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2018 World Cup Best XI (so far)

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With 48 of 64 games played at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a look at the brightest stars of the group stage…

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GK — Cho Hyun-woo — Only Guillermo Ochoa (17) made more saves than Cho (12), who made six in South Korea’s 2-0 victory over Germany — the majority in spectacular fashion — and three each in disappointing defeats to Mexico and Sweden. The Taegeuk Warriors weren’t knocked out due to any shortcomings in goal.

DF — Andreas Granqvist — Sweden conceded just two goals in three games against Germany, Mexico and South Korea, and their 33-year-old captain has been a massive part of the why and the how.

DF — Yerry Mina — Mina’s been solid in defense for Colombia, but he’s done the majority of his damage at the other end of the field. Two goals in two games played, and they were both game-winners.

DF — Jose Gimenez — No one has more interceptions (11) and only seven players have won more tackles (6) than the 23-year-old Uruguayan, who just edges out his steady-as-ever partner — for club and country — Diego Godin.

[ MORE: 10 best goals of the group stage ]

MF — Viktor Claesson — Two assists and six key passes in 254 minutes of work. For all the talk about the tough-nosed, dogged defense — and rightly so — Claesson has been at the center of everything going forward.

MF — Luka Modric — He’s been one of the three best midfielders in the world for a half-decade now, and he’s finally getting due credit after playing a massive part in Real Madrid winning three straight Champions League titles, while Croatia are a rare instance of a national team’s personnel fitting together in every way imaginable.

MF — Philippe Coutinho — With Neymar still working back toward his absolute best — and returning to his diving ways — Coutinho picked up the slack in the goal-scoring and -creating (2 goals, 1 assist) and playmaking departments (10 key passes in three games) during group play.

MF — Kevin De Bruyne — While it felt like De Bruyne didn’t quite put his stamp on Belgium’s dominant victories over Panama and Tunisia — the only games in which he played — the Manchester City man still racked up nine key passes in 180 minutes. His outside-of-the-foot ball to Romelu Lukaku is a strong contender for the pass of the tournament.

[ MORE: The five knockout round games we most want to see ]

FW — Harry Kane — Five goals in 153 minutes — even if two of them were from the penalty spot — is a pretty impressive haul for a 24-year-old making his World Cup debut. England will go as far as Kane’s goals can take them.

FW — Romelu Lukaku — Pretty clearly the most destructive and dominant performer we’ve seen thus far, Lukaku racked up four goals (in just 149 minutes) before suffering a minor ankle injury and sitting out the final group game against England.

FW — Cristiano Ronaldo — Portugal’s leading man opened the tournament with a hat trick in the 3-3 draw with Spain, then followed it up with the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over Morocco.His free kick — the 88th-minute equalizer in the game against Spain — was, and still is, pure art.

Schmeichel, Poulsen at center of Denmark 1-0 Peru

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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  • Denmark goal: Poulsen (59′)
  • Peru misses penalty
  • Next: Denmark-Australia, Peru-France

Yussuf Yurary Poulsen scored a second half goal and Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel made several critical saves as Denmark smashed and grabbed a 1-0 World Cup win in Saransk on Saturday.

Peru found seemingly every manner of way to miss the goal in a dominant performance.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Both teams played with an adrenalized tempo in the first 10 minutes, with Yoshimar Yotun whipping a shot to Kasper Schmeichel in the eighth.

Peru was all over Denmark as the match moved on, with Schmeichel very active against Los Incos.

Denmark captain Simon Kjaer made a terrific block on Andre Carrillo in the 29th minute to keep it scoreless.

Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese made a terrific stop on Jens Stryger Larsen after Christian Eriksen‘s free kick was blocked by the wall.

The CONMEBOL side was given a penalty kick upon Video Assistant Referee review after Christian Cueva saw his ankle caught by Yussuf Poulsen.

But Cueva made a stuttering, disjointed run-up before blazing his effort over the bar.

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Peru bungled chance to take a 57th lead when Cueva cut a rug through the 18 and laid off for Carrillo, whose shot wasn’t good enough to trouble the net.

They’d regret the miss, as RB Leipzig striker Poulsen raced down the left wing and into the box to carve a shot around Gallese.

