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World Cup team of the tournament so far: The stars of the group stage

There have been plenty of star performers at this year's World Cup to date and, with the group stage now behind us, we have taken a look at the team of the tournament so far.

The group stage accounts for 48 of the 64 matches being held in Qatar, so while the business end of the finals is still to come, we already have a good idea of which players are in the running for individual honours such as the Golden Ball.

GK: Wojciech Szczesny - Poland

Poland have made it through to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and goalkeeper Szczesny has been a major factor in that success.

Szczesny made the most saves of any goalkeeper during the group stage (18), including keeping out two penalties from Saudi Arabia's Salem Al Dawsari and a certain Lionel Messi of Argentina. 

With Poland facing France in the last 16, Szczesny could be in for another busy night, but the Juventus No.1 is a man in form and very much in the running for the Golden Glove - the award for the tournament's best goalkeeper - at odds of 20/1.

DF: Achraf Hakimi - Morocco

Morocco are another team that have made it through to the last 16 for the first time since 1986, with the Atlas Lions topping their group and conceding just one goal across their matches with Croatia, Belgium and Canada. 

Paris Saint-Germain full-back Hakimi has been part of that resilient backline and no player won more tackles during the group stage than the 24-year-old's tally of 10. 

Hakimi has also showcased his attacking talent in Qatar, laying on an assist in the 2-1 victory over Canada that guaranteed Morocco top spot in Group F.

DF: Josko Gvardiol - Croatia

It is hard to believe Croatia defender Gvardiol is just 20 years of age given the authority and maturity he has played with at these finals, helping his side to two clean sheets from three during the group stage. 

The RB Leipzig centre back was particularly pivotal in Croatia's final group game, helping Vatreni qualify for the knockout stages with a 0-0 draw over Belgium, with his last-ditch tackle on Romelu Lukaku saving an almost certain goal. 

Gvardiol is 16/1 to be named young player of the tournament, and if Croatia can repeat their heroics of 2018 when they reached the final, then he could emerge as a major contender for that award.

DF: Harry Maguire - England

The decision from England head coach Gareth Southgate to include Manchester United defender Maguire in his squad, never mind starting line-up, was being questioned in the build-up to these finals given his lack of playing time at club level, but the 29-year-old has more than proven his worth. 

Maguire has arguably been England's best player in Qatar, helping the Three Lions to clean-sheets against the United States and Wales. 

There is no doubting tournament football brings out the best in Maguire, who was included in the team of the tournament at Euro 2020 and he may be eyeing a place in the World Cup XI come the end of these finals.

DF: Harry Souttar - Australia

Australia defender Souttar has played a key role in the Socceroos' progress through to the last 16, as after conceding four in their Group D opener against France, he marshalled a defence that kept clean sheets in their following two matches with Tunisia and Denmark. 

What makes the performances of Souttar all the more remarkable is he has only just returned from an 11-month layoff with a serious knee injury, playing just one senior match for his club Stoke before these finals. 

At 6ft 6in, Souttar has been a giant at the back for Australia, but he will surely have to raise his game even further in the knockout stages, as he is set to come up against Lionel Messi and Argentina in the last 16.

MF: Casemiro - Brazil

Casemiro was at his imperious best during Brazil's opening two group fixtures, shielding a back four that kept clean sheets when facing both Serbia and Switzerland, while he also scored the winning goal against the latter. 

With A Selecao having already wrapped up qualification for the last 16 ahead of their final group match with Cameroon, the Manchester United star was rested, but his absence was certainly felt, as Brazil lost that match 1-0. 

The 30-year-old is sure to return to Tite's XI for the knockout stages and he could well be pivotal to Brazil's 11/5 hopes of winning the World Cup for a record-extending sixth time.

MF: Bruno Fernandes - Portugal

Another Manchester United player starring at these finals, Bruno Fernandes has been directly involved in four of Portugal's six goals in Qatar, scoring two himself and providing two assists. 

Those stats are made even more impressive as Fernandes sat out Portugal's final group fixture - a 2-1 defeat to South Korea - but he will no doubt return for their last 16 clash with Switzerland. 

Fernandes is even managing to take some of the attention (and goals) away from Cristiano Ronaldo, which is no mean feat and part of the reason why the 28-year-old is a 14/1 shot to win the Golden Ball.

MF: Marcelo Brozovic - Croatia

Croatia have one of the most talented midfields at these finals and, while Luka Modric steals most of the headlines, it is Inter Milan ace Brozovic that has been bossing proceedings for Vatreni in the middle of the park. 

No player covered more ground than Brozovic during the opening two rounds of the group stage and he delivered another assured performance in Croatia's pivotal final Group F match against Belgium. 

While Modric is the star of this team, do not underestimate the importance of Brozovic to Croatia's 33/1 hopes of going all the way in Qatar.

FW: Kylian Mbappe - France

France superstar Mbappe is the joint-leading scorer at the finals with three goals, and after landing the young player of the tournament in 2018, he looks set for further individual honours this year. 

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is 11/4 to win the Golden Boot, while he is 5/2 to be named the tournament's best player. 

Mbappe was left out of the starting XI for France's final group game against Tunisia, so he should be refreshed to face Poland in the knockout stages. The 23-year-old is 21/20 to score anytime in that match.

FW: Cody Gakpo - Netherlands

The breakout star of the group stage was arguably Dutch forward Gakpo, who scored in all three of his side's matches, adding to the 13 goals and 17 assists that he has already got for his club PSV Eindhoven this season. 

Gakpo is 33/1 to land the Golden Ball in Qatar and 12/1 to become the first Dutch player to finish as the tournament's leading marksmen. 

Whatever happens for the 23-year-old during the knockout stages, he is sure to be one of the most sought-after players when the January transfer window opens in just a few weeks.

FW: Ritsu Doan - Japan

Japan forward Doan may have only started once at these finals, and that was the 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, but his impact from the bench in his side's other two matches in Group E cannot be underestimated. 

Doan was introduced during Japan's opening fixture against Germany when they were trailing 1-0, but within four minutes of coming on he had scored the equaliser before Samurai Blue went on to grab a late winner. 

Lightning then struck again in Japan's must-win clash with Spain when, trailing 1-0, Doan was brought on and he again scored the equalising goal in an eventual win for the Asian side, who topped Group E as a result.

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