The Russian World Cup will be looked back on as one for the underdog. Be it Russia knocking out Spain, Mexico and South Korea beating Germany or Iran holding Portugal, 2018 was the year of the shock. Despite this, four of the strongest teams have navigated the potential embarrassments and reached the semi-final stage. Last Word on Sports looks at who would make it into a World Cup Semi-Final combined eleven.
Combined World Cup Semi-Final XI
GK: Hugo Lloris (France)
Despite the heroics of Jordan Pickford and the undeniable talent of Thibaut Courtois and Danijel Subasic, Lloris gets the nod. He is undoubtedly one of the best keepers in the world and has been vital in helping France to three clean sheets.
RB: Kieran Trippier (England)
One of the stars of the tournament, Trippier is an obvious pick. Defensively solid, his high-quality delivery from open play and set pieces have been vital to England’s success. His attacking threat forces opposition wingers to track him back, restricting their ability to counter-attack.
CB: Raphael Varane (France)
The first of this World Cup semi-final combined XI’s central defenders, Varane has been formidable in the tournament. Dominant in the air and with excellent pace, strikers have been stifled by the Real Madrid man.
CB: Harry Maguire (England)
The likes of Vertonghen and Stones could have been picked, but Maguire has been exceptional. Commanding in the air, he’s vital for England in both boxes. He’s also been key in driving England forwards with strong runs from the halfway line.
LB: Lucas Hernandez (France)
The left-back slot was the most difficult to choose, with no real top talent. Ashley Young has had a solid tournament and has produced some dangerous deliveries when cutting in onto his right foot, but isn’t defensively good enough to play in a four-man defence.
Belgium have experimented with their left wing-back role, with neither Yannick Carrasco nor Nacer Chadli able to make the role their own. Hernandez is capable of playing at centre back or left back. This experience at the heart of the defence makes him reliable and at six foot is strong in the air.
CM: Paul Pogba (France)
Man Utd fans must be pulling their hair out watching Pogba play in a much freer role than that given to him by Jose Mourinho. Pogba has been excellent on the ball, creating opportunities and making powerful runs forwards.
CDM: N’golo Kante (France)
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how good Kante is. His work in winning the ball back and breaking up counter attacks has been vital in allowing France’s creative stars to play in more advanced roles.
CM: Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modric has been at his very best in Russia, playing in a more advanced role than for Real Madrid. His movement and exceptional ball control have seen him score twice so far. His play-making talents and ability to keep the ball have been vital in Croatia reaching this stage.
CAM: Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
De Bruyne has been a constant threat for Belgium, most of all against Brazil when he was given the freedom to play further forwards. His movement has made him difficult for teams to pick up and he has shone in a star-studded team.
ST: Kylian Mbappe (France)
Anyone who didn’t know that Mbappe was destined to be a star certainly does now. He has announced himself on the global stage in this tournament, looking France’s most dangerous player. He terrorized Argentina defenders in the last sixteen and has used his pace to sensational effect.
ST: Harry Kane (England)
It was tough to choose between Kane and Romelu Lukaku but Kane’s leadership and contribution to other aspect’s of the game earnt him the nod. During the tournament, Kane has shown his goal-scoring instincts and the ability to keep cool under pressure.
He has also shown maturity, consistently coming deep to collect the ball and drawing fouls, particularly against Colombia. With six goals and counting, Kane looks set to be the first Englishman since Gary Lineker in 1986 to win the Golden Boot award.
Do you agree with our World Cup Semi-Final combined XI? Who makes your team? Let us know in the comments section below.
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