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World Cup team of the tournament: The Independent’s best XI from Qatar 2022

Indy Sport’s writers voted on a collective XI, made up of the best performers at the first winter World Cup

Sports Staff
Friday 16 December 2022 08:02 GMT
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World Cup: France battle past Morocco to set up thrilling final against Argentina

The World Cup is coming to an end, with 32 teams having been whittled down to two, and plenty of players having secured their places in history as heroes and heartbreakers.

Morocco went on a fairytale run to the semi-finals, beating Belgium, Spain and Portugal before ultimately falling to defending champions France, who have become the first team to reach back-to-back finals since Brazil – runners-up in 1998 and title winners in 2022.

Elsewhere, Croatia came close to matching France’s achievement, four years after falling to Les Bleus in the final, but Luka Modric and his teammates were seen off in the semi-finals by an inspired Argentina, driven to a second final in eight years by Lionel Messi.

But which players impressed the most in Qatar, and did any do enough to earn a spot in the ‘best XI’ despite perhaps falling sooner than expected or hoped?

Here is the Independent’s World Cup team of the tournament.

Goalkeeper

Dominik Livakovic saving a penalty in Croatia’s shootout win over Brazil (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Dominik Livakovic (Croatia) - Enormous in two shootouts and made a string of impressive reaction saves to be the tournament’s top stopper.

Defence

Right back Achraf Hakimi impressed both defensively and going forward for Morocco (AP)

Achraf Hakimi (Morocco) - Not too much debate over how important he has been for the Atlas Lions. Excellent both defensively and as an outlet, ball-carrying and providing service to the attack.

Romain Saiss (Morocco) - The leader at the back and the most committed of all Morocco’s bodies-on-line brigade. The semi-final was a step too far for his battered self but he was immense throughout their run.

Josko Gvardiol (Croatia) - Surely the stand-out young performer of this World Cup. Positional play beyond his years and wild consistency throughout. Being shown up by Lionel Messi in the closing relevant moments is not an embarrassment or a factor.

Theo Hernandez (France) - Didn’t start the tournament in Les Bleus’ lineup but was on within minutes - and has been largely superb ever since. Assists and a semi-final goal along the way to go with his tenacious defensive approach.

Midfield

Antoine Griezmann (right) has been reinvigorated amid a positional reinvention (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Antoine Griezmann (France) - Maybe the standout candidate from the reigning champions to win the Golden Ball. Such relentless work rate, excellent appreciation of space and terrific technique throughout.

Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco) - Covered for his full-backs the width of the pitch, made innumerable crunching tackles, got through unreal amounts of running and was often impressive in his ball use to help spark attacks.

Jude Bellingham (England) - Another who played beyond his experience, a ball-carrier and ball-winner in both halves who was exceptional and consistent. The only quarter-finalist to make our selection, and the only England player.

Alexis Mac Allister (Argentina) - Like Hernandez, didn’t start the tournament in his team’s first XI but looks an immovable and irrepressible part of it by now. A class mix of control, creativity and movement in the final third.

Forwards

Lionel Messi, even at 35, has been pivotal to Argentina’s run to the final (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Lionel Messi (Argentina) - What more is there to add? Sensational as a link man, ice cold as a finisher, nerveless with big penalties after that early miss in the group stage and seems to be improving as the tournament goes on. His legacy is on the verge of completion.

Kylian Mbappe (France) - Has been utterly electric in flashes, but consistently dangerous throughout. Even in games he hasn’t scored, he has helped create the crucial openings with his skill and ability to draw defenders to him.

Subs bench

Casemiro pulled the strings as one of Brazil’s best performers despite their quarter-final exit (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

Hugo Lloris (France), Nahuel Molina (Argentina), Marquinhos (Brazil), Ibrahima Konate (France), Nathan Ake (Netherlands), Casemiro (Brazil), Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco), Adrien Rabiot (France), Mateo Kovacic (Croatia), Enzo Fernandez (Argentina), Bruno Fernandes (Portugal), Dani Olmo (Spain), Olivier Giroud (France), Cody Gakpo (Netherlands), Julian Alvarez (Argentina).

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