World Cup rest day is perfect time for reflection. And what better topic to ponder over than best performing players in each position. Here is my selection from Best XI from the group stages as compiled by PML Daily football expert Allan Ssekamate
1- Fernando Musilera. You can’t argue with a clean sheet. Goal keepers live and die for them. Uruguay custodian kept three clean sheets in Group A, shutting out Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He wins my number one slot ahead of South Korea Cho Hyun-Woo, who was monumental as Asia’s representatives sent champions Germany packing but his team did him no justice by going out at the group stage.
2- Hiroki Sakai: Japan right back Sakai has, in my considered opinion, been the stand out man in his position. The Olympique Marseille hard as nails defender has been an immovable object throughout Group H, out-dueling Colombia’s flying wing back Johan Mujica and pocketing Senegal skipper Sadio Mane as his side qualified for the knockout stages in second spot.
3- Johan Mujica: It is impossible to look past Colombia’s flying wing back Mujica. A bundle of energy, Mujica has been monumental working the line as Jose Pekerman’s South Americans worked their way back from a demoralizing opening day loss to Japan to winning group H.
4- Yerri Mina: Colombia boss Jose Pekerman took forever to trust the FC Barcelona giant but he is finally getting his reward. A winning goal in the crunch Group H match against Senegal, and the all-important opener against Poland, win him a position in my team. Mina already has five goals in 14 appearances for Colombia and will be pivotal in their quest to better the quarterfinal elimination four years ago.
5- John Stones: England sweeper Stones in thriving in a three-man central defense for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions. The Manchester City ball playing defender is imperious in executing his duties and netted a brace as England cruised past Panama 6-1 in their second group game. I can’t look past him.
6- Oghenekaro Etebo: Young Nigerian midfield ace Etebo more than justified his selection ahead of Onegi Onazi with a string of eye catching displays throughout the group stage. The Las Palmas midfield dynamo is good on both the front and back foot. Above all, he can tempo the game. Etebo is definitely on to watch out for in the near future and a move to a better club side this summers, seems inevitable.
7- Andre Carrillo: Ricardo Gareca’s Peru was probably the best team not to progress to the knock out rounds. And their stand out player was Benfica winger Andre Carrillo whose pace, strength and guile caused defenders problems no end. Carrillo is certainly on the radars of many scouts.
8- Cristiano Ronaldo: A missed penalty against Iran is the only blot on the copybook of an otherwise impressive start to Russia 2018 for Portugal captain Ronaldo. The five time Ballon D’Or winner started the tournament like a bullet train with an eye catching hat-trick against Iberian rivals Spain. Ronaldo is simply impossible to ignore.
9- Romelu Menama Lukaku: Belgian striker Lukaku is clearly benefiting from the tutelage of assistant coach Thierry Henry. His angled runs into the box and calm finishing are reminiscent of the Arsenal and France great. Lukaku’s four goals from two games earn him a place in my team.
10- Harry Kane: England captain Kane is going about the business of chasing the Golden Boot without much ado. Already a scorer of one of only two hat tricks at the tournament, Kane’s five goals put him in prime position in the chase for the Golden Boot.
11- Denis Cheryshev: Russian winger Cheryshev has gone from substitute to vital player for the hosts as they went about scoring an impressive eight goals in Group A. Villarreal’s flyer is another getting rave reviews from scouts.