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World Cup 2018: Top 10 Right-Backs in the Tournament

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59.35K   //    11 Jun 2018, 16:45 IST

FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2014
Phillip Lahm

Perhaps there is no position in football that is as underappreciated as the right-back. Obviously, defenders are less heralded than their midfield or attacking counterparts. Yet, even among defenders, right-backs are the most ignored. Centre-backs are seen as the heart of a team, providing grit and aggression.

Left-backs are typically associated with awe-inspiring artistry down the left flank, think Roberto Carlos or Marcelo. Are that any right-backs that are remembered as fondly? Didn’t think so.

Yet, right-back is still one of the most important positions in football. They are not only responsible for defending some of the world’s best players on the opposition’s left flank (the likes of Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo) but also for providing width to their team’s attack.

An excellent right-back can make a real difference in the world cup. This was evident in 2014 when Phillip Lahm played the position for Germany and was arguably their most important player. 

Note: For the purposes of these rankings, the positional designation of a player depends on a mix of where they played during the past club season and where they are likely to play for their country in the World Cup. Also, right wing-backs in formations with three central defenders have also been included as right-backs for the purposes of these rankings. 

Honorable Mentions:

The quality of players in a World Cup is simply remarkable, which is why not all excellent right-backs can be included on a list like this. The following players were close to making the list but were eventually bypassed.

Stephen Lichsteiner

Switzerland v Northern Ireland - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg
Switzerland v Northern Ireland - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg

Four years ago, Lichsteiner would have ranked near the top of this list. Unfortunately for the 34-year-old Arsenal signing, his prime has long passed him. His performances over the past two seasons have been rather average for Juventus as he averaged career lows in blocks and clearances. In fact, the younger and more sprightly Matteo De Sciglio was preferred to him in big games especially in the Champions League.

Santiago Arias

Peru v Colombia - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifiers
Santiago Arias

Colombia are considered one of the dark horses to win the tournament. For that to occur, PSV Eindhoven right-back Santiago Arias’s performances will be crucial. Arias was a constant attacking threat for the Eredivisie winners, as he scored three goals and provided six assists.

He also made 1.8 key passes per game (second in the league for a defender) and had the 24th highest player rating in the league. Arias misses out on this list due to his rather average defensive performance, something he will need to rectify if Colombia are to fulfill their potential. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold

England v Costa Rica - International Friendly
Trent Alexander-Arnold

A Scouser through and through, Trent Alexander-Arnold has established himself as one of the premier right-backs in England, if not the world. His statistics over the past season were outstanding as the teenager was 3rd in key passes among defenders in the Premier League.

He was even better in the Champions League, where he ranked 8th among English players in WhoScored’s player rating. Unfortunately, this may be one tournament too early for the 19 year-old as he is likely to be third-choice right-back in the English squad behind Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier.

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