Peru nearly equalized off the restart, but Schmeichel made an outstanding save. And Jefferson Farfan couldn’t get on the end of a terrific free kick headed back across the Denmark defense in the 69th.

Poulsen was a defensive hero two minutes later, nodding a cross out of play with Paolo Guerrero lurking at the back post. And Schmeichel stopped Luis Advincula a minute after that.

Guerrero nearly spun a backheel effort inside the far post in the 79th. Peru deserved an equalizer, but would it find one. Schmeichel denied Farfan again in the 84th.

A mostly quiet Eriksen was stymied by Gallese soon after the Schmeichel stop. We say mostly…

Burnley 2-1 Leicester City: Clarets keep up European pace

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  • Burnley wins 5th-straight PL match
  • Clarets have firm grip on seventh
  • Vardy scores again in loss

Chris Wood and Kevin Long scored and Burnley held through Leicester City’s furious fight back for a 2-1 win at Turf Moor on Saturday.

Jamie Vardy scored for the eighth place Foxes, now nine points back of the Clarets.

Burnley can taste the Europa League. Provided Southampton fails to win the FA Cup, seventh place will mean UEL football.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

It was the Kiwi who started the scoring, Wood getting a ball from Ashley Barnes off a Wes Morgan turnover. Kasper Schmeichel stopped his first attempt, but Barnes trapped the rebound and slotted from a tight angle.

It was 2-0 within two minutes, a Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson corner kick headed home by the big man Long.

The 27th minute saw Leicester snap into the fray with Ben Chilwell crossing for Vardy, but the Englishman could not get enough on the effort.

Nick Pope made an unreal save on Mahrez, somehow trapping the ball between his upper thighs as the Algerian attempted to head between the Burnley keeper’s legs.

Pope then collected a Vardy header in first half stoppage to preserve the two-goal advantage.

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Guðmundsson bid to beat Schmeichel with his left peg in the 55th minute, but it sailed just over the goal.

Pope made a fine diving save on Vardy in the 62nd, leading to a corner the keeper collected with ease.

Fousseni Diabate took a hit to find Vardy for the goal, with Pope only able to get a hand on the English international’s 20th in all competitions.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-2 Leicester City: Late breakthrough

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  • Iborra scores in 2nd-straight PL match
  • Schmeichel saves Murray penalty
  • Vardy scores 15th of season
  • Foxes three points off seventh

Vicente Iborra and Jamie Vardy scored second half goals to lead Leicester City past Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Brighton is 13th, six points clear of 18th place Southampton.

Vardy reached the 15-goal plateau for the second time as a Premier League player, and has 57 in four seasons.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Essentially chance-free for the first half hour, Glenn Murray missed a chance to make it 1-0 when he took Davy Propper‘s pass and avoided a fairly-yawning cage.

The second half started brightly, with Jamie Vardy missing a Leicester bid before his goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel denied Pascal Gross at the other end.

Out of nothing, a penalty to Brighton. Jose Izquierdo drew it with a bit of embellishment, and perhaps it was justice when Murray’s penalty kick was saved by Schmeichel.

And Iborra found the back of the goal off a Ben Chilwell cross.

It wouldn’t be an easy finish, as Wilfred Ndidi picked up a second yellow card with minutes to play, though Demarai Gray cued up Vardy for his 15th goal of the season.

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Leicester City 1-0 Burnley: Foxes on the rise

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  • Foxes unbeaten in three
  • Gray slots at back post
  • Leicester outshoots Burnley 16-14

Leicester City’s rise continued at the detriment of Burnley’s Top Four ambitions, as the Foxes used a Demarai Gray goal to win 1-0 at King Power Stadium on Saturday.

The win moves Claude Puel‘s bunch ninth with 20 points, while seventh-place Burnley is level with Spurs on 25 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Blonde-haired Riyad Mahrez swept in a cross from the left, and Gray was at the back post to put Leicester ahead within the first quarter hour of play.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson threatened to level the score only to be foiled by Kasper Schmeichel.

The second half saw plenty of chances for the Foxes to claim all three points, with Shinji Okazaki and Riyad Mahrez both denied late in the contest.

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[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]