Ahead of the big kick-off on Thursday, we asked our friends at WhoScored.com to come up with their statistically calculated World Cup best XI.
Using their unique ratings system, they have selected a team of the top performers from the 2017/18 season across Europe’s top five leagues – with a limit of one player per World Cup country.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo lead the attack, but there are some other names in the team that might surprise you. See the full team below.
Keylor Navas – Costa Rica (6.94)
The Champions League-winning goalkeeper may have his critics, but he is still an impressive shot-stopper on his day. Navas made a commendable three saves per game in La Liga last season for Real Madrid, while only Leandro Chichizola (2.2) made more saves per game from shots inside the penalty area than the Costa Rican (2) in Spain’s top tier, giving him a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘saving close range shots’. A rating of 6.94 was impressive to say the least.
Lukasz Piszczek – Poland (7.19)
Poland international Lukasz Piszczek occupies the right-back berth in this XI after a commendable campaign for Borussia Dortmund. The experienced defender helped himself to a WhoScored.com rating of 7.19 as he returned averages of 2.1 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game in the Bundesliga last season. Going forward, the 33-year-old also contributed three assists.
Mats Hummels – Germany (7.27)
Remaining in the Bundesliga, we turn our attention to Bayern Munich centre-back Mats Hummels, who earned a WhoScored.com rating of 7.27 last term. The highly-regarded 29-year-old has gained a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘passing’ and for good reason. Hummels averaged more passes per game (77.7) than any other player in Germany’s top tier last term. Jogi Loew will now hope the defender can carry his good club form into the World Cup.
Salif Sane – Senegal (7.34)
Schalke have already announced the capture of Salif Sane from Bundesliga rivals Hannover, and after a fine 2017/18 campaign, it’s a huge boost for Domenico Tedesco’s side. Sane’s rating (7.34) was enough to make the WhoScored.com European team of the season. He made more clearances (232) and won more aerial duels (181) than any other Bundesliga player last season. His aerial success rate (80.4%) was also the best in Germany’s top tier and he’ll be a key man for Senegal this summer.
Aleksandar Kolarov – Serbia (7.52)
Completing the defence is Roma left-back and Serbia captain Aleksandar Kolarov. The experienced full-back gained a hugely impressive WhoScored.com rating of 7.52 in Serie A last term, earning a spot in the European team of the season. His attacking output was key for a Roma outfit that secured third place in Serie A, with Kolarov chipping in with eight assists. The 32-year-old made more accurate crosses from open play (40) and was second for key passes from set-piece situations (30) in Italy’s top tier last term.
Florian Thauvin – France (7.94)
France are one of the favourites to win the World Cup and, given the strength in depth in every area on the pitch, that’s no real surprise. Florian Thauvin is unlikely to start, with Kylian Mbappe presently Didier Deschamps’ first choice right winger, but the Marseille star was exceptional in Ligue 1 last term. He won more WhoScored.com man of the match awards (13) than any other player in France’s top tier and was one of 14 players to register double figures for goals (22) and assists (11) in Europe’s top five leagues. His fine league form saw Thauvin land a WhoScored.com rating of 7.94.
Kevin De Bruyne – Belgium (7.80)
The driving force in Manchester City’s title success, Kevin De Bruyne helped himself to a WhoScored.com rating of 7.80 last season. The Belgian scored eight goals and registered more assists (16) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues. A return of 106 key passes was second only to Dimitri Payet (121). He will be expected to play a deeper role for Belgium in their quest for success this summer. If he can transfer his fine club form to the national team, the Red Devils have the means to go all the way in Russia.
James Rodriguez – Colombia (7.63)
After initially struggling in Germany following his loan move from Real Madrid to Bayern Munich, James Rodriguez thrived under Jupp Heynckes, securing a WhoScored.com rating (7.63) higher than any other Bundesliga player. The Colombian, who’ll look to repeat his excellent performances from Brazil four years ago, chipped in with seven goals and 11 assists for Bayern last season, while an average of 3.5 key passes per 90 minutes was more than any other player in Germany’s top tier.
Neymar – Brazil (8.95)
Brazil’s poster boy announced his return to the watching world with a goal in the Seleção’s 2-0 win over Croatia last weekend. Neymar took to Ligue 1 like a duck to water following his record-breaking switch from Barcelona to PSG last summer as he returned a WhoScored.com rating of 8.95, with 19 goals and 13 assists central to that fine score. Despite a season-ending ankle injury in February, Neymar still ranked in the top three players for successful dribbles (142), clear-cut chances created (22) and man of the match awards (12) in Ligue 1. The 26-year-old will be expected to thrive in Russia this summer.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal (7.94)
Portugal will hope their shining light can fire them to glory once more after his impact in attack at Euro 2016. Cristiano Ronaldo may have started the last domestic season slowly, but he recovered well to score 26 league goals and return a WhoScored.com rating of 7.94. The Real Madrid star has scored in each of his last 10 league appearances, and Portugal will look to the 33-year-old for the goals they need to follow in the footsteps of France and Spain this century and hold both the European Championship and World Cup at the same time.
Lionel Messi – Argentina (8.68)
Lionel Messi was instrumental in Argentina’s progression to the World Cup final four years ago, earning a better WhoScored.com rating (8.52) than any other player in Brazil, and he’ll hope to go one better this summer after finishing second to Germany. Argentina flattered to deceive in qualifying, with the Barcelona star bailing them out to guarantee a spot in Russia, and the chances are Jorge Sampaoli will look to his captain to inspire La Albiceleste once more over the next five weeks. Messi comes into the tournament having finished top in La Liga for successful dribbles (185), key passes (87), goals scored (34), clear-cut chances created (30), man of the match awards won (22) and assists (12) in La Liga last season, to return a WhoScored.com rating of 8.68.
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