World Cup Best XI: Mbappe, Hazard and Modric in the Teams of the Tournament

Luka Modric of Croatia celebrates after beating England in the semifinal at Luzhniki Stadium on July 11 in Moscow. The Croatian has been one of the stars of the tournament. Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The 2018 World Cup is ready to be consigned to the history books after four thrilling weeks, which have produced goals and entertainment in spades.

Some major stars have disappointed, others have lived up to their reputation, others still have only just emerged on the world stage.

Here's Newsweek's best XI of the tournament.

Jordan Pickford

Thibaut Courtois, Hugo Lloris and Danijel Subasic all had great tournaments, but Pickford just edges ahead of them. It was always going to take something special for England to win a penalty shootout at the World Cup, and the Everton goalkeeper provided exactly that, sticking out a strong hand to stop Carlos Bacca's penalty in the shootout against Colombia.

It was not the only moment to savor in Pickford's tournament, which also included a series of incredible stops in the quarter final against Sweden and some superb efforts against Croatia. It will take some effort to get England's number-one jersey off him.

Raphael Varane

For all of France's wealth of talent up-front, Les Bleus have only conceded four goals throughout the tournament. Three of them came against Argentina in the Round of 16 and the other was a penalty against Australia, meaning the Albiceleste are the only team to have scored against France in open play.

One of the major reasons for such defensive solidity has been Raphael Varane's form. Troubled by injuries over the past two seasons, the Real Madrid defender enjoyed a fine season and has carried his club form onto the international stage.

Still only 25, the Frenchman is finally living up to his enormous potential.

Yerry Mina

Scoring three goals in four games at the World Cup is a statistic world-class strikes would be proud of, never mind central defenders.

Colombia's run might have ended in the round of 16—when Mina scored a last-gasp equalizer that forced the game into extra time—but the Barcelona defender was one of their standout performers.

Physically imposing, at ease on the ball and a real threat in the air in the attacking third of the pitch, the 23-year-old will have no shortage of suitors, should Barcelona consider cashing in on him.

YERRY MINA COMES UP CLUTCH! The center back equalizes late for Colombia!

— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 3, 2018

Harry Maguire

Another of England's unlikely heroes, the Leicester City defender was a linchpin of the Three Lions' rearguard, combining a no-nonsense approach at the back with aerial threat off set pieces in the attacking third of the field.

A largely unknown quantity outside the Premier League before the start of the tournament, the 25-year-old's stock has risen enormously in the last four weeks thanks to his performances on the field and to those unforgettable memes.

“Can you ask the neighbours to put the bins out on Monday? We’re not going home just yet” 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 8, 2018

Kieran Trippier

Forget about bending it like Beckham, from now on kids across parks in England will be learning to bend it like Trippier. The Tottenham Hotspur's wing-back scored a wonderful free-kick to give England the lead in their semifinal against Croatia, but sadly for him it wasn't enough to take the Three Lions to their first World Cup final since 1966.

A key figure in Gareth Southgate's side, Trippier performed solidly throughout the tournament, and his value has surely rocketed over the last month.

Diego Laxalt

A left midfielder converted to play at left-back, Laxalt was a crucial figure in Uruguay's almost unreachable rearguard. Full of energy, tactically disciplined and at ease on the ball, the Genoa player's performances have surely attracted interest from some bigger clubs.

Luka Modric

It speaks volume for how good Modric is that England's seemingly unstoppable run came to an end as soon as they faced a midfield orchestrated by the Real Madrid maestro.

Picking passes, opening up defenses and conducting the tempo of the game with the consummate ease of a music director waving his baton around, Modric has been the chief reason for Croatia's surprising run to the final.

Still at the peak of his power at 32 years of age, not even playing three 120-minute games in a row could derail Modric's campaign. If Croatia wins the World Cup, expect him to be a prime candidate for the Ballon D'Or.

Paul Pogba

Often criticized for failing to impose himself on games for Manchester United, in Russia Pogba showed why the 20-time champions of England broke their transfer record for him two years ago.

The sight of the former Juventus midfielder driving the ball forward with purpose was a common sight throughout the tournament and further proof Jose Mourinho's tactics might limit the Frenchman's impact at club level.

In Russia, however, Pogba also displayed the sort of tactical discipline he's often accused of lacking, and his defensive performance against Belgium was simply masterful.

Eden Hazard

Belgium's "Golden Generation" might have fallen short of the ultimate prize, but their third-place finish—their best ever at the World Cup—was a great achievement nonetheless. It wouldn't have been possible without Hazard, who was at his mercurial best in Russia, splitting defenses wide open with accurate passes, setting up goals for teammates and scoring himself.

Three goals in six matches—including one in the third-place playoff against England—and a masterful performance against Brazil in the quarterfinal confirmed him as one of the best players of this generation.

Chelsea will do well to keep hold of him this summer, with Real Madrid and Barcelona reportedly circling around him.


Eden Hazard makes it 2-0 against England as @BelRedDevils take bronze at Russia 2018 🥉

👀 TV listings 👉
📺 Highlights 👉 #WorldCup

— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 14, 2018

Ante Rebic

Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic have rightly stolen the headlines as architects of Croatia's surprising march to the final, but the 24-year-old's influence has been just as important.

Rebic's ability to beat his man and his delivery have caused defenses countless troubles throughout the tournament, while his movement off the ball made him a precious tactical weapon for Zlatko Dalic.

After three loan spells, Rebic appeared to have found his footing over the last two seasons with Eintracht Frankfurt, who could now have a fight on their hands to retain the service of the Croatian.

Kylian Mbappe

Gliding past opponents, making the impossible look routine, Kylian Mbappe announced on the biggest stage of all with an ease that belied his age as France beat Argentina 4-3 in the round of 16. The 19-year-old scored twice, won the penalty for France's first goal and repeatedly tore through Argentina's defense at will.

Against Uruguay and Belgium, Mbappe did not find the net but tormented defenders with the same regularity, while making it all look absolutely effortless in the process.

There was little doubt the teenager was enormously talented, but few could have expected him to be so good when still so young. The 2018 World Cup could be the first of many major tournaments on which the Frenchman leaves his mark.

Romelu Lukaku

Four goals in six games don't tell the whole story about Lukaku's tournament, which saw the Manchester United forward display the kind of tactical versatility not often associated with strikers of his size.

Against Brazil, the Belgian operated out wide, repeatedly drawing defenders out of position and allowing Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne to exploit space through the middle.

It was not a coincidence that Belgium lacked cutting edge up front once he was tightly marked against France in the semifinal.