The 20-year-old Croatian centre-back was immensely impressive during the World Cup as his nation progressed to the semi-finals before suffering a 3-0 defeat to Argentina. At such a tender age, Gvardiol displayed immaculate maturity in his performances and most notably, made one of the tackles of the tournaments as he denied Romelu Lukaku a simple finish in what turned out to be a pivotal point in a goalless draw.
The Beşiktaş centre-back was instrumental during Morocco’s historic World Cup campaign. Morocco became the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup. Saïss was at the heart of the defence that only conceded a single goal up until their 2-0 defeat to France and he was substituted after 21 minutes due to an injury. A stellar campaign for the former Wolverhampton Wanderers player.
The Manchester United centre-half has been a crucial cog in the well-oiled machine that is France. He was a major part of the previous World Cup triumph in Russia and he may soon become immortalised within French Football if he can help to inspire back-to-back World Cup victories for the first time since Brazil in 1962. His leadership and presence alone has ensured confidence within the rest of the team and with his experience in major finals, it places France in good stead to retain the trophy.
The 34-year-old has been a warrior at the back for Argentina. Otamendi ranks 1st in aerial duels won (20), 1st in clearances (38), 1st in interceptions (7), 1st in accurate passes (462), 1st in accurate long passes (11), and even 1st in fewest defensive errors (0), among Argentina players (SofascoreLA). The final statistic being a constant criticism of Otamendi throughout his career which demonstrates how near faultless he has been for ‘La Albiceleste’. Statistics don’t always present a fair reflection of a player’s performances but on this occasion, it’s extremely hard to dispute.
‘The Socceroos’ reached the last 16 for the first time in their history and the Stoke City defender, Souttar, played a significant role in a team that defied the odds. Rio Ferdinand typified Souttar’s performances perfectly as the former Manchester United centre-back told BBC Sport before Australia’s knockout-stage defeat to Argentina: “He is a huge presence at 6’6. He is very good with the ball with his distribution. He is good at defending those spaces in front of the middle of goal.
Before his injury he had [Premier League] interest and I am sure his stock is rising with his performances here. He is a good communicator, he moves people around and is vocal.” High praise from a player who is widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in Premier League history.
Mark Marston | GWFN