Paul Parker reflects on a thrilling World Cup as he dishes out awards for the good (Luka Modric) and the bad (Neymar and Harry Kane, look away now…)
PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT
Luka Modric. He’s proved he’s a world-class player for Real Madrid and Croatia – i.e. he can hit his top level even when he's surrounded by team-mates who can't. When Croatia were struggling, particularly in the first half hour against England, he kept his standards high and continued being the focal point. The Golden Ball is fully deserved.
Belgium’s last-gasp goal v Japan. Counter-attacking at its very best; naivety at its very worst.
Spain 3-3 Portugal. Spain were the better team by a country mile, but Cristiano Ronaldo kept digging Portugal out of trouble. The game condensed their World Cup campaigns into 90 minutes: Spain, brilliant going forward but wobbly in defence; Portugal, a one-man team. It was inevitable both would go out.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT
Kylian Mbappe. It’s a struggle to name anyone except Mbappe. He outshone all other strikers at the World Cup. Romelu Lukaku? Shocking. Harry Kane? Nope. We’re always looking to give young players an excuse, but you don’t have to make them for him.
ENGLAND’S BEST PLAYER
Kieran Trippier. It has to be him. Not only because he wore the No.12 shirt like I did at Italia 90, but because everything England did of note involved him. Defensively he was very good, while he was brilliant going forward. There hasn’t been a full-back who can strike the ball like him – whether it’s crosses, corners or free-kicks – since Denis Irwin.
MOST EXCITING TEAM
Mexico. Everyone enjoyed watching them. There was nothing negative about their style, particularly when they took apart the Germans.
FLOP OF THE TOURNAMENT
Neymar. Everyone was expecting him to take the world stage by storm – especially after his massive move to PSG – but all we got was a pantomime villain. He was a liability. I’ve never said a bad thing about a Brazilian player until now, but unless his attitude changes he hasn’t got a hope of being listed amongst the great Brazilians.
Germany. I always have high expectations of Germany, but they were ramped up even higher when they left out Leroy Sane. Surely we were all wondering how they could snub him when he was so good for Manchester City... and we were proved right. Germany’s stock fell in Russia; absent Sane’s rose.
ENGLAND’S BIGGEST LET-DOWN
Harry Kane. It’s easy to turn around and question the midfield, but great goalscorers make their own chances out of nothing. Ronaldo and Messi can. Kane can’t. Scoring from penalties and set-pieces wasn't good enough for a player who somehow won the Golden Boot. He was a massive let-down, barely involved in England's last three games, so we can forget talk about a move to Real Madrid.