World Cup: Who have been the best performers of the group stage?

South Korea's goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo (right) makes a save during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Germany at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 27, 2018.
South Korea's goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo (right) makes a save during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Germany at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 27, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - We've seen plenty of stunning goals, great saves, questionable moments of controversy, and even some side-splitting goofs in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup. But who deserves to be named in the team of the tournament so far?

Here is the Straits Times' best XI:

Goalkeeper: Cho Hyun-woo (South Korea)

The shot-stopper that inspired a thousand memes. The 26-year-old plays his club football at home with unfashionable Daegu FC, but has caught the eye in Russia.

He made a stunning point-blank save from Marcus Berg in the first game against Sweden, and then pulled off a full-stretch save to deny Mexico captain Andres Guardado in the second game.

But he saved his best for last, when he put in a Man-of-the-Match shift as South Korea stunned 2014 world champions Germany 2-0, sending them out of the tournament.

Other goalkeepers who have also impressed include Denmark's Kasper Schmeichel, Uruguay's Fernando Muslera, and Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa.

Right-back: Kieran Trippier (England)


England's Kieran Trippier gestures during the match. PHOTO: REUTERS

Given the license to bomb forward as a wing-back, Trippier has relished his big opportunity on the world stage.

He created six chances in the 2-1 win over Tunisia, and then had a hand in three goals as the Three Lions' 6-1 demolition of Panama, before he was rested for the final group game against Belgium, with England's passage into the last 16 already secured.

His precise crosses from open play and set-piece delivery have led England fans to label him the "Bury Beckham", after the town he was born in.

Centre-back: Jose Gimenez (Uruguay)


Uruguay's defender Jose Gimenez celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Egypt and Uruguay at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 15, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Alongside Diego Godin, his club-mate at Spanish side Atletico Madrid, the 23-year-old has shone as La Celeste breezed through the group stage by winning all three games without conceding a single goal.

He made six successful tackles and 11 interceptions, and has proved handy at the other end of the pitch too, scoring Uruguay's winning goal in the last minute of their tournament opener against Egypt.

Centre-back: John Stones (England)


England's defender John Stones controls the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between England and Belgium at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 28, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

One statistic many England fans have joyfully been repeating over the past week is how John Stones has scored more goals (two) than Lionel Messi (one) in Russia.

But the Manchester City defender has genuinely been solid at the back for the Three Lions too, with his composure at the heart of the three-man defence giving his team a good base to build from.

His pass completion rate of 97.5 per cent is also the highest among any player that has started more than one game.

Left-back: Yannick Carrasco (Belgium)


Belgium's midfielder Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco controls the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Belgium and Tunisia at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 23, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

While more accustomed to a position higher up the pitch, the 24-year-old has been utilised as a left wing-back by Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, and has impressed in flashes with his pace and trickery.

He is yet to be seriously tested defensively, but, like Trippier for England, he has certainly enjoyed himself going forward - going by average position over the 90 minutes in Belgium's 5-2 win over Tunisia, he was the Red Devils' second-most advanced player.

Midfield: Aleksandr Golovin (Russia)


Russia's Aleksandr Golovin scores their fifth goal from a free kick. PHOTO: REUTERS

The 22-year-old CSKA Moscow starlet was the big hope for hosts Russia before the tournament kicked off, and has delivered.

His all-action displays in midfield - he has notched a goal and two assists, and has also not been afraid from launching into his fair share of tackles as well - have helped The Golden Eagles qualify for the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time.

Midfield: Luka Modric (Croatia)


Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring their second goal. PHOTO: REUTERS

Together with Ivan Rakitic, Modric has run the show for Croatia, as they topped a tricky Group D that also featured Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland.

The Real Madrid midfield maestro has chipped in with crucial goals as well, with a penalty against Nigeria and a long-range stunner against Argentina.

Midfield: Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)


Brazil's Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring their first goal. PHOTO: REUTERS

With Casemiro doing the dirty work in Brazil's midfield, Barcelona's Coutinho is free to roam across the pitch, focusing on unlocking opposition defences.

The former Liverpool man has proven to be the Selecao's talisman, breaking the resistance of Switzerland and Costa Rica with fine goals, before creating the opener against Serbia with an exquisite through ball for Paulinho.

Right forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)


Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal as Portugal edged Morocco to seal their spot in the last 16. PHOTO: REUTERS

Trust CR7 to steal the headlines in his first game in Russia. The Real Madrid superstar became the oldest player to score a World Cup hat-trick with his treble in Portugal's tournament opener against Spain.

He then scored the only goal as Portugal edged Morocco to seal their spot in the last 16, where Uruguay - who have yet to concede a goal in Russia - lie in wait.

Left forward: James Rodriguez (Colombia)


Colombia's midfielder James Rodriguez warms up before the start of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group H football match between Senegal and Colombia at the Samara Arena in Samara on June 28, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Rodriguez just loves playing in the World Cup. The 26-year-old attacking midfielder has had a hand in 11 goals - six goals, five assists - in eight World Cup appearances.

His superb cross-field pass for team-mate Juan Cuadrado's goal against Poland has been hailed by some as the best of the tournament thus far.

He edges Belgium's Eden Hazard, Spain's Isco and Mexico's Hirving Lozano, for a spot in our front three.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)


Belgium's forward Romelu Lukaku scores a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Belgium and Tunisia at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 23, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

What? No Harry Kane? You better believe it. While the England captain is the tournament's leading scorer with five goals, two of his strikes were from the penalty spot, two were close-range headers and one was fortuitously deflected off his heel.

 

Even the most ardent Tottenham Hotspur or England fan has to admit he has not played at his best.

Lukaku, however, has scored all four of his goals from open play, and all were fine finishes.

Despite not being Belgium's captain, he also delivered a rousing team talk which fired his team-mates up before they beat Panama 3-0 in their tournament opener.