World Cup 2018: The 'Alternative' Awards
Every World Cup, we get to learn about the recipients of FIFA’s designated awards including the best player (Golden Ball), highest scorer (Golden Boot), best goalkeeper (Golden Glove) and the best young player. But to be perfectly honest, these awards are often shaped by narratives.
So instead of those same tedious awards, why not come up with some more intriguing ones?
The first set of these awards are individual ones: best defender, best dribbler, best passer, and best newcomer. All of these are pretty self-explanatory and help award players whose quality may have gone unnoticed in the World Cup.
The second set of awards pertains to teams or games including the awards for Best Game (Highest Quality), Best Game (Most Entertaining) and the best team goal helping us appreciate some of the better aspects of the World Cup.
Best Defender: Raphael Varane (France)
At 25, most professional football players are just starting to enter their prime. By 25, Raphael Varane has won two La Liga titles, four Champions League titles, and now the FIFA World Cup - having played a key part in all those wins.
In Russia, Varane was particularly brilliant as he helped guide the tournament’s best defence to the title. His positioning and footballing intelligence were key as very few opposing attackers got behind the French defence.
Varane helped stop the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Luis Suarez, and Lionel Messi in the knockout stages. The Real Madrid defender averaged 6.3 clearances per game (making a total of 44 - tied for the most in the tournament).
In terms of intangibles, Varane’s leadership in defence was key as he helped cover for his teammates’ mistakes. Often Benjamin Pavard would be beaten by someone on France’s right-side, only for Varane to make a clearance.
One could even make an argument for Varane to be awarded the Golden Ball, but centre-backs usually do not receive the prize. Nonetheless, he was clearly the tournament’s best defender.