The 2022 World Cup Best XI
The 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup ended on Sunday, with Argentina beating France in penalty shoot-out after an exhilarating match. Lionel Messi won the Golden Ball for the second time in his career and the enormously talented Kylian Mbappe won the Golden Boot.
There have been quite a few lesser-known players who have made their mark in the biggest stage of football. We will have to take them into account while selecting the team of the tournament. My team will play with a 4-3-3 formation.
Let’s get on with the task.
1. Goalkeeper – Emiliano Martinez (Argentina)
The feisty Argentine goalkeeper shone during the latter stages of the tournament. He helped Argentina win a couple of tie-breakers including the one in the final. The 30-year-old Argentine is a very good shot-stopper and also imposes his presence inside the box. He also made a wonderful save to deny Randal Kolo Muani during the dying minutes of the final.
There have been a few other goalkeepers like Dominik Livakovic and Yassine Bounou of Morocco, who performed brilliantly in the tournament, but Martinez gets the nod for making the difference during key moments.
2. Right centre-back – Dayot Upamecano (France)
The Bayern Munich man shouldered a lot of responsibility during the World Cup. Upamecano played as the left-sided centre-back for France in the tournament and had the experienced Raphael Varane by his side.
However, it was Upamecano who frequently took on the opposition forwards, as Varane was comfortable doing the sweeping duties. Upamceano was troubled by Harry Kane in the quarterfinal against England, but he had to tackle a lot of attacks in that match. However, it was Upamecano who won the ball and initiated the attack that led to France’s opening goal on that day.
He also dealt with the threat of Messi through the inside-right channel in the final creditably and came up with a couple of crucial challenges to prevent Lautaro Martinez from scoring.
3. Left centre-back – Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)
The 20-year-old Gvardiol has enhanced his reputation a great deal in the World Cup. He remained rock solid in Croatia’s defense and formed a great partnership with the veteran Dejan Lovren.
Gvardiol could have done better to stop Messi, when the latter scored Argentina’s third goal in the semifinal. However, he had a fine tournament otherwise and also made amends to an extent by scoring Croatia’s first goal against Morocco in the third/fourth place play-off.
Gvardiol is a good tackler and is also quite strong in the air. His anticipation is also very good and he promises to be one of the premier central defenders in the world in the coming years.
4. Right Back – Josip Juranovic (Croatia)
Juranovic has quite probably been the most influential right-back in the tournament. He was fantastic in the match against Brazil and kept troubling Croatia’s opponents with his expeditious runs.
Juranovic kept sending in crosses into the opposition box in most of their matches and also impressed with his resolute defending when the situation demanded so. Achraf Hakimi of Morocco was also good in the tournament, but Juranovic’s overall performance was probably a bit better.
5. Left Back – Theo Hernandez (France)
Hernandez was an attacking threat in most of France’s matches and notched up a couple of assists in the tournament. He also scored France’s first goal against Morocco in the semifinal.
Hernandez combined very well with Mbappe down the left flank in most of France’s matches. His defending was a bit vulnerable at times and he also conceded a needless penalty against England, but Hernandez still makes it to the team for being best left-back in the tournament.
6. Defensive midfielder – Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)
Amrabat was central to Morocco’s astounding performance in the tournament. He soaked up an incredible amount of pressure in most of their matches and was instrumental in their victories over Spain, Belgium and Portugal. His timely tackles, interceptions and enviable work-rate kept helping Morocco and he also gave adequate cover to their full-backs.
Amrabat also exhibited good distribution skills for a defensive player of his calibre and kept playing probing forward passes throughout the tournament. He has undoubtedly been the best defensive midfielder of this World Cup.
7. Right central midfielder – Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modric could not touch the heights of the 2018 World Cup, which saw him win the Golden Ball, but was still one of the most influential players in Croatia’s campaign.
The 37-year-old mostly played as a deep-lying playmaker for Croatia in the tournament and kept pulling the strings by altering his position and playing intelligent passes. He also helped Croatia keep possession on a lot of occasions.
Croatia had to depend a lot on the forward balls and crosses played by Modric. They finished third after being the runners-up last time around and Modric should take a lot of credit for Croatia’s rise to prominence in world football.
8. Left central midfielder – Antoine Griezmann (France)
Griezmann disappointed in the final, but prior to that was one of the best players of the tournament. He played in a position deeper than usual in the World Cup to help France’s cause and did a wonderful job in the midfield.
Aside from registering assists with his adroit passing and crossing, Griezmann also contributed defensively by falling back repeatedly to make interceptions and win balls. His cross to Olivier Giroud against England was quite possibly the best assist of the World Cup.
9. Right winger – Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Messi succeeded in filling the gaping hole in his fabulous resume by winning the title that had eluded him for a long time. He also played wonderfully in most of Argentina’s matches and led from the front.
He scored seven goals in the World Cup and also registered a few assists. His tendency to drop deep and then run through the inside-right channel kept troubling the opposition defenders.
Moreover, his ability to find the net with shots from outside the box made him a fearsome proposition for Argentina’s opponents. He scored twice, including a penalty, in the final and deservedly won the Golden Ball.
10. Left winger – Kylian Mbappe (France)
Mbappe already has 12 goals in the two World Cups he has played and the sky remains the limit for the immensely talented 24-year-old. He became only the second man in the history to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final and although a couple of them came through penalties, his second goal with a brilliant side-volley remains one of the goals of the tournament.
Mbappe’s speed, dribbling quality and shooting accuracy made his darting runs a nightmare for the opposition defenders and the likes of England and Argentina refused to give him much space. Still, they could not stop him from shining and maybe it is time for Messi to pass the mantle to his Paris Saint-Germain teammate.
11. Centre-forward – Julian Alvarez (Argentina)
Alvarez’s impact on the Argentine team has been overshadowed by Messi’s attainment of glory, but no genuine football-lover can deny that. Alvarez did not play in Argentina’s first match, which saw them lose to Saudi Arabia, and only came in as a substitute against Mexico.
However, he made the position of the centre-forward his own since then and finished with four goals in the tournament. He also earned Argentina a penalty against Croatia that was duly converted by Messi.
Alvarez also has the ability to play on the left flank and cut in through the inside-left channel, which meant that he could also play in a 4-3-3 alongside Messi and Angel Di Maria. However, he will play as the centre-forward in this team.