The best goals of the group stage

Here's Sportstar's selection of the spectacular strikes from the 48 group-stage matches of the FIFA World Cup 2018.

Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick against Spain was supreme in terms of quality and the significance of it, helping Portugal secure a point from being 2-3 down with three minutes of normal time to play. Photo: AFP
Nacho Fernandez's goal against Portugal has to be given top marks for the sheer purity of the strike. He caught the ball sweetly with the laces, got it swerve and ricochet in off Rui Patricio's right post. Photo: AFP
Philippe Coutinho's trademark goal was on view in Brazil's opening Group E encounter against Switzerland. Striking the ball from just outside the box, the Barcelona midfielder got just the right level of spin on the ball with his right-footed shot for it to curl in, clip the inside of Yann Sommer's left post and go in.
Another of the great volleyed strikes of the World Cup group stage, Christian Eriksen's first-time volley against Australia after being teed up by Nicolai Jorgensen was a thing of beauty. Photo: Getty Images
If ever a goal provided a demonstration of silky touch, control, vision, and placement, then Lionel Messi's goal against Nigeria will be one of the few to make the list. The combination of controlling the ball from Ever Banega with his left thigh, taking it away from the defender and then, with his supposedly unnatural foot (right), slotting the ball at the far post was brilliant to say the least. Photo: Getty Images
Granit Xhaka's strike against Serbia was great for three reasons: he struck the ball first-time, struck it cleanly and his decision-making was instinctive. This goal set Serbia on a comeback trial. Photo: AFP
One of the few defenders who thrive in dead-ball situations, Aleksandar Kolarov's free-kick goal for Serbia against Costa Rica was out of the top drawer in terms of technique and accuracy. That a goalkeeper of the calibre of Keylor Navas was beaten showed just how inch-perfect Kolarov's strike was, the ball sneaking just inside of the goalkeeper's left post and giving him no chance of even getting a hand to it. Photo: Getty Images
For the sheer significance of the strike, helping keep Argentina progress to the round of 16 of the World Cup when it was on the brink of elimination, Marcos Rojo's volley to win the match against Nigeria was one of the goals of the group stage. It demonstrated great technique as well. Photo: Getty Images
Luka Modric's goal against Argentina was typical of the Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder. From about 30 yards out, to find the right combination of swerve and power to beat the goalkeeper (even though he was afforded time and space) was simply brilliant from the diminutive Croat. Photo: AFP
Another of the great first-time hits in the group stage, Jesse Lingard's strike against Panama was reminiscent of a couple of his goals from an identical distance for Manchester United in the 2017-18 season. Lingard connected sweetly with Raheem Sterling's backpass and the goalkeeper was unmoved. Photo: Getty Images