The Guardian – All the 48 group-stage matches in Russia have now been played and after each of them we have asked our readers to hand out their player ratings. The verdicts have then been inputted into our guide of all the 736 players at the 2018 World Cup – and we have now gone through them to see who makes our team of the tournament so far.
According to our readers, Iran’s Alireza Beiranvand gets the nod in goal and it is difficult to argue with that selection. Had a difficult upbringing and was at one stage sleeping rough in Tehran. He worked in a carwash and as a pizza delivery driver before becoming a professional footballer. He has been brilliant in Russia. Saving a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty against Portugal was only one of the highlights as he has produced several high-calibre stops and started Iran’s attacks with his long and accurate throws. Before the tournament he said: “I want to shine in the World Cup, then maybe I can join a European big club. I’d like to play at Liverpool or PSG.” He will not be short of offers. After the three games he had an average rating of 8.67, the highest of all the players in Russia.
Anyone who has done player-ratings knows that the full-backs are often the most difficult players to rate. You can get to 85 minutes and suddenly wonder what they have done. This has been reflected in our readers ratings with the centre-backs outscoring the full-backs by some margin. We have therefore opted for a three-man defence with an intriguing set-up. First we have Uruguay’s Diego Godín, who led his team from the back as they won all three Group A games without conceding a goal. The dominant Godín is joined by Sweden’s Andreas Granqvist who masterminded his country’s progress to the last 16 by being the leader of a very-well organised defence as well as scoring two of the team’s six goals, both on penalties. The final member of our backline is Manuel Akanji of Switzerland. The 22-year-old Borussia Dortmund defender has been one of the revelations of the tournament so far.
Where to start? Probably with Croatia. The coach, Zlatko Dalic, has arguably the most talented group of midfielders in Russia with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic both making our team. The La Liga duo have been instrumental in Croatia’s impressive performances against Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland and it will be fascinating to see how far they can go. A third member of the Croatia midfield, the irrepressible Ivan Perisic, just misses out on our XI.