- 23 hours ago
Muani, Alvarez and the World Cup breakout XI
As expected superstars such as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe enjoyed stunning tournaments, with the former named player of the tournament after a series of fine performances while the France ace took the Golden Boot thanks to his haul of eight goals.
But as at any World Cup, Qatar also saw a host of rather less familiar faces come to the fore.
With apologies to the likes of Cody Gakpo and Goncalo Ramos, who both saw their reputations enhanced with their displays this past month, this is our Breakout XI of the 2022 World Cup.
Below is our best XI in a 4-3-3 formation?
Dominik Livakovic (Croatia)
While there were plenty of strong goalkeepers in Qatar, none surprised quite as much as Livakovic as he drove Croatia to a third-placed finish.
The 27-year-old Dinamo Zagreb No. 1 turned no few heads with his prowess between the posts and incredible penalty-saving ability, and had no blame when Argentina finally got the best of Croatia in a one-sided semi-final.
Nahuel Molina (Argentina)
Molina went into the World Cup battling for a starting spot with Gonzalo Montiel in the Argentina line-up. He finished it as part of Albiceleste history.
The 24-year-old put in a string of excellent displays in Qatar, most notably against Netherlands as he opened the scoring and later by keeping the ever-dangerous Mbappe under wraps for the best part of 80 minutes. He looks set to make that right-back spot his own for years to come.
Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)
Don't let that harrowing Messi dribble fool you: this lad is going to be one of the greats.
At just 20 Gvardiol was the cornerstone of the Croatia defence, driving them through and making up for the lack of goals at the other end. His heroic display to keep out Neymar and Brazil for the best part of two hours in the last eight will live long in the memory.
Harry Soutar (Australia)
Australia were one of the feel-good stories early in the World Cup, battling through to the last 16 before going out in a narrow defeat to the eventual winners.
There were few household names in the Socceroo squad, but players like Harry Soutar came to the fore. The 24-year-old Stoke star went from the Championship to marking the likes of Messi and Mbappe and came out of the World Cup with a burgeoning reputation thanks to his solid defensive showings.
Yahia Attiyat Allah (Morocco)
Morocco's was the greatest fairytale story in Qatar, fighting through against all expectations to become the first African and Arab team to reach a World Cup semi-final.
Allah was symbolic of their adventure. The 27-year-old has never played outside his home nation and going into the World Cup had just two caps, but proved a decisive force on the left side of one of the tournament's most formidable defences.
Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco)
Another of the Atlas Warriors' many heroes. Aged just 22 the Angers youngster was Morocco's main creative force in their trip to the last four, turning in a string of exceptional performances.
Spain coach Luis Enrique was one who lavished praise on Ounahi after their shock elimination, while he has already earned transfer links with Liga giants Barcelona.
Enzo Fernandez (Argentina)
At 21 Fernandez was the youngest member of the Argentina squad, and went into the tournament with just three (albeit very impressive) months of European football under his belt with Benfica.
But the dynamic midfielder changed the nation's fortunes after getting the nod off the bench against Mexico and went on to become a fixture in the champions' starting XI, also lifting the prize of best young player for his efforts.
Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)
Along with Ounahi, Amrabat was one of the biggest revelations to come out of that Morocco team with his all-action midfield displays.
At 26 the Fiorentina star looks to have the world at his feet and a big January transfer would come as no surprise, with Liverpool and Tottenham already mentioned in a long list of potential suitors.
Alexis Mac Allister (Argentina)
Anyone who has been watching Brighton these past couple of seasons would not have been surprised to see their talented playmaker come to the fore in Qatar.
Mac Allister was thrown into the first team after injuries to Gio Lo Celso and then Angel Di Maria during the tournament and responded with a magnificent World Cup, which included a crucial goal against Mexico and then that assist to Di Maria to put Argentina two up in the final. Brighton may now have a battle on their hands to keep the young ace.
Jullian Alvarez (Argentina)
Without a doubt, the revelation of the World Cup alongside his old River Plate team-mate Fernandez.
Alvarez got the nod thanks to Lautaro Martinez's scoring woes and responded with a brilliant haul of four goals in the tournament, including a memorable double to take down Netherlands.
Randal Kolo Muani (France)
The World Cup can be a cruel stage, as Muani now knows. But France's agonising shootout defeat should take nothing away from a fine tournament for the young Frankfurt striker.
After scoring against Morocco for his first international goal Muani sparked France's final comeback by winning the penalty from Nicolas Otamendi. He then suffered the agony of seeing Emiliano Martinez deflect his late match-winning shot, but bounced back to net a penalty and keep France in the running until the very end.