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World Cup team of the tournament: Who the stats say were the best players in Qatar 2022

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The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has proven to be one of the most action-packed and entertaining editions of the competition in recent memory.

From a long list of underdog performances including Saudi Arabia’s win against Argentina and Japan’s double upset of Germany and Spain, the tournament has produced dramatic moment after dramatic moment.

Keeping all of that in mind, we’ve looked through the data to produce our alternative best World Cup XI, picking out some of the underrated players who put on a show at this year’s tournament to partner up with some of the undeniable stars of the show in Qatar. 

There’s only one rule for this World Cup XI; no nation can be represented more than one time in the team except for the tournament finalists who can have up to two players each. 

Unfortunately that means that some of the best players at the 2022 tournament miss out but we still think that this starting eleven below would form a very strong team! 

MORE: Who will win the Golden Ball and the Golden Glove?

Dominik Livakovic (Croatia)

Although Poland’s Wojciech Szczesny ran him close in most regards from a data perspective at the 2022 World Cup, Croatia shot-stopper Dominik Livakovic gets the nod from us as the best goalkeeper in the competition. 

His heroics in part aided the tiny, football-obsessed nation of Croatia to reach the semifinals even if it ended in a 3-0 defeat to Lionel Messi & Co. We imagine that Livakovic may pop up playing at one of Europe’s biggest clubs in the very near future.

Simply put, at the 2022 World Cup, no keeper made more saves than Livakovic’s 24. 

That arguably could be enough to explain why he’s our No. 1 pick in net but equally, his 79.31 save percentage ranked him third among all ‘keepers to make 10 or more saves at the tournament. 

He also ranked highly amongst the catching and punching data points, but even more impressively, Livakovic also became the first goalkeeper in World Cup history to make four penalty shootout stops, sealing his place in folklore for decades to come. 

Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)

Achraf Hakimi

PSG’s flying fullback Achraf Hakimi gets our vote from the Moroccan squad as their best player at the 2022 World Cup and the best right-back at the whole tournament. 

The Atlas Lions became the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final and they had other contenders including Sofyan Amrabat, Yassine Bounou and Azzedine Ounahi all impressing in particular. 

But Hakimi just edged them out in our vote thanks to his electric performances both in an attacking and defending sense down the right flank for the tournament’s surprise package. 

Ahead of the World Cup final, Hakimi had recorded the most successful duels (42) of any player at the tournament while he ranked joint-second for most successful tackles made (14). 

The Moroccan also ranked joint-fourth tournament wide before the semi-final with eight interceptions as he often broke up plays which aided his team’s four competition clean sheets. He additionally ranked seventh for times winning possession back for his nation with 38 instances. 

On top of that, he also managed to keep club teammate Kylian Mbappe surprisingly quiet during the semi-final even if France eventually managed to run out 2-0 victors. 

Kye Rowles (Australia)

Arguably one of the best parts of any World Cup is the story of underdogs and the emergence of players who are little known before the competition and who put in some big performances.

Step forward Australian central defender Kye Rowles who was part of potentially the biggest shock in terms of group-stage qualification at the 2022 World Cup. 

Wedged in between France and Denmark in Group D, few gave Australia any chance of escaping from their group for just the second time in history. But with a 1-0 victory against the Danes, they took second place behind France.

Their tournament may have then ended at the Round of 16 stage in a 2-1 defeat to eventual finalists Argentina, but few players in the competition played with as much passion as the Aussie backline. 

Whilst Harry Souttar was equally as immense, we’ve chosen Heart of Midlothian defender Kye Rowles to represent Australia in our team here. 

That’s simply because no other player in the tournament managed to make more than his seven blocks, while he also finished in joint-fifth spot with seven interceptions despite only featuring in four matches. 

For Australia, he made the second-most clearances (16) behind Souttar so don’t be surprised to see the pair potentially get January transfer window moves on the back of their World Cup performances. 

Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)

Without star forward Sadio Mane available due to injury for the 2022 World Cup, many people predicted that Senegal would struggle to get out of Group A. 

Stuck alongside the Netherlands, an exciting Ecuador side, and a relative unknown in Qatar, the African nation excelled to finish second out of the bunch.

Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly was crucial to his side achieving that feat in more ways than one, especially as he netted the crucial winner against Ecuador in their meeting on the group’s final matchday.

But, as expected, it was defensively where Koulibaly shone brightest. 

Only Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol managed to complete more clearances during the tournament than Koulibaly’s 33, though the Croatian did play in three extra matches.

Koulibaly also topped the charts for Senegal with the most tackles won (9), most aerial duels won (11), and most times winning possession for his team (28), all key to why his side enjoyed moderate success in Qatar. 

Alphonso Davies (Canada)

Alphonso Davies Canada

Given the selections we’ve made elsewhere concerning our one-player-per-team rule, it’s somewhat slim pickings at left back, but we’re going to give Canada’s Alphonso Davies the nod here. 

Although his side went out at the group stage and he sometimes had others playing behind him on the field, Davies put in three big performances as he attempted to get his side out of a competitive Group F.

It was to no avail as Canada tied the record for most World Cup matches without victory (6 joint with El Salvador), but he did give the North American side perhaps their best moment when he stole in at the back post to score early on against Croatia, what would turn out to be their only goal in the tournament. 

On top of that, he also led his teammates with the most shots on target (2), chances created (6) and overall duels won (20), while across the whole tournament ahead of the final, he ranked fourth for most dribbles completed (11). 

