2022 World Cup Team of the Tournament

Which players starred in Qatar?

After shocks galore, the 2022 World Cup drew to a close on Sunday, with the best final that the competition has ever seen.

Despite netting a hat-trick, Kylian Mbappe ended up on the losing side as his France side fought back from behind twice, only to lose on penalties, handing Lionel Messi and Argentina the World Cup win that had been eluding him his whole career.

It will prove the last tournament for so many greats, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Pepe and plenty more likely to have played their last major tournament game for their respective nations.

But it also gave a platform for youth to shine. Jude Bellingham, Enzo Fernandez, Gavi and Jamal Musiala all starred as a new generation of superstars were heralded in, while Morocco made history as the first African side to make a World Cup semi-final, going one step further than Ghana could manage in 2010.

We take a look at who we think stole the show in Qatar. You can read our Team of the Group Stage, Team of the Last 16 and Team of the Quarterfinals on site.

GK: Dominik Livakovic (Croatia)

There were plenty of top shot-stoppers on show at the tournament in Qatar, and both Emiliano Martinez and Yassine Bounou have emerged with a strong reputation. However, Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was head and shoulders above the rest, making some excellent saves to keep his side in the quarter-final tie against Brazil and helping his side through two penalty shoot-outs.

No goalkeeper made more saves than the Croatian, while he kept out 3.5 goals more than was expected of him as per the expected goals model, more than any other goalkeeper. Croatia coming third in the tournament was in no small amount down to him.

RB: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)

The first of two from the history-making Morocco side in this lineup, Hakimi barely put a foot wrong across the tournament even when asked to play a more conservative role than he tends to at club level.

The right-back helped the Atlas Lions concede just once en route to the semi-final, while his excellent link up with Hakim Ziyech was crucial to helping the African side into the semi-finals of the competition.

CB: Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina)

The 2022 World Cup has been a tournament that has highlighted older defenders, with the likes of Pepe, Dejan Lovren, Thiago Silva and Roman Saiss all excelling.

Front and centre, however, has been Nicolas Otamendi. The former Manchester City defender has enjoyed a swansong to his international career, and has been a stalwart in Lionel Scaloni’s backline as Cristian Romero and Lisandro Martinez vied for the spot next to him.

With the Albiceleste having relied on plenty of Messi magic, it has been Otamendi’s grit at the back that has carried them through the moments that their magician has needed a break, even if the final was not one of his best games.

CB: Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)

Set for a move to the Premier League in the coming months, Gvardiol’s performances this tournament have only served to increase his price tag when he does eventually make the switch.

The Croatian defender, alongside former Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren, impressed for Zlatko Dalic’s side, putting in a series of excellent performances against Brazil, Belgium and Japan to help guide his side into the semi-finals of the tournament.

LB: Theo Hernandez (France)

Though he wasn’t even in line to start for France ahead of the tournament, Hernandez has stepped in more than ably for his brother, who was forced out with injury against Australia.

Naturally more of an attacking fullback, he has been asked more questions defensively and has often been left somewhat isolated with Kylian Mbappe’s lack of tracking back. Nonetheless, he has dealt with everything thrown at him well, and has been a key part of France’s success this tournament.

CM: Antoine Griezmann (France)

With Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Christopher Nkunku all named in the initial France squad, it was unclear just how much game time Antoine Griezmann would actually see in Qatar, but he has become France’s most important player.

Man of the match in both the quarter and semi-finals, Antoine Griezmann became France’s all-time assist provider over the course of his stay in Qatar, and he thrived in his new position further back as he mucked in defensively while also popping up in the final third when required to support the Les Blues attack.

CM: Luka Modric (Croatia)

One of the standout stars of the tournament, Luka Modric remains World Class even at 37 years old and was central to Croatia’s seemingly-unlikely run to the semi-finals of the competition.

Though he bows out of international football without a World Cup to his name, taking his nation to second and third in the competition in consecutive tournaments is no mean feat, and he will rightly be remembered as his nation’s best-ever player.

CM: Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)

The James Rodriguez of 2022, Amrabat’s performances have almost certainly earned him a move in January, and rightly so. The Moroccan midfielder was excellent as the Atlas Lions made history, alongside fellow talent Azzedine Ounahi (who narrowly missed out on this side).

Tough tackling, hard-working and a never-say-die attitude to go alongside his technical qualities, the 26-year-old may never see his star rise so high again, but he has enjoyed an excellent and memorable tournament.

RW: Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Perhaps the greatest player that World football has ever seen, Messi broke every Argentina record this tournament, and is now the player with the most World Cup appearances in the history of the competition. He warrants his accolades too, with seven goals and three assists to his name and having produced some jaw-dropping skill in both the quarter and semi-finals.

Becoming the first man to score in every stage of the tournament, he finally won his World Cup and wrote his name into the history books once more.

ST: Olivier Giroud (France)

Julian Alvarez came close to laying claim to this spot, but ultimately it is French striker Olivier Giroud that just edged him out, thanks to his four goals in the competition.

His header against England ultimately proved the winner in the quarter finals, while the 36 year old became France’s all-time record goalscorer (for now) when he netted against Poland in the round of 16 win.

LW: Kylian Mbappe (France)

A World Cup finalist for the second consecutive tournament at the tender age of 23, Kylian Mbappe almost stole Lionel Messi’s limelight in the tournament showpiece, becoming the first player since 1966 to net a hat-trick in the final of the competition.

Ending the tournament as top-goalscorer, albeit on the losing side, the Frenchman is now just four goals away from the most World Cup goals ever, and potentially has three World Cups to get them.

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Ben Browning

Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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