The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has come to an end with Argentina and Lionel Messi finally lifting the trophy after 36 long years. With that being said, now is the ideal time to construct the best XI of the tournament. Let’s go!
Goalkeeper: Dominik Livaković (Croatia)
Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper Dominik Livaković was impeccable between the sticks for Croatia as they finished 3rd in the World Cup, likely marking the end of a truly golden generation for the small nation.
Livaković kept two clean sheets, both coming in the group stage, but was imperious for Croatia in their memorable victory over Brazil in the quarter-finals, saving three of his opposition’s spot-kicks.
Despite a strong claim from Emi Martinez for this spot, Livaković did exceptionally well considering the nation he plays for and how well they did in Qatar. His performances have even seen him being linked with a move to German giants Bayern Munich.
Right-back: Achraf Hakimi
Achraf Hakimi was by far the standout right-back in this year’s competition in Qatar. Morocco made history by becoming the first African nation to ever reach the semi-finals of the World Cup and Hakimi certainly played a massive part in this.
The PSG star was seen bombarding up and down the right flank with his searing pace that frightened opposition fullbacks. Furthermore, his pace also allowed him to get back and make vitally important last-ditch tackles.
Up until their semi-final defeat to France, Morocco had only conceded a single goal throughout the entire tournament, and even that was put into the back of the net by their own player Nayef Aguerd.
Hakimi also stepped up to nonchalantly chip the goalkeeper in the decisive spot-kick of their Round of 16 shootout against Spain, showing ice-cold composure and nerves.
Centre-back: Nicolas Otamendi
Nicolas Otamendi rolled back the years for Argentina during the World Cup by being an absolute brick-wall for La Albiceleste who were crowned World Champions on Sunday.
The current Benfica star was ever-present in Argentina’s backline throughout the tournament and brought experience to a relatively young Argentine defence.
Although the World Champions did leak a few goals, especially during the knockout rounds, Otamendi was barely at fault for any of the goals, making his tournament near spotless.
The 34-year-old former Man City star was a divisive character during his time in England, so it’s satisfying to see him silence the doubters and be given his moment in the spotlight.
Centre-back: Joško Gvardiol (Croatia)
Croatian defender Joško Gvardiol was monstrous for his nation as they finished 3rd in Qatar. Gvardiol did not set a foot wrong the entire tournament, despite being outdone by the brilliance of Lionel Messi in their semi-final defeat to Argentina. But that is more down to Messi being a freak of nature than Gvardiol being poor.
The RB Leipzig star has a strong shout for being the defender of the tournament due to his colossal performances at the heart of Croatia’s resilient backline.
Furthermore, the 20-year-old’s composure and defending intelligence goes far beyond his age, making him one of, if not the best young defender in world football.
Gvardiol’s stocks did nothing but soar up in Qatar. It won’t be long before we see him donning the kit of one of Europe’s elite.
Left-back: Theo Hernandez (France)
French left-back Theo Hernandez showed the world why so many fans rate him as one of, if not the best left-back in Europe on current form.
The AC Milan star proved to be a lethal weapon going forward for Le Bleu, bagging a goal and two assists in his six appearances. Furthermore, Hernandez looked comfortable dealing with all players he came up against, barring England’s Bukayo Saka.
Hernandez is a strong runner and has the ability to carry the ball deep into opposition territory, making him a nightmare to deal with for opposing fullbacks and covering midfielders.
The 25-year-old seems to only be getting better and better. He is certain to be one of the first names on the team sheet come the 2024 EUROs in Germany.
Centre-midfielder: Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)
Sofyan Amrabat really announced himself on the world stage in Qatar, putting in consistently strong and tenacious performances in every game.
Playing in front of Morocco’s defence, Amrabat was everywhere, putting in tackle after tackle and breaking the opposition’s play with clever interceptions.
The 26-year-old is a very combative midfielder that every club needs and proved to be a leader not just through his performances but also through his work-rate, often looking shattered at the end of games as a result of how much effort he’s put in.
