MOSCOW, Russian Federation, Jul 16 – After a thrilling World Cup, AFP Sport reporters have chosen their team of the tournament based on all 64 matches in Russia:
Chelsea’s giant goalkeeper was a dominant presence for Roberto Martinez’s team in Russia.
He produced one of the saves of the tournament when he leapt to his left to tip over a Neymar curler in the dying seconds of the quarter-final against Brazil to keep the score at 2-1.
If Belgium had been able to field the suspended Meunier for their semi-final against France, the outcome might have been different, as France’s players admitted themselves.
If proof were needed, the Paris Saint-Germain attacking left-back scored in Belgium’s victory against England in the third-place playoff.
Varane came to the World Cup having just won his fourth Champions League medal with Real Madrid.
He and Samuel Umtiti enhanced their reputation during the tournament, giving France defensive solidity and helping the side keep clean sheets against Uruguay and Belgium.
When Tottenham’s Trippier scored a fantastic free-kick early in the semi-final against Croatia, Gareth Southgate’s team appeared to be heading for their first World Cup final since 1966.
Alongside John Stones and Harry Maguire, he epitomises England’s young new generation of ball-playing, pacey defenders.
Manchester United midfielder Pogba came to Russia after an underwhelming club season under Jose Mourinho, during which he was left out on a number of occasions.
But under Deschamps, Pogba anchored the midfield alongside N’Golo Kante, giving players around him the licence to go forward.
As always the unsung hero, Chelsea’s Kante is certainly not underestimated in his dressing room.
The French players treat him as a lucky charm and he rarely lets them down, doing the dirty work in front of the defence while others are able to showcase their skills further forward.
Brazil looked like they were picking up momentum at the World Cup until they ran into Belgium in the quarter-finals.
While Neymar blew hot and cold, Barcelona’s Coutinho was a constant attacking threat, scoring a wonderful curling goal against Switzerland in Brazil’s opening match at the World Cup.
Croatia captain Modric was named player of the tournament after inspiring his side to reach the final in Moscow.
The Real Madrid midfielder, who has a vast range of silky skills and an ability to control matches, had a superb match against Argentina and dominated the midfield in the semi-final as England tired.
Mbappe, just 19, scored twice against Argentina to overshadow Lionel Messi and announce his arrival as a future superstar.
His goal in the final was the cherry on the cake and the Paris Saint-Germain forward received the tournament’s young player of the year award.
Hazard proved in Belgium’s thrilling last-16 win over Japan and then the coming-of-age quarter-final victory against Brazil that he can unlock defences.
It says it all that his performances at the World Cup could well earn him a move to Real Madrid to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 32-year-old forward was the warrior at the heart of Croatia’s surprising run to the final.
The Juventus man nipped in ahead of England defender John Stones to score the winning goal in the semi-final and send his nation into uncharted territory.
His own goal in the showpiece took nothing away from his superb tournament.