Here we take a look at five of the most impressive performers at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as a whole, following the conclusion of the Round of 16.
5 of the Most Impressive Performers at the 2022 World Cup
5 of the Most Impressive Performers at the 2022 World Cup
Harry Souttar: Australia
Stoke City centre-back Harry Souttar has only just returned to action following a devastating knee injury, but that hasn’t stopped him from putting in some big performances for Australia on the big stage at Qatar.
Many doubted the chances of the Socceroos advancing from Group D heading into the tournament. Graham Arnold’s men were placed in a group with the defending champions, France, as well as Euro 2020 semi-finalists, Denmark – the two favourites to progress. Tunisia also looked like a tough test, but Australia prevailed – picking up huge wins over Denmark and Tunisia to finish as runners-up.
Australia won both of those games 1-0, with Souttar being a rock at the back that helped preserve those crucial clean sheets. The 24-year-old was instrumental during those group stage fixtures, playing every minute, to play a major role in a resilient, solid, and organised backline whilst always showing his skill and bravery on the ball.
Souttar’s star performances have received many plaudits, with many linking the defender with a big move up to the Premier League after he helped Australia defy expectations and progress into the World Cup knockout stages for the first time in 16 years.
Josko Gvardiol: Croatia
Another defender that has shone in Qatar is Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol, who has looked a physical, firm, and mature defender at just 20 years of age.
Gvardiol was already linked to moves to some of Europe’s top teams, most notably Chelsea, after impressing during his time at RB Leipzig. Whilst he still isn’t a well-known figure yet, Gvardiol will have only increased the interest in him after stellar performances at the heart of the Croatia backline, helping them reach the quarter-finals.
The last-ditch tackle on Romelu Lukaku in the final group game was just one standout moment as the centre-back prevented a certain goal that would have dumped Croatia out of the tournament.
Whilst not shying away from a heavy physical battle, the former Dinamo Zagreb man has also looked assured and comfortable on the ball – an all-round top defender. You would imagine his performances at the World Cup have seen his asking price upped even more. Below is a heat map from Sofascore showing the areas of the pitch where Gvardiol has operated the most at the World Cup.
Enner Valencia: Ecuador
Enner Valencia kicked off the opening game of the 2022 World Cup with a bang and continued his fine form into the rest of Ecuador’s group games.
The former West Ham striker had the ball in the net three times in the curtain raiser against Qatar, although one was ruled out for offside, as the 33-year-old terrorised the host nation's defence to bag himself a brace.
Valencia then went on to score again in the following match, causing problems for the Dutch backline before nipping in past Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake to equalize against a much-fancied Netherlands side and earn his side a draw.
Whilst his spells at the Hammers and Everton weren’t too memorable, his three goals in three games are a tally that only Kylian Mbappe has bettered so far. Valencia was a handful for defenders throughout and has had a tournament to be proud of.
Ritsu Doan: Japan
Japan have been one of the stories of the tournament – beating two of the last three World Cup winners to top a group that looked as though they had no chance of progressing from.
The breakout star of the Blue Samurai was attacker Ritsu Doan, who played a pivotal part in those historic upsets. Doan, who turns out for SC Freiburg in the Bundesliga, came off the bench to score the equaliser in the opening Group E game against Germany, which paved the way for his teammate Takumo Asana to score a sensational 83rd-minute winner as they beat the Germans 2-1.
Doan again came off the bench to stun European heavyweights, when his equalizer against Spain in the final group game was the catalyst for another incredible Japan turnaround.
Although Doan and Japan weren’t able to get past Croatia in the Round of 16, Hajime Moriyasu’s side provided some of the best entertainment in the competition and gave it their all with a strong effort, with Doan often being in the right place to epitomise the Blue Samurai’s hard-working, persistent, and energetic performances.
Sofyan Amrabat: Morocco
Morocco are another side that have surpassed expectation and bettered some of the biggest European sides, with Sofyan Amrabat the heartbeat of the team.
The North Africans were also expected to bow out of the tournament early, being put in Group F with Croatia, Canada, and a strong Belgium side. The Atlas Lions roared into the knockout stages, topping their group, before surprising Spain in the round of 16 and winning on penalties after a dogged display to earn a draw after 120 minutes.
Morocco have only conceded one goal so far in the tournament in normal time, with Amrabat one of, if not the key component behind that. The midfielder has been the defensive lynchpin in midfield, with his Man Of The Match performance against Spain seeing him cut out many La Roja attacks before beating the press and moving the ball forward. The Fiorentina midfielder has averaged two tackles per 90 minutes so far in Qatar, putting in impressive performances that has been crucial in Morocco becoming the only the fourth-ever African side to reach a World Cup quarterfinals.
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