Now that we have our finalists, we decided to take a look at what a combined starting 11 would look like.
We base this on the performance of the players, the players’ pedigree and how crucial they were to their team making it so far. We also had a rule which forced the team to be balanced.
For this one, we experimented with a 4-1-2-1-2 formation (or 4-4-2 diamond as it’s often called).
Goalkeeper: Subasic (CRO) – The Croat goalkeeper has been decisive in two penalty shootouts now and has also contributed humongously in all of Croatia’s games. Lloris pulled off a very important save against Uruguay but due to France’s strength in defence and midfield, has not been called upon too much. Subasic has been more decisive for us.
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Right Back: Pavard (FRA) – Pavard, like Hernandez, only entered the picture with the national team fairly recently. He has this amazing statistic of never having lost an international game with France at any level. His wonder goal against Argentina put him on the map for people who do not quite follow Les Bleus or the Bundesliga. A solid defender, who’s confidence has been increasing during the tournament.
Center Back: Raphael Varane (FRA) – Varane proved decisive against Uruguay by unlocking the game with a brilliant header on a Griezmann free kick. In the semi finals against Belgium, he was almost a perfect 10, marshaling the France defense with much aplomb. Overall, he has been majestic in this tournament, building upon his great form with Real Madrid in the Champions League. A must-have!
Center Back: Lovren (CRO) – Dejan Lovren, the loser in the UCL final Varane won, showed a magnificent improvement in form from his less than impressive beginning of the season with Liverpool. Ever Virgil Van Dijk was signed in January, he has been excellent for his club and it looks like he has carried that level of play to the World Cup. Modric and Rakitic might be the most recognizable names in the Croatian lineup but Lovren is almost as essential.
Left Back: Lucas Hernandez (FRA) – 6 months ago, the Madrid-based youngster was not even in the frame for the national team. Now, he has played all of France’s World Cup games and impressed in every single one of them. His marauding on the left flank helped his team a lot against Argentina. Physical, never backing down from a challenge, Lucas has won our hearts. Having been in the semi final combined XI, Hernandez keeps his place because we simply do not think Strinic is at the same level.
Defensive Mid: Kante (FRA) – The omnipresent Kante, France’s midfield engine, the opposition’s worst nightmare. Without Kante, France would find it tough to attack. He provides a certain protection, assurance to his teammates. Enough said.
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Right Mid: Luka Modric (CRO) – Captain Luka has been the best passer at this World Cup. The Croatian performances have heavily depended on how much of the ball Modric sees. Against Denmark, he missed a penalty in the game and then bravely stepped up to take another in the shootout and score. He was all over the place in the win against Russia & England too. Modric is simply Mr. Croatia!
Left Mid: Paul Pogba (FRA) – No player has grown in this tournament more than Paul Pogba has. The Manchester United player, often criticized by pretty much everybody, has shown why he is considered as one of the world’s best midfielders. Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium will remember him. Whether it’s defensive work, keeping the ball, dribbles or a cross-field pass, Pogba has it all in his repertoire. The Complete Midfielder.
Attacking Mid: Griezmann (FRA) – Antoine Griezmann has had a relatively quiet tournament, compared to Euro 2016. That does not mean he has underperformed. His Atletico Madrid style of defending from the front and quality set piece deliveries earn him a place in the team. A very classy player.
Center Forward: Mbappe (FRA) – The scourge of Argentina. Mbappe stole the limelight from Messi in the Round of 16 game by winning 1 penalty and scoring 2 goals. The Argentines could not cope with his pace. He was also one of the standout performers even when France were lulling everybody to sleep in the group stage. It’s hard to believe he is only 19. Much maturity and intelligence.
Center Forward: Mandzukic (CRO) – Mario Mandzukic is now no longer in Davor Suker’s shadow. His opportunistic goal against England sent his country to the final. He has been an outstanding number 9 and team player throughout this tournament. An easy choice!
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