Antoine Griezmann (France)

Antoine Griezmann France Qatar 2022 World Cup

Even though Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi are favourites to pick up the Golden Ball at the 2022 World Cup, France’s Antoine Griezmann is certainly still in the running. 

The all-action midfielder has not only proved to be a key attacking threat for his French side during this tournament, but his defensive work has also been crucial to his team’s progression to a second successive World Cup final. 

Ahead of the 2022 final, Griezmann had created more chances (21) and had a higher expected assists total (3.5) than any other player at the 2022 tournament. That expected assist figure is one that can’t be bettered by any player in competition history since 1996. 

The dynamo has also recorded the most passes played into the box (46) and successful crosses (17) across the competition ahead of the finale, while a goal in the tournament’s last fixture could also see him become just the fifth player in history to net in successive World Cup finals. 

Jude Bellingham (England)

Jude Bellingham England v Iran

While England fans will feel bitter that their side couldn’t overcome reigning champions France in a very close-fought quarterfinal, this tournament did truly and fully introduce star midfielder Jude Bellingham to the world. 

At just 19 years of age, Bellingham had strung together some outstanding performances for German side Borussia Dortmund this season and he brought that form into the 2022 World Cup. 

Across the whole tournament, no player managed to make more successful tackles than Bellingham’s 15, and his two key goal contributions highlight his all-action playing style in the heart of the midfield. 

On top of that, he also ranked first among all English players across a multitude of data points. He recorded the most successful dribbles (6), duels won (33) and ball recoveries (31). 

The midfielder also ranked second squad-wide for the most touches in the opposition box (17) — impressively ahead of star striker Harry Kane — and second for successful passes played into the final third (54). 

With such a run of form on the sport’s biggest stage, it looks likely that Bellingham will be heavily courted by some of the biggest football clubs in the world come the summer. 

Bruno Fernandes (Portugal)

A quarterfinal exit to Morocco wasn’t exactly what Portuguese football fans were expecting, but even so, their run to the final eight offered a glimpse of the exciting future they have on the world stage.

From Goncalo Ramos’ hat-trick in the Round of 16 to Rafael Leao’s brief but entertaining cameos, the future remains bright for Portugal. But it was one of their veteran stars who stole the show in Qatar. 

Up stepped Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes who claimed five goal contributions across five matches for Portugal. That includes three assists — the joint most at the tournament alongside Antoine Griezmann, Harry Kane and Lionel Messi. 

For his team, he also ranked top of the pile for chances created (9), passes played into the box (36 — double the amount of anyone else) and successful crosses (7). 

United fans will be hoping for more of the same form as they look to qualify for the Champions League again from the Premier League. 

Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)

There were few players who entered the 2022 World Cup in finer form than Netherlands winger Cody Gakpo. 

The subject of transfer speculation for at least a year now, Gakpo entered the tournament having recorded a staggering 30 goal contributions — 13 goals and 17 assists — through 24 matches for club side PSV Eindhoven so far this campaign.

That form continued during the World Cup with Gakpo lynch-pinning a Dutch attack that saw them progress to the quarterfinals with relative ease. 

Among all his teammates, Gakpo not only recorded the joint-most goal contributions with three, he also led his teammates with the most chances created (10), successful crosses (8) and successful dribbles (5).

Remarkably, Gakpo also attempted 41 passes into the opposition’s penalty area, more than twice as many as anyone else in the Dutch squad. 

But it was his lethal finishing that received the most plaudits. That’s because Gakpo managed to score three goals despite accumulating only 0.31 xG (expected goals) with his shots for the Netherlands at the World Cup. It’s that level of attacking play that will likely see him move to a major European club this January. 

Kylian Mbappe (France)

Kylian Mbappe celebrates a France goal

Five goals in six 2022 World Cup outings have France’s Kylian Mbappe tied alongside Lionel Messi in the Golden Boot race. 

His tally of nine in competition history at the age of just 23, points towards a future footballing great, one who is already in his ascendancy and ready to match or maybe even better Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

There’s also a case to be made that Mbappe has been the player of this tournament and the main reason why his French side stand on the cusp of securing back-to-back World Cup titles. 

Alongside Griezmann, Mbappe too could become just the fifth player in history to score in two separate World Cup finals. 

Tournament-wide ahead of this year’s final, Mbappe has completed the most dribbles of any player (21), while his 58 touches inside the opposition’s box is 20 more than anyone at the World Cup. 

He also ranks second for most shots and most shots on target, and third with 11 chances created.

A second World Cup title at such an early age would be nothing short of remarkable.  

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Lionel Messi Argentina World Cup 2022

Just when you think that a 35-year-old Lionel Messi couldn’t possibly outperform even the most outsize expectations, the Argentine star put in a string of magical performance at the 2022 World Cup. 

Where to start then? 

Well, how about with his five goals that currently see him lead the Golden Boot race alongside Mbappe. That tally means that his 11 World Cup strikes overall are also the most of any active player. 

Similarly, Messi also ranks first competition-wide for highest expected goals (4.75), most assists (3), most shots (27), and most shots on target (14), while sitting second for chances created (18) ahead of the Dec. 18 finale.  

But it doesn’t stop there, as there’s also all-time competition history to take into account. 

So far, Messi has 19 all-time goal contributions (11 goals, 8 assists) across 25 previous World Cup appearances. Another in the final would see him become the first player to record 20 goal involvements in competition history. If that contribution comes in the form of a goal, remarkably he’d also become the first player to score in the group stage, Round of 16, quarterfinal, semifinal and final in a single edition of the tournament.

Similarly, if he features in the final, he will also become the all-time World Cup record appearance leader with 26 outings. 


Credit: sportingnews.com

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