Picking 11 Players to Form the 2022 World Cup Team of the Tournament


And just like that, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is over.

Argentina and France played to a riveting 3-3 draw that ended up being decided in a penalty shootout, where Lionel Messi and Co. emerged victorious despite Kylian Mbappé’s hat trick for Les Bleus.

After 28 days and 64 matches, more than 800 of the world’s best players came together to duke it out in one of the biggest tournaments sports has to offer.

Now comes the hard part – choosing 11 players to field the competition’s Team of the Tournament. 

When the 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups concluded, FIFA assembled a statistical Team of the Tournament that saw the best players in all positions get rewarded for their performances, though it’s not an official designated award.

With 2022 in the books, these 11 players would be the picks to make the Team of the Tournament from the action in Qatar using a 4-3-3 formation:

Goalkeeper: Dominik Livaković, Croatia

Croatia made the 2018 World Cup Final with Danijel Subašić’s heroic performances between the sticks, and 2022 handed the platform for his backup that year to step into the spotlight. 

The 27-year-old Livaković gave it his all for the Vatreni, most notably saving three penalties in one shootout to eliminate Japan before collecting 11 saves in regulation and extra time against Brazil before winning via penalty shootout once again. Unfortunately, the Dinamo Zagreb keeper couldn’t replicate those outings against Lionel Messi and Co., but it most likely secured him a move to a bigger club.

Honorable mention: Yassine Bounou, Morocco

Left back: Theo Hernández, France

One of the hardest positions to find an elite player in is left back. France just so happened to have two of them – the brotherly duo of Lucas and Theo Hernández. Lucas, the elder one and key Bayern Munich player, tore his ACL in the Group D opener against Australia. 

That opened the door for Theo, a starter for AC Milan, to step in. As the faster of the two, Theo combined fantastically with Kylian Mbappé down the left-hand flank, wreaking havoc against defenders with his frightening pace. It led to a goal against Morocco in the semifinals along with two assists prior to scoring. He deservedly gets the nod here despite playing through knocks.

Honorable mention: Raphaël Guerreiro, Portugal

Left center back: Joško Gvardiol, Croatia

How often do you see 20-year-old center backs making their World Cup debuts and looking like 10-year veterans? Rarely – unless you’re Joško Gvardiol. The RB Leipzig center back broke out on the big stage with his commanding play in the Croatian backline, forming a pivotal partnership with Livaković. 

His elite speed and ball-playing ability for a left-footed center back is another rare trait to have, especially with the quality he possesses at such a ripe age. He also made multiple key runs in the attacking phase and was rewarded with a flying headed goal against Morocco in the third-place game, one in which he also should’ve been awarded a penalty in the second half.

Honorable mention: Tim Ream, USA

Right center back: Thiago Silva, Brazil

Speaking of 10-year veterans, Thiago Silva comes in alongside Gvardiol. The 38-year-old Chelsea defender has more than 10 years of experience under his belt, and his age never came into question with his flawless performances for the Brazilian backline.

He showed off his attacking quality with an assist against South Korea in the round of 16 and rarely put a foot wrong when in possession or needing to defend. Unfortunately for his nation, it resulted in a penalty shootout loss to Croatia in which the only goal they conceded came off a deflection on the Vatreni’s lone shot on target. Still, that shouldn’t cloud what he did in Qatar.

Honorable mention: Nicolas Otamendi, Argentina

Right back: Achraf Hakimi, Morocco

The Moroccan defense made all the headlines after not conceding a single opposition goal up until the semifinals against France. Along with the aforementioned Bounou and another player to come, Achraf Hakimi was sensational at right back. 

Hakimi, 24, stars for Paris Saint-Germain and brought that quality and then some all throughout Qatar, where his speed and one-on-one defending ability proved to be too much for countless attackers he faced. He was rewarded with an assist for his prowess when supplying attacking help on the right flank. There’s definitely more to come for him and the Atlas Lions.

Honorable mention: Josip Juranović, Croatia

Defensive midfielder: Sofyan Amrabat, Morocco

It wasn’t just the defenders that made Morocco tough to crack. As the wall in front of the backline, defensive midfielder Sofyan Amrabat was simply impenetrable. The 26-year-old Fiorentina midfielder could also be on the move to a bigger club, with him and youngster Azzedine Ounahi shining in the middle of the pitch.

