The group stage of the 2018 World Cup is in the books. Of the 32 teams that began the tournament two weeks ago, half are going home and the other half will progress to the Round of 16 (all African teams are gone!). Perfect time to look at the Most Valuable Players (MVPs) of this summer’s World Cup.
11. Hannes Halldorsson –Iceland
14 years ago, Hannes Halldorsson made a crucial mistake in an Icelandic third division game.
— USA Light (@usaa_light) June 26, 2018
The entire Iceland team deserves credit for holding Argentina to a draw in its first-ever World Cup match. But no one deserves more credit Halldorsson.
The goalkeeper who until recently was a semi-professional who worked as a filmmaker in his day job withstood seven shots on target and saved a penalty from Lionel Messi!
10. Diego Costa –Spain
Shots on target: 3
Costa doing what he does best. pic.twitter.com/uDW9YvVZPl
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 20, 2018
When your team is thrown into the kind of disarray that comes with sacking your manager two days before the World Cup starts, it helps to have a player like Costa.
The pugnacious striker provides a devastating outlet for Spain’s tiki-taka passing and his three group stage goals were vital.
9. Aleksandr Golovin –Russia
Aleksandr Golovin will be Chelsea's first signing of the summer. (Goal) pic.twitter.com/5W7fYfTcwr
— CFC (@YourChelseaFC) June 28, 2018
Speculations were that Russia could rank among the worst host nations in tournament history. But the brilliance from Golovin in the tournament opener against Saudi Arabia saw the CSKA Moscow midfielder make two assists and score a goal in a 5-0 win.
The win provided this confidence that Russia went on to beat Egypt, ensuring it would avoid the ignominious distinction of becoming the first host since South Africa in 2010 to fail to make it out of the group.
8. Romelu Lukaku –Belgium
Everybody: "Ronaldo will win the Golden Boot"
Lukaku: "Hold my beer" pic.twitter.com/kKbTTad7ad
— SPORF (@Sporf) June 23, 2018
Lukaku hit the ground running in Russia, netting a brace against Panama and another two goals against Tunisia, before limping off injured.
The Manchester United striker rode the bench in Belgium’s final group stage outing against England but will be the man manager Roberto Martinez will be looking to for goals.
7. Toni Kroos –Germany
still alive pic.twitter.com/tDxPsvoZMq
— Toni Kroos (@ToniKroos) June 23, 2018
It seems odd to include a Germany player here, but the Real Madrid midfielder had the most passes completed of any player during the group stage and got off more shots than any player other than Neymar or Ronaldo.
And his exquisite set-piece goal in stoppage time against Sweden lifted the hopes of a nation, albeit for only a brief time.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo -Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo ends the #WorldCup Group Stage as the Third Top Scorer with 4 goals in 3 games.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@TeamCRonaldo) June 28, 2018
Ronaldo got his World Cup off to a spectacular start, netting a hat trick in Portugal’s opener against Spain and following that up with a goal against Morocco.
While he failed to ignite in Portugal’s final group stage outing, a tight draw against Iran, the Real Madrid superstar lived up to his marquee billing.