2022 FIFA World Cup Best XI ft. Messi, Mbappe, and more…

Lionel Messi led Argentina to their third World Cup win

After an eventful month, the 2022 World Cup came and went, ending with the iconic triumph of Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

But while Argentina and Kylian Mbappé’s France shined on the world’s biggest stage as they were expected to, other nations like Morocco and Croatia outdid most expectations, as did many of their players. They didn’t just leave a series of memorable goals, but also a lasting impression to earn a place in the 2022 World Cup Best XI.

It was heartbreak for some of the biggest stars in the world of football. Ronaldo, Neymar, and Suarez left Qatar with broken hearts. But, Messi and Mbappe’s efforts made sure that fans had the time of their life. Let’s have a look at the Team of the Tournament of the FIFA World Cup 2022 –

Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez (Argentina)

After the disappointment of conceding twice to Saudi Arabia in the opening game, Emiliano Martinez looked like a man hell-bent on protecting his goal at all costs.

He commanded his area exceptionally well and made big saves at key times, including last-gasp stops against both Australia in the last 16 and France in the final, as well as in the shootout wins over the Netherlands and in Sunday’s dramatic victory. A deserving winner of the Goalkeeper of the Tournament award.

Defense: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco), Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina), Josko Gvardiol (Croatia), Theo Hernandez (France)

Achraf Hakimi was up and down the right-hand side all day long. Ever-industrious and impeccably consistent in defense, Morocco kept losing senior men to injury but still was breached just once through the first five matches of the tournament. 

Powerful and productive going forward, too – and a picture of unruffled confidence when he converted the winning penalty in the last-16 round shoot-out against Spain.

He was a potent threat in the opposition half and ensured that he was there to do his defensive duties as well. The PSG full-back teamed up with Ziyech on the right as the duo made life difficult for some of the biggest teams in Europe. 

As strong as Argentina were coming into the tournament, few would have predicted that 34-year-old Nicolas Otamendi would have been one of the standout players of the World Cup.

But the Benfica centre-back was exceptional for almost the entire tournament, and though his foul to concede France’s first penalty in the final was almost the catalyst to a disastrous defeat, the good far outweighed the bad for the ex-Manchester City man.

Josko Gvardiol is unfortunate that the moment he will probably end up being remembered for at this World Cup is being the target of Messi’s brilliant run to set up Argentina’s third goal in the semifinal. But that was not representative of Gvardiol’s tournament overall. 

Josko Gvardiol has been one of the revelations of the tournament

Josko Gvardiol has been one of the revelations of the tournament 

He was a beacon of strength in a ferocious Croatian backline and, at 20, will surely soon be moving on from RB Leipzig. A wonderful goal in the third-place play-off will be his happy souvenir.

Theo Hernandez certainly seized his opportunity to impress following the injury to his brother, Lucas, in France’s opening game of the tournament. Given an unexpected chance to start throughout the tournament, he played a key role in France’s journey to the final.

And though he was given a pretty torrid time by Bukayo Saka in the quarter-final against England, he showed a good mentality to bounce back and score in the semi-final victory over Morocco. 

Midfield: Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco), Enzo Fernandez (Argentina), Antoine Griezmann (France)

Sofyan Amrabat was the cornerstone of the Morocco team that created history and became the first African team to feature in a World Cup semi-final. He was all over the pitch, making tackles, winning aerial duels, and initiating attacks. 

The Fiorentina midfielder played his heart out in Qatar to ensure his team made it as far as possible. It won’t be wrong to say that it wasn’t Amrabat who was on the pitch, it was Sofyan ‘Kante’ Amrabat.

Enzo Fernandez served notice to the rest of the tournament when he came off the bench to score that wonderful goal against Mexico in the group stages, and from that moment on, he cemented himself in Argentina’s starting XI and became an integral part of their successful run to the final.

An exciting midfield talent who Benfica might struggle to keep hold of in the coming months, they will at least know they can ask for a huge fee when they eventually sell the Young Player of the Tournament.

Handed a new slightly deeper role right on the eve of the tournament by Didier Deschamps, the Atletico Madrid forward answered his manager’s calls with a series of fabulous displays.

Antoine Griezmann is one of the most hard-working players in that French team. Despite not getting the deserved plaudits, the former Barcelona player did his work and was the engine of the team. 

He created chances and his link-up plays with Mbappe were mesmerising to watch. The 31-year old ended the tournament with 3 assists to his name, the most in the tournament along with three other players including Lionel Messi.  

Forwards: Lionel Messi (Argentina), Kylian Mbappe (France), Julian Alvarez (Argentina)

It was Lionel Messi’s tournament. He may spend most of the game walking these days, but with a team built for him where he can still be the best player in the world. He needed a rugged and hard-working midfield to provide the platform, but with it, he scored in every knockout game. 

He turned the crucial game against Mexico with a brilliant long-range strike. He plucked a ball from the sky and instigated and finished the move that brought the first goal against Australia, before orchestrating the second half.

He laid on Nahuel Molina’s goal against the Netherlands with a stunning through ball and set up Alvarez’s second against Croatia with a superb run. And then, the final—his penalty, the ball round the corner in the build-up to the second, the close-range shot to make it 3–2, all the other chances he set up. And finally, the consecration of victory.

Kylian Mbappe picked up where he left off in Russia four years ago, producing yet another World Cup masterclass. The Paris Saint-Germain star scored eight goals and picked up two assists as he fired France to the final and claimed the Golden Boot.

Kylian Mbappe won Golden Boot for scoring eight goals in the tournament

Kylian Mbappe won Golden Boot for scoring eight goals in the tournament

Injuries permitting, Mbappe should have at least two more World Cups to look forward to, and if he carries on at this rate, he could break almost every tournament record going.

Going into the tournament, the assumption was that Argentina’s striker would be Lautaro Martínez, who had played for much of the 36-game unbeaten run. But he had a month in which he could barely hit the target and Argentina was fortunate it had Julian Alvarez, a young and highly gifted alternative. He is quick and technically gifted and a very fine finisher, as his goal against Poland demonstrated.

But he also has something else, a scrapper’s instinct, that was seen most clearly in his first goal against Croatia as he bundled through challenge after challenge before slamming the ball home, a goal reminiscent of Mario Kempes’s second against the Netherlands in the 1978 final. Alvarez got four goals in total but, just as important, he was the perfect foil for Messi.