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World Cup 2018: Best XI From The First Round Of Games

The first week of World Cup fixtures has thrown up a number of strong individual and team performances.

Many of the favourites have so far struggled to get going in these finals, while the likes of hosts Russia have surprised many by flying right out of the traps.

In a first round of fixtures that has seen hat-tricks, brilliant free kicks and last-minute drama, which players have stood out above the rest?

 

Goalkeeper:

Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico). The Mexican goalkeeper seems to turn into Lev Yashin incarnate every four years, and he followed up his 2014 form with a tremendous display against Germany. The stopper was equal to almost every German attack that came his way, and he will play a key role in Mexico’s hopes of progressing to the last 16.

Guillermo Ochoa during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Mexico at Luzhniki Stadium on June 17, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Defenders:

Jose Gimenez (Uruguay). Even aside from the last winner for Uruguay, Gimenez was outstanding against Egypt last weekend. The Atletico defender let nothing past him, making four tackles, eight clearances and being responsible for nine interceptions as the African side struggled without Mo Salah.

Andreas Granqvist (Sweden). The centre-back was everywhere for Sweden on Monday (including up front with the penalty winner), winning duels, putting in strong clearances, covering large areas as he looked to maintain the clean sheet and three points.

Diego Godin (Uruguay). The more experienced of the Uruguayan central defensive partnership, Godin had less to do than Gimenez but was commanding in the box and guided his younger partner when needed. A captain’s performance from the 32-year-old.

YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Diego Godin of Uruguay battles for possession with Kahraba of Egypt during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 15, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Midfielders:

Eden Hazard (Belgium). Played a fine ball through to Lukaku for the striker’s second (and Belgium’s third), Hazard was a constant danger, particularly as Panama tired. With a number of dribbles and several key passes over the 90 minutes, the Chelsea man pulled the strings in midfield as Kevin De Bruyne was needed deeper.

Denis Cheryshev (Russia). An early replacement for star player Alan Dzagoev, Cheryshev made his mark on the opening clash with a well-worked finish to make it 2-0. The Villarreal was on hand to glide past the Saudi defence and create chances throughout, and capped his display with an excellent second goal late on.

Aleksandr Golovin (Russia). The sort of performance that announces itself on the world stage, Golovin was a constant threat to Saudi Arabia and made them pay on a number of occasions. His proficiency from out wide was fully on show with two fine assists, and he got on the scoresheet himself late on with a top-class free kick.

Isco (Spain). Spain’s clash against Portugal was an excellent performance punctuated by three bad mistakes, but Isco remained consistent throughout. The Real Madrid man has grown in stature for club and country and turned in a brilliant, energetic display accentuated by tremendous ball control and passing. Was unlucky to see a great shot cannon down off the crossbar.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Isco of Spain during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Forwards:

Romelu Lukaku (Belgium). Took a while to get into the game against Panama (as did most of the Belgian side, to be fair), but showed brilliant clinical ability when the chances finally came to him. A powerful header – courtesy of a fine assist from Kevin De Bruyne – and a delightful dink showed off his repertoire and showed just how much of a threat the Man United man will be going forward here.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal). Having struggled to make his mark in previous World Cups, Ronaldo has hit the ground running this time around. A fantastic hat-trick against Spain, incorporating nerves of steel to send the free-kick over the wall in the dying minutes for the third, was the perfect way to start the competition. The relative lack of quality in his teammates makes Portugal unlikely to win the whole thing, but Ronaldo is personally on course to make a big impact in Russia.

Diego Costa (Spain). Costa has struggled to fit into Spain’s system in the past, given his style of play being in direct contrast to that which has been employed in the past. However, this time around, La Roja appear to be utilising the Atletico man and meshing his talents with their setup. Two goals against Portugal are a fie start to this new enterprise.

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