World Cup XI: the team of the tournament (so far)
GK: Jordan Pickford (England)
Putting aside the high points, Pickford really hasn’t put a foot wrong in Russia. He incorrectly took the blame for Adnan Januzaj’s goal for Belgium, but without any real justification. His handling has been faultless and his distribution has been consistently excellent. They might be the more mundane aspects of goalkeeping life, but they’ve been essential to England’s stability.
His highlights will live for a long time: the penalty shootout save against Colombia, but also the three saves which kept Sweden’s comeback at bay in the quarter-final. Pickford has been both solid and spectacular and, at the time of writing, has produced one of the finest goalkeeping debuts the World Cup has seen for some time.
RB: Kieran Trippier (England)
A revelation. Rewind 11 months and Tottenham were spending a lot of money on Serge Aurier because they didn’t feel that Trippier could be a passable first-choice full-back. Now, he’s inarguably his country’s best.
The set-piece delivery is certainly part of his inclusion here - it’s been excellent - but the security he has offered on the right side of the pitch, both with and without the ball, has been critical to Kyle Walker’s own fine performances at centre-half. It’s not a coincidence that England have encountered so few difficulties on the right side and have also been at their most dangerous in that area.
CB: Diego Godin & Jose Gimenez (Uruguay)
Why separate them now?
Uruguay’s progress to the quarter-finals was a group effort and that centre-back pairing benefitted from Diego Laxalt’s performances outside of them and Lucas Torreira’s in front. Nevertheless, defence is the key area for any side who operate on the counterattack and Gimenez and Godin were formidably rugged. They emerged from the group without conceding a goal, neutered Cristiano Ronaldo in the last 16 and, goalkeeper Fernando Muslera’s aberration aside, exited the tournament without having conceded from open play.
England’s Harry Maguire and John Stones have had fine tournaments, Raphael Varane has certainly been an asset for France, and Andreas Granqvist was front and centre for Sweden before their elimination. We’re playing 4-2-1-3 here at FourFourTwo, though, and the central pair picks themselves.
LB: Diego Laxalt (Uruguay)
Terrific. Genoa’s converted winger isn’t the glossiest player, in fact he can be quite awkward to watch. Nevertheless, that suited the tone of the Uruguayan side and he was the nuggety, back-and-forward full-back Godin and Gimenez deserved to have outside them.
His finest moments almost all came against the French. Uruguay may have lost the game, but Laxalt dealt with Kylian Mbappe better than any other full-back who faced him in Russia. If it wasn’t established that World Cups are often false economies, every medium-to-large club in Europe would have been in touch with Genoa by now.