As the World Cup gets into the later stages, the stars take center stage, and even with Spain, Portugal and Brazil getting eliminated before the semifinals, that’s still true this year. Some of the tournament’s remaining stars aren’t household names yet, but that could change this week with a few special performances.
Here are 10 of the most important players from the semifinalists — Argentina, Croatia, France and Morocco — still competing for the World Cup:
10. Aurelien Tchouameni (France)
In the absence of N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba, 22-year-old Aurélien Tchouaméni has taken the reins of France’s midfield, playing a team-high 411 minutes in five starts and completing a tournament-high 93.2% of the 335 passes he’s attempted. Every team needs an engine, and Tchouaméni is France’s.
Aurelien Tchouameni makes a STATEMENT after scoring for France in the 2022 FIFA World Cup | Every Angle
France’s Aurelien Tchouameni makes a statment after scoring an impressive top of the box shot against England in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
9. Ashraf Hakimi (Morocco)
No one has completed more tackles at this year’s World Cup than Hakimi. He’s also among the tournament leaders in interceptions with seven; the only players with more are Aurélien Tchouaméni (France), Luka Modrić (Croatia) and Joško Gvardiol; of those players, only Hakimi is a fullback.
Achraf Hakimi converts a penalty kick to send Morocco to the quarterfinals | 2022 FIFA World Cup
Achraf Hakimi converts a penalty kick for a goal for Morocco to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in World Cup history.
8. Rodrigo de Paul (Argentina)
Argentina’s midfielder has been criticized for not having much creativity outside of Lionel Messi, but de Paul has shown the importance of a midfielder that’s willing to do the dirty work at the World Cup. He’s covered the most ground (32.5 miles), completed the most passes (436) and intercepted the most passes. Without him, Argentina’s style of play doesn’t work.
7. Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia)
Against Japan in the round of 16, Brozović broke his own record for distance covered by running 10.3 miles. Since the tournament started, he’s run 44.6 miles on the pitch with an average of 8.9 miles per game, all while leading the team in completed live-ball passes that lead to shot attempts (10). He’s a workhorse.
6. Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)
Since the start of the knockout stage, Amrabat has gone up against some of the best midfielders in the world and held his own — in some cases, he’s outplayed them. As he’s just 26 years old, you can be sure there’s going to be a market for him in the January transfer window. Ambarat currently plays for mid-table Serie A side Florentina.
5. Dominik Livakovic (Croatia)
Morocco goalkeeper Yassine “Bono” Bonou has the most clean sheets of the remaining goalkeepers, and he’s won Man of the Match on two separate occasions, but make no mistake: There’s a large gap between Dominik Livaković and the rest of the field. For context, Livaković has saved 19 goals on an 86.4% save percentage; Bono has saved five goals on an 80% save percentage. Without a doubt, Livaković is the best keeper left in the tournament.
Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic HOLDS THE FORT DOWN against Brazil in the 2022 FIFA World Cup | FOX Soccer
Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic became the ultimate shield against Brazil in the 2022 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals.
4. Olivier Giroud (France)
Olivier Giroud, France’s all-time leading goalscorer hasn’t stopped adding to his tally. In four games, the 36-year-old has scored four goals, one goal shy of the leading spot. His teammate Kylian Mbappé has five. No other team has two players with three goals.
Olivier Giroud makes an INCREDIBLE game-winning header for France in the 2022 FIFA World Cup | Every Angle
France’s Olivier Giroud made an incredible game-winning header against England to win 2-1 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup quarter-final.
3. Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modrić’s leading Croatia to the World Cup Final in 2018 was impressive; his doing it again with almost an entirely new team at the age of 37 is a triumph unlike anything we’ve ever seen at the World Cup. His style of play is timeless, and his teammates are better because of it. No one has broken the defensive line more for Croatia than Modric (132 times).
2. Kylian Mbappe (France)
If this was a list of the 10 best players at the World Cup, Kylian Mbappé would be No. 1. At the age of 23, he’s already one of the greatest World Cup performers of all time, his tournament-leading five goals are a big reason France’s dream of becoming just the third-ever champion to repeat is closer to reality. But France’s squad is so stacked that it would still be a favorite without Mbappé. He’s vital to his team’s success, but not more than the player at No. 1.
Kylian Mbappé goes SUPER-HUMAN for France and scores two goals against Poland | Every Angle
Kylian Mbappé goes super-human scoring in the 74th minute claiming the lead for the golden boot, then he doubles down scoring again in stoppage time for France to beat Poland 3-1.
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Teams plan for Messi differently than they do Mbappé because Messi sits deeper in the midfield — and, at the age of 35, isn’t anywhere near the athlete that Mbappé is — but they still plan for him. Meticulously. Aggressively. And yet, Messi still finds a way to make the key pass or the timely goal. He’s the reason Argentina is close to making its second Final in the past three World Cups, and his teammates wouldn’t dare argue otherwise.
Lionel Messi goes BEAST MODE for Argentina against the Netherlands in the 2022 FIFA World Cup | Every Angle
Lionel Messi goes BEAST MODE for Argentina to win against the Netherlands in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
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