The Fiorentina midfielder has been linked with a host of moves since his stunning displays in Qatar, with Liverpool and PSG reportedly enquiring about the player. And deservedly so.
Centre-midfielder: Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco)
Partnering Amrabat is his Moroccan teammate and arguably the breakout star of the tournament, Azzedine Ounahi.
Ounahi has been utterly superb at the heart of Morocco’s midfield, showcasing his elegance and silky skills, as well as his outstanding ball-carrying ability.
The 22-year-old has really thrust himself into the limelight following the Atlas Lions’ exploits in Qatar, often getting fans both in the stadiums and at home off their seat with his close-control and ability to drop the shoulder.
Ounahi currently plays for Ligue 1’s bottom side Angers, however, following his World Cup performances it seems certain that Ounahi won’t be there much longer. Reports already suggest Leicester are in negotiations to sign the player, but we’re sure more clubs are interested in the Moroccan star.
Centre-midfielder: Antoine Griezmann (France)
Antoine Griezmann reinvented himself this World Cup by dropping into midfield and influencing the game from deep.
The Atletico Madrid star was arguably France’s most important player alongside Kylian Mbappe, but his inexperience in the role is what made his performances even more impressive.
Griezmann didn’t get his name on the scoresheet in Qatar, but provided three assists, including for the winner against England in quarter-finals. However, the former Barcelona star didn’t just catch everyone’s eye in the matchup with the Three Lions for his offensive work, but also for his work in defence as he was seen constantly mopping up in the French box and clearing his lines.
Atletico fans will be hoping to see this version of Griezmann when club football returns as it seems the French star has re-found some of the form that put him amongst the world’s elite a few years ago.
Left-wing: Kylian Mbappe (France)
French superstar Kylian Mbappe really announced himself as the best player of the new generation in Qatar.
Mbappe was utterly superb in just the second World Cup for the 23-year-old, but already has 12 goals in 14 appearances in the biggest competition in world football.
The PSG star won the golden boot in Qatar after scoring 8 goals and laying on 2 assists in his 7 appearances. But his best moment came in the final where, despite the heartbreak of defeat, Mbappe can keep his head held high after becoming the first player since 1966 to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final.
Furthermore, Mbappe’s treble means he holds the record for the most goals scored in a FIFA World Cup final after he scored in France’s 4-2 win over Croatia in the 2018 final.
Mbappe is thoroughly deserving of a spot in the best XI.
Striker: Julian Alvarez (Argentina)
Argentina (and Man City) seem to have found their perfect Sergio Aguero replacement in Julian Alvarez. The 22-year-old began to lead the line for La Albiceleste after poor performances from Lautaro Martinez, and boy did he not look back.
Alvarez bagged 4 goals in Qatar which proved pivotal in Argentina’s success as two of his goals came in the semi-final victory over Croatia.
Furthermore, the Man City star linked well with Messi and the midfield, especially during the latter stages as Argentina began to look a lot more fluid in build-up play.
Alvarez also played a huge role in Argentina’s second goal in the final, linking well with Messi and the midfield before the PSG star set off Mac Alisster, and the rest is history.
Alvarez is a name we’ll be hearing much more of in the future, that’s for sure.
Right-wing: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
What more can we say about Lionel Messi? This World Cup, he put a definite end to the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) debate, doing what many used as a stick to beat him with: taking Argentina to World Cup glory.
Messi deservedly picked up the golden ball award after a truly stunning tournament, where he bagged 7 goals and laid on a further 3 assists. He also equaled the record for most goal contributions in World Cup history with 21 across his 5 competitions.
The PSG star was influential in every single Argentina fixture, even scoring a penalty in their 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening game.
Messi now joins Maradona as an icon that managed to bring the World Cup back to Argentina. It is a fitting way to begin the end of what has been a truly, truly wonderful career that football fans should be grateful they were able to witness.
Messi showed in this tournament at the age of 35 that he’s the best there ever was, and the best there ever will be.
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