Diego Godin is showing at World Cup that he is the best defender in football


The fellows reply to your tweets about Brazil-Mexico, Simeone for Argentina, Uruguay’s World Cup probabilities and Mbappe’s efficiency towards Cavani’s.

It was a well-known yr for footballers referred to as Diego. Famously, Diego Maradona received the World Cup in 1986. Much less famously, Diego Godin was born. Thirty-two years on, this in all probability won’t be a World Cup outlined by a Diego — not in the best way 1986 was, anyway. But it may be a match through which one other reaches new heights or, maybe extra precisely, through which his excellence will get the belated recognition it deserves.

Godin has been one of the best defender of the World Cup to date. He might need been the best on this planet for some time, even when his friends have tended to plump for others in terms of particular person awards. Carles Puyol nominated his former Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique as one of the best earlier this yr, whereas Giorgio Chiellini named an previous rival in Sergio Ramos. In the meantime, Virgil van Dijk has turn out to be the costliest in world soccer, adopted by Aymeric Laporte.

All of the whereas, Godin has been Godin, maybe probably the most reliable and maybe the least error-prone. The numbers within the World Cup present a similarity with Nicolas Otamendi, who has made three extra clearances and three fewer interceptions, however it’s a case of lies, damned lies and statistics. It’s the distinction between a bastion of reliability and a headless hen.

Moreover, Godin has excelled for Uruguay at some extent when, one after the other, the credentials of his rivals for the unofficial title of the planet’s most excellent defender have been diminished.

Ramos was caught in possession when Khalid Boutaib went by way of to attain for Morocco. Pique’s useless handball gifted Russia a penalty, simply as Samuel Umtiti actually handed Australia a spot kick of their Group C opener. Jerome Boateng capped a hapless show towards Sweden with a purple card, whereas Mats Hummels struggled in Germany’s opening defeat to Mexico. Leonardo Bonucci is not even in Russia, courtesy of Italy’s failure to qualify.

Remoted errors shouldn’t type the entire appraisal, however Boateng, Ramos and Pique’s performances have been unimpressive at this World Cup. Godin’s have been excellent even when there’s a case for saying that he may have carried out higher when Pepe struck for Portugal within the last-16. The Atletico Madrid defender was too targeted on Cristiano Ronaldo, and it should be stated, he stopped the serial Ballon d’Or winner from scoring.

That Pepe purpose was the one one Uruguay have conceded to date at this World Cup. It’s a document solely Brazil can rival, and if the Selecao have arguably had more durable fixtures, Uruguay, with a significantly decrease share of possession (49.four p.c to 58.6 p.c), have had extra defending to do.

There may be additionally one thing old style about the best way Godin defends for membership and nation, on the coronary heart of tight, well-drilled again fours that would not have appeared misplaced in many years previous. It’s not that he cannot play; simply that, amid the fondness for deploying gamers with midfielders’ talent units on the again, he has not forgotten that his important obligation is as a stopper.

Certainly, each Godin’s skill on the ball and his management prowess have been highlighted when he left his put up in defence. Godin surged imperiously into midfield with the ball, each attracting and beating opponents, within the wins over Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It married a willingness to take duty with an understanding that Uruguay wanted an added dimension towards stubborn groups, as Oscar Tabarez’s workmanlike midfield did not all the time have the invention to inject one thing completely different. Godin was in additional typical type on the finish of the win towards Portugal, heading crosses away in traditional rearguard motion.

Godin is a specialist in such conditions, an skilled in “backs-to-the-wall” defending. He and his Atletico teammate Jose Maria Gimenez may be a part of one of the best defences in each membership and worldwide soccer.

In Madrid, two Diegos have benefited one another: Godin and Atletico supervisor Simeone. The Europa League winners have conceded solely 268 targets within the latter’s 378-game reign, holding 200 clear sheets. Godin has been a terrific fixed, taking part in in 306 of these matches. It has turn out to be a physique of labor, a dedication to frugality that has been sustained over a sequence of seasons simply as Uruguay navigated the group phases of each the 2010 and 2018 World Cups with out conceding. It has been carried out in an unflashy method which, mixed with a reliance on the collective, can strip people of credit score.

Godin has been on the lengthy listing for the Ballon d’Or solely as soon as, in 2016. He bought no votes. Certainly, Euro 2016 winner Pepe was alone amongst defenders in getting any. Two years on, the possibilities of any centre-back emulating Fabio Cannavaro, the lone defender to be named the World Participant of the 12 months previously 4 many years, appear restricted. The emphasis on attackers continues to be extra pronounced than within the days when Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini bought podium positions within the end-of-year awards.

However World Cups are inclined to bestow the casual tag of the sport’s most excellent defender upon gamers: In 2010, Puyol’s semifinal winner towards Germany and Pique’s passing meant the Barcelona duo suited the ethos of the instances. Quick-forward 4 years, and it was logical to anoint Hummels and Boateng.

Now whereas Uruguay are much less prone to win the World Cup and whereas a Brazil triumph may place the crown on Thiago Silva’s head, Godin has nonetheless appeared like one of the best of the bunch. Maybe, quietly, he has been for a while, however clear sheets and consistency didn’t earn him the accolade. That requires brilliance in a World Cup.

Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.

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