Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba lead World Cup team of the tournament
The World Cup is over, but who are the 11 best performers of the tournament? From the flying brilliance of England's Jordan Pickford to the rapier speed of Kylian Mbappe, here's who impressed us the most.
Goalkeeper: As England's hero of the hour, Jordan Pickford helped the Three Lions banish their World Cup shootout curse by denying Colombia's Carlos Bacca from the spot in the round of 16. The Everton goalkeeper was only elected to be No.1 on the eve of the tournament, but he was unfazed by the occasion, producing a series of stunning stops against Sweden and Croatia in the knockout stages. Still only 24, Pickford has a long career in the national team ahead of him, with Everton and England both set to benefit from his experience in Russia.
Right-back: As England's set-piece architect, no one created more chances at the World Cup than Kieran Trippier. The Tottenham full-back wasn't a guaranteed starter before the tournament, but he justified Gareth Southgate's decision to play a 3-5-2 system with a string of impressive displays down the right. It was Trippier's corner that led to Harry Kane's last-gasp winner against Tunisia in the opening game, while he scored a stunning free kick to give England the perfect start against Croatia in the semifinal. Considering he hadn't made a single Premier League appearance before the 2014 World Cup, it has been some journey for the 27-year-old.
Centre-back: France's triumph on Sunday means Raphael Varane joins an elite band of players to win the Champions League and World Cup in the same season. The Real Madrid defender was central to his team's victory, forging a solid partnership with Samuel Umtiti at the heart of the defence and even popping up to open the scoring against Uruguay in the round of 16. With the World Cup now added to his two La Liga titles, four Champions League crowns, one Copa del Rey medal and three Club World Cups, the 25-year-old can probably consider early retirement.
Centre-back: Amid rumours that he could leave Barcelona only six months after joining from Palmeiras, Yerry Mina will have caught the eye of potential suitors in Russia. The giant defender missed Colombia's opening defeat to Japan, but was restored to the first XI for the rest of the tournament, crashing home towering headers in each of his three appearances. Mina's last-minute equaliser against England may ultimately have been in vain, but Colombia have a bright future in defence with the 23-year-old lining up alongside 22-year-old Davinson Sanchez.
Left-back: Despite beginning the World Cup in controversial fashion when he admitted to employing theatrics in France's victory over Australia, Lucas Hernandez rapidly matured during his team's route to the trophy. The 22-year-old had made only five appearances for Les Bleus before the tournament, but proved to be a crucial cog in Didier Deschamps' counter-attacking system. As well as helping France keep four clean sheets in their seven matches, Hernandez readily bombed forward from full-back to support the attack, claiming assists against Argentina and Croatia in the knockout rounds.
Midfield: Paul Pogba has faced plenty of criticism during his time at Manchester United, but he stepped up at the World Cup to help lead France to victory. Unlike many of his performances in the Premier League, the 25-year-old stood out by keeping things simple, utilising Kylian Mbappe's lightning pace with his searching passes down the right flank. Pogba sneaks in ahead of teammate N'Golo Kante after capping off a fine tournament with a well-taken goal in the final to put the game beyond Croatia.
Midfield: A worthy Golden Ball winner, Luka Modric inspired Croatia's remarkable run to their first-ever World Cup final. The 32-year-old was his team's chief creator, tearing Argentina apart in a 3-0 group-stage romp that even Lionel Messi was powerless to prevent. After missing a penalty in the round-of-16 clash with Denmark, Modric showed nerves of steel to score in the shootout, and converted again from 12 yards in the quarterfinal against Russia. He turned the game against England in the semifinal, but came agonisingly short of lifting the trophy as France stormed to a 4-2 triumph in the final.
Midfield: After missing out on the Brazil squad in 2014, Philippe Coutinho announced himself at the World Cup with a stunning strike against Switzerland in the opening game. It was the Barcelona star who broke the deadlock again when the Selecao faced a stubborn Costa Rica side, before he played a wonderful assist for Paulinho in the victory over Serbia to drag Brazil to the knockout stage. Despite laying on another goal for Renato Augusto in the quarterfinal against Belgium, Coutinho couldn't find an equaliser as Tite's side crashed out in one of many shock results at the tournament.
Right attack: In a World Cup that saw Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo drop out before the quarterfinals, Kylian Mbappe's arrival on the biggest stage was a symbolic changing of the guard. The 19-year-old was already a household name owing to his coruscating performances for Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain, but he truly announced his candidacy as the natural successor to the Ballon d'Or duopoly with his displays in Russia. As the tournament's Best Young Player, Mbappe ripped Argentina to shreds in the round of 16 and rounded off France's victory in the final with another brilliant strike. It's almost scary to think that he'll still only be 23 when the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar.
Left attack: If Eden Hazard is looking to leave Chelsea this summer, he delivered an eye-catching audition to Real Madrid with his contribution to Belgium's best-ever World Cup. After helping Roberto Martinez's side ease through the group stage, Hazard proved to be his team's clutch player in the knockout rounds, setting up Marouane Fellaini's equaliser in the comeback against Japan and carving open Brazil on the counter-attack in the quarterfinal. He continued his form by providing the greatest threat against France in the semifinal, but it was a game too far for the Red Devils as they eventually finished third.
Striker: After scoring a brace in each of Belgium's first two matches, Romelu Lukaku didn't find the net again for the rest of the tournament. That doesn't mean he failed to play his part in the Red Devils' success, however, with the striker demonstrating his class with his role in Nacer Chadli's winner against Japan. Lukaku was on form again in the quarterfinal clash with Brazil, setting up Kevin De Bruyne's winning goal to secure his place ahead of Golden Boot winner Harry Kane.
Manager: Who else but Didier Deschamps? The coach was almost ousted after France's defeat in the Euro 2016 final, but recovered to guide Les Bleus to a second World Cup title, becoming only the third person to lift the trophy as a player and manager.