The 2022 World Cup has ended the only way it could.
Argentina and France have without a doubt been the two best teams of the competition. The two have received more Player of the Tournament trophies than anyone else and with Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé both have the only two stars with five goals apiece.
But it’s not all about them… here are our 10 best players of the tournament.
10. Dominic Livakovic
A defense that could last almost to the end of time was supported by a goalkeeper who was comfortable stepping into the limelight when needed.
Dominic Livakovic was the superstar in this tournament, more than matching Luka Modric when it was his time to shine. His saves kept Croatia in the tournament on a number of occasions, not least when it came to penalties. The standout goalkeeper of the tournament – and one of the breakaway stars.
9. Enzo Fernandez
He announced himself on the world stage by coming into the fight against Mexico and scoring a world-class goal. It was a goal so good that Leo Messi celebrated it more than his own goal from that same game.
Benfica’s intriguer was spectacular in the Argentine midfield and did it hard alongside Alexis Mac Allister, among others. The run of the Albiceleste to the final is partly due to the youngster in the middle of the park.
8. Cody Gakpo
The wondrous magic of Louis van Gaal’s knockout matches was curiously subdued eight years later by the salmon-like headers of Robin van Persie and shootout-only Tim Krul – apart, of course, from Wout Weghorst’s mind-blowing 10 minutes against Argentina.
But Cody Gakpo was more than brilliant in a rather boring Dutch line-up. The PSV star scored in all three group matches – one with his head, one with his left foot and one with his right – proving himself one of European football’s outstanding rising stars. If the Orange had given him a little more service, he might have looked at a Golden Boot.
7. Jude Bellingham
Oh, it’s not just British prejudice. That Jude Bellingham stepped into his first World Cup at the age of 19 and ran the midfield on every podium he graced shows exactly what we are dealing with here.
From the towering header that opened England’s season to the Dortmund starlet bellowing instructions to his senior teammates as the world came crashing down around them after a penalty against France, Bellingham was nothing short of magnificent. Hopefully it will be the first of many major tournaments for the Three Lions – and the last of such heartbreak.
6. Sofyan Amrabat
Few would have pictured a Fiorentina defensive midfielder as the defining destroyer of the 2022 tournament – but Sofyan Amrabat has been the engine in the Moroccan machine.
He set the pace and endured plenty of dirty work in a squad that sat back to take the pressure in some moments, stepped forward to apply pressure and kept up the heat in others. He’s been almost flawless – it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is the competition that earns him a move to a bigger side.
5. Achraf Hakimi
The Atlas Lions compass, always pointing north. Bono was substituted at the last minute in one game, Noussair Mazraoui came in and out on the other flank, while Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd both remained injured throughout the tournament.
Achraf Hakimi played through it all and led Morocco in attacks, while Hakim swept in Ziyech. However, his electric recovery pace was just as integral – while the icon of this tournament for the North African nation is arguably the PSG full-back. against Spain in the penalty shootout. Like many in Morocco, he was not born on the coast of the country, but he embodies all that is good on this side.
4. Josho Gvardiol
Flawless… well, until Leo Messi took him out in the semi-finals. But we won’t blame him.
Josko Gvardiol has been amazing in Croatia’s rear, becoming one of the calmest, most reliable leaders – no mean feat for a team that includes Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic in midfield. The RB Leipzig side were inspiring, strong and able to launch attacks while knowing exactly when to get out and meet attackers.
At only 20, this seems like the first of many tournaments. It wouldn’t be surprising if he becomes the new star that Croatia built around post-Modric.
In 2018, Antoine Griezmann was the core of a team ranked No. 10, scoring the highest for Les Bleus, taking penalties and running past Olivier Giroud to steal the thunder and bring the lightning. The difference four years can make is incredible.
At club level, fortunes are mixed – but Griezmann is more than 70 consecutive international games deep, combining the best aspects of Paul Pogba’s and N’Golo Kante’s games in the midfield midfielder’s absence. The Atletico star has been relentless – in the press, in midfield, he became a very different kind of player for the French this time around.
Griezmann has found space that no one else could, created in the most important moments and was the spark that Didier Deschamps’ men revolve around. There’s a reason he can’t be dropped.
2. Kylian Mbappe
No one has ever looked so ready to be a superstar: there’s no doubt he’ll break Miroslav Klose’s all-time scoring record, right?
It said it all when England faced France in the quarter-finals of the tournament and immediately panicked about how they were going to contain him. Mbappé was also his usual brilliant self in Qatar, scoring five, turning full-backs inside out and barely getting out of second gear until he had to fire up the afterburners.
Mbappé was destined for the top in 2018, now he is there. It seems like it’s in the palm of his hand how long he’ll be here.
In some ways, 2022 was one remontada for Leo, as he has never had to do before.
No one had ever doubted him, throughout his career, but since he moved to PSG there has been talk of whether he had lost it: whether he had given his best. There is a parallel there with Cristiano Ronaldo (as usual).
What a way to answer your critics. Lionel Messi has somehow returned to the throne in Qatar and led Argentina in a very different way than Diego Maradona. He’s been effortless and delivered moments of superstardom that will last a lifetime: whether it’s Nahuel Molina’s assist against the Netherlands or the goal from distance against Mexico, it’s not just the Albiceleste that revolves around him, it’s the whole been world.
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