So this is it. The last piece I’ll write about the 2018 FIFA World Cup™.
It’s only right that we close it off with an alternative Team of the Tournament.
Gather round. Let’s all have a little giggle and remember the good times. A time when work only consisted of finding ingenious ways of watching football games during important meetings.
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (France)
Eating in a foreign country is full of pitfalls. That peri-peri chicken you ordered ends up being a live peacock you have to kill and feather yourself.
Lloris took care of his nutritional needs by munching on bugs mid-game. A dragonfly, to be specific. Delicious, although not quite as nutritious as the humble Burnley worm.
He secured cult status by trying, and failing, to nutmeg Mario Mandzukic in the World Cup final. Anything for the Gram.
Right-back: Nacho (Spain)
We get it. You’re away from your family for a long time during a World Cup.
Certain needs have to be taken care of.
It would have been nice of him to do it when the cameras weren’t looking though.
Centre-back: Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina)
Outshining Sergio Ramos and Pepe as the World Cup’s pantomime villain is no mean feat and takes a certain level of world-class bastardy.
Not a problem for the perfectly bearded Otamendi, who drilled the ball at any opposition attacker who was unlucky to fall to the ground within sniping distance.
You’ve got to admire his dedication to being a c***.
Centre-back: Maya Yoshida (Japan)
Southampton’s forgettable centre-back Yoshida transformed into the Japanese Paolo Maldini during the World Cup. Proof that you should never sign players off the back of a tournament.
It was his orchestration of the best offside trap ever to be executed in a World Cup match that earned him a place in this side.
Watch it. Breathe it in. The organisation. You’ll never see anything like it. Senegal’s players are still trying to work their way back onside.
Left-back: Milad Mohammadi (Iran)
Throw-ins have been part of football since the nineteenth century.
It takes a renegade master to evolve it beyond Rory Delap’s weaponisation of the throw-in, which was last seen in 2013.
Step forward Iran’s no.5.
Right midfield: Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal)
Quaresma has more tattoos on his face than Steven Gerrard has Premier League medals.
In fact he inks a new tat on his face every time he uses anything other than the outside of his right foot to cross or shoot the ball.
He’s single-handedly keeping Portugal’s tattoo trade alive.
Centre-mid: Toni Kroos (Germany)
Pretty soon you’ll be able to simultaneously watch Netflix and unlock the Da Vinci Code using your football boots. They’re technological works of art.
But Kroos is ignoring the calls of the future by blasting out Robbie Williams’ entire discography. When it comes to football boots he’s sticking with what he knows.
He’s still wearing boot from April 2014. Ironic, because Kroos translates as ‘Frugal’ in English.
Centre-mid: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The world’s best (Twitter) midfielder.
Let’s be honest, no one had actually seen him play heading into the tournament. That didn’t stop the ‘Serbian Zizou’ hype train.
Why don’t clubs turn to social media for scouting advice more often? It’s foolproof.
Left midfield: Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia)
Only three players registered both two goals and two assists at the World Cup.
One was Eden Hazard, the man tipped to replace Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. One was Philippe Coutinho, the man Barcelona expect to replace Andres Iniesta.
The third? Khazri, who at the time of writing is contracted to League One’s Sunderland. What a time to be alive.
Striker: Michy Batshuayi (Belgium)
Batshuayi can turn any situation into retweets. He’s a social media phenomenon. No player in world football can compare when it comes to 240-characters.
He turns losing situations into winning tweets. He will never Hold the L.
What happens when you try and smash the ball into an open net only to hit the post and nearly knock yourself out? Twenty-two thousand retweets, that’s what.
Nicola Kalinic (Croatia)
Croatia’s squad returned home as heroes, with a highest ever World Cup finish to look back on proudly.
Except for Kalinic. Kalinic refused to come off the bench in Croatia’s first game and was sent home early.
Don’t be like Kalinic.