Amrabat covered acres of space all over the left, right and central zones and was monstrous in ground and aerial duels. If you wanted to take him on and dribble past him, you lost before the duel even started. Defensive midfielders who are strong in their own half can be found if properly scouted, but very few have the technical ability on the ball to help progress play from the defensive phase to the attacking in the opposition’s half – Amrabat was just that.

Honorable mention: Aurélien Tchouaméni, France

Central midfielder: Antoine Griezmann, France

Good luck trying to quantify what position Antoine Griezmann plays in. The 31-year-old Frenchman has slotted in multiple roles in Didier Deschamps’ squad, often playing in a free roam role in possession and as a center midfielder in their 4-4-2 midblock. The latter is why Griezmann comes in here.

Griezmann has been the unsung hero for Les Bleus, making crucial clearances and tackles in the defensive third to leading the team in assists (3) on the other side of the ball. France’s midfield has often looked overwhelmed when defending, but its build-up play is elite, which is how it managed to make the final. France can thank him for, quite literally, everything — despite the loss in the final.

Honorable mention: Enzo Fernández, Argentina

Attacking midfielder: Lionel Messi, Argentina

Who else? This position had one clear name written on it from the get-go: Argentine star Lionel Messi. The 35-year-old is another player that hasn’t shown signs of aging one bit, logging seven goals and three assists in seven games.

Argentina simply would not have made it to the final – let alone win it – without his magic in the final third. Yes, four of those goals were via penalties, but they all count. La Albiceleste’s formula has usually been “get the ball to Messi and let him work” – which has, to put it briefly, worked. Messi is the main reason that prevented the honorable mention in this position from making the cut.

Honorable mention: Bruno Fernandes, Portugal

Left wing: Kylian Mbappé, France

Football’s next global star: Kylian Mbappé. The now-23-year-old Frenchman announced himself to the global stage when he scored four goals in seven games in the 2018 tournament, including one in the final, and put in seven in six starts in 2022 with a hat trick in the final that won him the Golden Boot Award. 

The Paris Saint-Germain star also has two assists to his name and was just a supreme threat all tournament down the left-hand flank. His elite burst, ability to accelerate and decelerate like you’re flicking a light switch on and off and dribbling in tight spaces is nearly impossible to stop. He’s already accomplished so much in such little time – and there’s plenty more to do on the horizon as he takes the baton from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Honorable mention: Cody Gakpo, Netherlands

Striker: Julian Álvarez, Argentina

All throughout Messi’s runs in international tournaments, the talking point was that he never had that one quality striker to star alongside him. Gonzalo Higuain was most notorious for this in the 2014 World Cup, and Lautaro Martinez failed to seize his moment in 2022 before being benched by the group stage finale.

That paved the way for 22-year-old Manchester City forward Julian Álvarez to step in, and he outperformed any expectations. He scored four goals across seven games, with five of them coming as a starter. If not for him, it’s difficult to see where Argentina’s goals would come from. But his rise came at the perfect time for Messi and Co.

Honorable mention: Olivier Giroud, France

Right wing: Bukayo Saka, England

England had a great tournament despite the quarterfinals exit. When you come up against the defending champions earlier than you’d like, the swing can oscillate either way. The Three Lions fell short, but it was 21-year-old right winger Bukayo Saka that left the game as the best attacker on the pitch. 

The Arsenal star made Theo Hernández, who made this list, look ordinary. He scored three goals in three starts entering the quarterfinal matchup, and world-class left-footed right wingers are another rare breed (you may have picked it up by now, but elite left-footed players are a luxury). Saka appears destined to be next up and represents England on this list with Jude Bellingham, Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire all good candidates.

Honorable mention: Ritsu Doan, Japan

Manager: Walid Regragui, Morocco

Not much needs to be said here. Walid Regragui took over the role in August, then led the Atlas Lions to the semifinals – the first ever African nation to reach that stage, not to mention the number of injuries his defenders faced all throughout the tournament. Nonetheless, it was a historic performance for someone who deserves all the plaudits for giving his team the best chance to win game in and game out.

Honorable mention: Lionel Scaloni, Argentina

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