even the worlds best defenders.
In support of the forward two there was only one option, with Spain man Isco the standout candidate. Playing alongside the fantastic David Silva and Andres Iniesta (who almost made it in) he's flourishing and he's looking more than capable of taking the reigns as the national teams talisman once the two hang up their boots. Another Real Madrid Champions League winner, Isco exudes confidence and oozes class on the ball making him a defenders nightmare. His vision and ability to find a man from all anywhere on the pitch means that he's able to get out of sticky situations and he also weighs in with goals, netting once in three games so far in Russia.
Many positions in this team were tough to choose but the two men spearheading our side really wasn't. First up is England skipper Harry Kane who's really led by example in Russia on his first appearance at the World Cup Finals. Being named captain of the Three Lions was a huge honour for the 24 year-old and he's relished the challenge of being the focal point of the side. 5 goals in 2 games which includes a hat-trick on match day 2 against Panama has put him in pole position for the golden boot and in turn raised the expectation level amongst the fans considerably. With him in the side England always have a chance and at the minute there isn't an out and out #9 better than him - a view also shared by Gareth Southgate which will give him so much confidence going into the latter stages.
The final member of our XI is another Real Madrid man and sole Portugal representative, Cristiano Ronaldo. This looks likely to be his final World Cup with him now at the age of 33 but he's still playing like he's in his twenties. The iconic #7 has really dragged his nation through the group stage after scoring 4 of Portugal's 5 goals - including a hat-trick against Spain on match day 1. His free-kick with just a few minutes remaining on the clock to snatch a 3-3 draw will go down in World Cup history as one of the best as he continues to prove he's one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
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