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01 Jul 2018

2018 World Cup: Team of the Group Stage

2018 World Cup: Team of the Group Stage

With the Group Stage of the 2018 World Cup now complete, we take a look at the standout performers and form the best XI.

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Goalkeeper

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Defence

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Midfield

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Attack

Reuters/CARLOS BARRIA

We've seen shock results, VAR farces and penalties galore. The 2018 World Cup Group Stage has been a joy to watch.

With the last 16 puzzle already unfolding this weekend, we look back on the standout performers of the first two weeks. 

The best effort has been made to form a balanced team, and while the temptation to overload a chosen XI with attacking talent is strong, it's not realistic!

Here is the cream of the Group Stage crop lining up in a 4-2-2-2 formation:

Goalkeeper

Cho Hyun-woo (South Korea):

Having been drawn into a group with the reigning champions, CONCACAF heavyweights Mexico and a stubborn Sweden side, few gave South Korea much hope. 

After providing one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history on Wednesday evening, the Koreans were unfortunate not to be going through - they needed Sweden to lose to Mexico.

Reuters/JOHN SIBLEY

The 2-0 win over Germany will go down in world football history, and goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo can take credit for the part he played in the victory. 

Though Germany were wasteful in front of goal, Cho was on call whenever he was needed and provided a cool head in a defence that was naturally induced with panic.

His performances in the opening fixtures were admirable, keeping his side in contention on both occasions.

Defence

Kieran Trippier (England) - Right Back

Tottenham Hotspur wing-back Kieran Trippier has carried over his impressive form from the Premier League to the World Cup. 

Despite being rested in England's final group game, Trippier was influential at both ends of the pitch as England impressively scored eight goals and conceded only two against Tunisia and Panama. 

Trippier's rise has been admirable, and his first World Cup has so far been positive. His ability and tendency to get forward and support England attacks make him one of the more versatile players at the tournament.

Diego Godin (Uruguay) - Centre half

The rock at the heart of our defence is Uruguayan captain and leader, Diego Godin. 

Godin has been one of the world's most solid and consistent defenders for some time and has continued to impress in Russia. 

Reuters/SERGIO PEREZ

Uruguay emerged top of Group A after a slow but steady start and were the only side to keep three clean sheets. 

Godin's ability to organise his defence makes up for a large part of his side's success, and Uruguay will be reliant on their captain to bring them through to the later stages of the tournament.

Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) - Centre half

Partnering Godin in our defence is Uruguay teammate, Jose Gimenez. Gimenez and Godin have together formed one of the most impressive partnerships in the opening rounds. 

The two of them are on the same wavelength, with the pair also linking up for club side Atletico Madrid. 

Gimenez has also helped his side at the other end of the pitch, scoring the winning goal late on in his side's opening game against Egypt.

Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) - Left back

On the left side of defence is the Serbian fullback. Now at Serie A side, AS Roma, the ex-Manchester City star is putting in his customary, efficient performances in Russia for his national side. 

Reuters/CARL RECINE

While Serbia were eliminated from the competition after losing to Brazil in their final game, Kolarov's performances have been impressive. 

Kolarov is well-known for his foraging runs forward, and his lethal left foot that was the difference in Serbia's opener against Costa Rica, his brilliantly struck free kick earning all three points. 

Midfield

N'Golo Kante (France) - Defensive midfield

A player that personifies simplicity, Kante's reputation has increased exponentially ever since he played an integral part in Leicester City's 2015/16 Premier League-winning season. 

Kante's job is simple, and he does it brilliantly for both club and country. Having featured in all three of France's group games, Kante played all 270 minutes, making an average of 3.3 interceptions and 2.7 tackles per game, his numbers compliment his game. 

France are reliant on Kante's ability to patrol and protect his back four, while acting as the link man through the midfield. 

Luka Modric (Croatia) - Defensive midfield

Though Luka Modric has been deployed in a slightly more advanced role than he usually plays in for club side Real Madrid, his duties across the entire midfield for Croatia have been outstanding. 

Reuters/MARKO DJURICA

Having scored in his side's opening fixture against Nigeria from the penalty spot, Modric's game found another level when he was instrumental in Croatia's demolition of Argentina, adding a brilliantly taken goal to his collection. 

Modric has been tasked with linking midfield and attack and has punished teams that have allowed him the space to use his creative abilities. 

Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) - Attacking midfield

Philippe Coutinho has been the standout, consistent performer in a Brazil side that stumbled out of the blocks in the group stage.

Giving his side the lead with a trademark curling effort from outside the box in the first game against Switzerland, Coutinho continued to be a threat to the Swiss defence. 

Where the likes of Neymar and Willian have struggled for consistency, Coutinho has stepped up to the plate, scoring twice and providing an assist. 

Eden Hazard (Belgium) - Attacking midfield

Playing alongside Coutinho in our attacking midfield is Eden Hazard. The Belgian has been his typical, instrumental self so far for his Belgium side, and his performances have deservedly earned him recognition. 

Reuters/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

Belgium collected all nine available points in Group H, with Hazard and other more senior players being rested against England. 

Hazard scored twice in a magnificent display against Tunisia and provided an assist in the previous game. 

Attack

Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) - Striker

Romelu Lukaku has had a great start to the tournament in Russia after impressive performances in the two group games in which he has featured. 

Reuters/KAI PFAFFENBACH

The Manchester United forward has four goals in two games, scoring at a rate of one goal every 40 minutes. 

Lukaku missed the third and final group game against England and currently sits one goal behind the lead for the Golden Boot. 

Harry Kane (England) - Striker

Partnering Lukaku up front is England captain, Harry Kane. Kane has lead from the front for his England team, scoring five goals in the first two matches. 

After stealing all three points with a 91st-minute winner against Tunisia, Kane then added a hat trick in the 6-1 win over Panama. 

The England skipper was rested for the final group game though he will be eager to keep his impressive form going in the knockout stages. 

The team:

Do you agree with our team of the group stages? Let us know in the comments below.