World Cup 2022 Team of the Last 16, starring Messi and Mbappe

Carlo Garganese
Carlo Garganese
  • Updated: 10 Jan 2023 11:15 GMT
  • 7 min read
Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, France, World Cup 2022

And then there were eight!

It was just 16 days ago that the 2022 World Cup kicked off with Qatar versus Ecuador - and already we find ourselves at the quarter-final stages.

There have been some thrilling matches in the last-16, with some truly memorable performances from the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Jude Bellingham.

World Cup 2022 top scorers

World Cup 2022 most assists

With the last-16 matches all completed now, we pick our best XI of the first knockout round.

Dominik Livakovic (Croatia)

Croatia reached the final of the 2018 World Cup and are performing above expectations again this time around.

The main reason for that is goalkeeper Dominic Livakovic, who was the hero of Croatia’s penalty shootout victory over Japan in the last-16.

Livakovic saved three penalties in the shootout from Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida to take Croatia in the last eight.

Jordan Pickford deserves an honourable mention after keeping England in the game at 0-0 before they romped to victory over Senegal.

Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)

Denzel Dumfries has been arguably the best full-back at the World Cup so far - albeit from a more advanced wing-back position.

He was at his rampaging best as Holland beat the United States 3-1, attacking at will and counter-attacking at a ferocious pace.

He regularly made runs into the box and this was rewarded with assists for Memphis Depay and Daley Blind.

When the USA pulled a goal back, Dumfries’ clinical finish on 81 minutes ended any hopes of a comeback.

Thiago Silva (Brazil)

Thiago Silva is now 38 years old but is showing no signs of ageing for club or country. He is quite simply a Rolls Royce of a defender.

He strolled through Brazil’s 4-1 win over South Korea, with the goal conceded only coming from an unstoppable long shot.

Silva also used the ball fantastically going forward and he provided the final pass - and thus the assist - for Richarlison’s magnificent goal. That goal may go down as the team goal of the tournament.

Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)

While Josko Gvardiol was already relatively well-known before the World Cup kicked off, his stick has risen massively in Qatar.

Gvardiol has been for many the best defender at the finals so far and his reputation was only enhanced by another dominant display in the win against Japan.

The 20-year-old appears to have few weaknesses in his game defensively. He is aggressive and uses the ball fantastically too with that left foot of his.

Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)

Achraf Hakimi was already a talking point before the quarter-final between Morocco and Spain kicked off, the Madrid-born full-back having opted to play for the country of his parents' birth in 2016.

Morocco had been a credit to themselves already in this year's competition, topping a Group F, which also included Croatia and Belgium, Hakimi a constituent part of a miserly defence that only conceded one goal on the way to the knock-outs.

His hard running helped keep Spain at bay in the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha on Tuesday, and he showed nerves of steel in the penalty shoot-out, scoring the deciding spot-kick against the country of his birth with a Panenka penalty.

Jude Bellingham (England)

Phil Foden predicted that Jude Bellingham will soon become the best midfielder in the world, and it is easy to why given his performances in Qatar.

The 19-year-old was at his all-action, dominant best in the 3-0 win over Senegal, who simply couldn’t cope with the Borussia Dortmund man’s lung-busting runs.

Bellingham set up Jordan Henderson’s opener with a perfect assist at a time when England were struggling. He then also played a key role in Harry Kane’s second with another powerful run.

Bellingham was brilliant against Senegal

Bellingham was brilliant against Senegal

A star of today, a superstar of the future.

Lucas Paqueta (Brazil)

In a team full of superstar names, Lucas Paqueta is arguably the outlier in Brazil’s attack. Surrounded by players who star for Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona, it was West Ham’s midfield gem that quite frankly stood out most in Brazil’s 4-1 demolition of South Korea.

He hasn’t quite hit top form under David Moyes, but he displayed his majestic best with an all-round performance to be proud of in the last-16, topped off with a lovely weak-foot volley placed into the bottom corner.

Providing defensive solidity alongside Casemiro, security in possession and a goal, Paqueta was a key reason why Brazil were able to cruise to victory against a helpless South Korea side.

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Criticised for a fairly average group stages by his standards, Lionel Messi responded to all those that doubted him with a magical display against a spirited Australia side. Argentina ran out 2-1 winners with Messi playing an instrumental role in their victory.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

The PSG star coolly slotted home the first through a sea of bodies, before Julian Alvarez added a second in the second-half.

All in all, Messi completed four key passes, took six shots and ran the game as Argentina managed to seal their place in the quarter-finals after falling at the last-16 hurdle in Russia four years ago.

Yet again it was the Lionel Messi show for Argentina.

Phil Foden (England)

Snubbed by Gareth Southgate in England’s opening two group stage games, Phil Foden has now started back-to-back games as a left winger, scoring once and providing two assists in that time.

He backed up his back post strike against Wales with two sublime assists against Senegal as the Three Lions managed to navigate a potential banana skin last-16 tie. The first was a fairly simple square ball into the path of Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, who slammed the ball past Edouard Mendy, while the second was a perfectly weighted cross to Bukayo Saka who dinked it over the onrushing Mendy.

For a star cast aside at the start of the tournament, Foden has now become a pivotal player for England.

Goncalo Ramos (Portugal)

Goncalo Ramos will barely have expected to play at this World Cup let alone score a hat-trick in the quarter-finals, but that's exactly what the Benfica youngster did against Switzerland.

Ramos has already had big boots to fill at club level this season - €100 million ones following Darwin Nunez's move to Liverpool - and had scored nine goals in 11 league games ahead of the tournament.

Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick as Portugal routed Switzerland.

Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick as Portugal routed Switzerland.

But he was a surprise inclusion on Tuesday with Cristiano Ronaldo benched. He seized his chance and then some, scoring a hat-trick as well as setting up Raphael Guerreiro for the fourth in a 6-1 rout.

Kylian Mbappe (France)

Mr Inevitable. While Olivier Giroud managed to become France’s all-time top goal-scorer with his sole strike against Poland, Kylian Mbappe moved onto 33 goals in just 63 appearances for his country, as well as five goals in four games this tournament in the same match.

His brace against Czesław Michniewicz’s side ensured France strolled into the quarter-final stage, with both goals sublimely placed into either top corner.

France looked extremely dangerous and with Mbappe in their side, it’s no surprise. Miroslav Klose’s record of 16 World Cup goals is already looking under threat, with Mbappe closing in fast.