The best of 2018 FIFA World Cup

As the curtains come down on the World Cup, Sportstar has its pick on the tournament's best.

Kylian Mbappe (R) was awarded the best young player of the tournament and Luka Modric was adjudged the player of the tournament   -  Getty Images

Suhith Kumar’s World Cup picks

Moment of the World Cup

Ivan Perisic’s handball in the final and the penalty that was awarded subsequently through the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was the moment of the tournament. It changed the complexion of the fixture that had been in the balance. Antoine Griezmann converted the spot-kick that was won by Blaise Matuidi and Croatia, which had drawn itself level 10 minutes earlier, had to push for a second equaliser on the night. France’s third and fourth goals were consequences of Croatia committing men forward in search of the equaliser and Les Bleus sliced through the Croatia rearguard courtesy of Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe.

Ivan Perisic (4) handled the ball inside Croatia's penalty box which was awarded as a penalty after a VAR referral   -  Getty Images

 

Player of the tournament - Kylian Mbappe

His performances at club-level had been extraordinary over the last 18 months and he came into the World Cup as one of the players to watch out for.

From antics to theatrics: Five World Cup moments

France's first goal-scoring chance of the World Cup fell to Mbappe, in the opening Group C fixture against Australia. He latched onto a sublime throughball from Griezmann and shot from a tight angle, forcing Mat Ryan (the Australia goalkeeper) to make a save. 

At this precise moment, we didn't know Mbappe will go on to be the focal point of France's attack, making those well-timed runs behind the defences and have the team's game-plan built around his strengths (speed, acceleration, ability to beat a player, and the goal scoring nous). He was involved in pretty much all that was good about France and contributed hugely to the country winning its second World Cup. 

Team of the tournament (4-2-3-1)

Manager: Zlatko Dalic (CRO)

Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford (ENG) 
Defenders: Thomas Meunier (BEL), Yerry Mina (COL), Andreas Granqvist (SWE), Lucas Hernandez (FRA)
Midfielders: Luka Modric (CRO), Philippe Coutinho (BRA) 

Attacking midfielders: Eden Hazard (BEL), Antoine Griezmann (FRA), Denis Cheryshev (RUS) 
Forward: Kylian Mbappe (FRA)

Shyam Vasudevan's World Cup picks

Moment of the World Cup

This has been a very eventful World Cup with many late twists, but the one standout moment would be Cristiano Ronaldo's stunning freekick in Portugal's opening group encounter against Spain. The Portuguese were trailing 2-3 and with less than two minutes left on the clock, when Ronaldo won a freekick just outside the box and stepped up to score one of the sweetest strikes of the tournament. The goal earned Portugal a 3-3 draw and marked a hat-trick for Ronaldo, making him the oldest hat-trick scorer in World Cup history. Although Portugal crashed out of the tournament in the round-of-16, his stunning goal will be remembered for years to come.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first tournament free-kick against Spain   -  AP

 

WC final - match report

Player of the tournament - Luka Modric

My pick for player of the tournament would be Golden Ball recipient Luka Modric. The Croatians were seen as the dark horses ahead of the tournament and a bulk of the pressure was shouldered by Modric. Like a true captain, he led from the front and was tireless, to say the least. The crafty midfielder was omnipresent on the pitch and was often seen trailing back to contribute to defence, testament of which is the fact that he ran a whopping 72.3 kilometers through the tournament. Adding to this were the two goals he scored, including the screamer against Argentina, which brought back memories from a similar goal he had scored for Real Madrid in the Champions League back in 2013.

He may have not got his hands on the coveted World Cup trophy but he can most certainly leave Russia with his head held high, for he led the Croats to their first ever World Cup final.

Team of the tournament (4-4-2)
 

Manager: Didier Deschamps (FRA)

Goalkeeper: Danijel Subasic (CRO)
Defenders: Yerry Mina (COL), Benjamin Pavard (FRA), Thomas Meunier (BEL), Andreas Granqvist (SWE)
Midfielders: N'Golo Kante (FRA), Eden Hazard (BEL), Luka Modric (CRO), Kevin de Bruyne (BEL)

Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (FRA), Kylian Mbappe (FRA).

Aashin Prasad's World Cup picks

Moment of the World Cup

Edinson Cavani's untimely injury against Portugal proved fatal for Uruguay's chance of progressing to the semifinals. Cavani, who scored three goals in four matches, was the in-form striker heading into the last-eight stage and his partnership with Luis Suarez had been particularly potent until the PSG forward picked up this tournament-ending calf injury.

Edinson Cavani leaves the pitch after sustaining a thigh injury against Portugal   -  AFP

 

Uruguay's all-time top two goalscorers dovetailed brilliantly in the round of 16 tie against Portugal. Suarez played off the left side finding the PSG striker on four occasions, including the outrageous one-two long-range passing move which led to the opening goal of the latter's brace on the night.

In Uruguay's opening match against Egypt, Suarez and Cavani registered 10 passing combinations, which included nine passes from the latter to the Barcelona forward. Suarez, however, failed to capitalise on their link-up play and squandered several goal-scoring chances.

Deschamps redeemed as France wins World Cup final for the ages

Against France, Uruguay and Suarez dearly missed Cavani's knack of being at the right place at the right time and his combination play as the South American side slumped to a 2-0 defeat.

Player of the tournament (Kylian Mbappe)

Possibly the missing piece in France's Euro 2016 team that fell at the final hurdle. Playing in a youthful team already brimming with talent, Mbappe's raw pace and trickery proved decisive against some of the heavyweights of the tournament.

After a subdued start in the group stage against opponents with a deep defensive block, Mbappe's ability to create chances out of nothing shone in the round of 16 match against Argentina. Defenders Marcos Rojo and Nicolas Tagliafico bore the brunt of the teenager's dashes behind them as he went on to score two and won the penalty that was converted by Antoine Griezmann.  

The winger continued in the same vein in the semifinal and final against Belgium and Croatia, respectively, capping off a stellar tournament with a goal in the decider. At a World Cup where the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar were expected to lead their respective teams to glory, it was the nineteen-year-old Mbappe who outshone the superstar trio, with suggestions abound already of a potential passing of the baton.

Team of the tournament (4-3-3)

Manager: Tite (BRA)

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois (BEL) 
Defenders: Kierran Trippier (ENG), Raphael Varane (FRA), Samuel Umtiti (FRA), Lucas Hernandez (FRA)
Midfielders: Kevin de Bruyne (BEL), Luka Modric (CRO), Philippe Coutinho (BRA)

Forwards: Kylian Mbappe (FRA), Edinson Cavani (URU) Eden Hazard (BEL)

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