Best XI: 2022 World Cup group stage

The 2022 World Cup is on to the knockout rounds, with the Netherlands and the United States kicking off the Round of 16 on Saturday.

Before we completely move on, though, we’re looking back at the group stage with a look at the best players so far. We also broke it down on the latest episode of Speedway Soccer.

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Best XI

The following were selected by a panel of Speedway Soccer voters.

Goalkeeper
Wojciech Szczęsny | Poland 🇵🇱

The Juventus net-minder was a standout in the group stage, keeping clean sheets in two of three matches. Perhaps his best performance came in a 2-0 loss to Argentina. Szczęsny made nine saves, including denying Leo Messi from the spot, to keep Poland in the match. He’ll be a force to reckon with in the knockout rounds.

Left back
Alex Sandro | Brazil 🇧🇷

Another Juventus player, Alex Sandro was a constant threat down Brazil’s left side. Always willing to get forward, his defensive work was perhaps more impressive than his offensive contributions. In the two group matches in which he started, Brazil didn’t allow a shot on target.

Center back
Marquinhos | Brazil 🇧🇷

Again, Brazil didn’t allow a shot on target in their first two matches. Rested for the third and final game in the group, Marquinhos was a force defensively and a key part of Brazil’s build up.

Center back
Kalidou Koulibaly | Senegal 🇸🇳

The Chelsea defender was typically stout defensively, winning 69% of his duels and keeping an in-form Enner Valencia in check. He also popped up with a huge goal, scoring a 70th minute winner against Ecuador to send Senegal to the Round of 16.

Right back
Achraf Hakimi | Morocco 🇲🇦

The Paris Saint-Germain right back was a key component of Morocco’s stunning Group F win. Hakimi kept clean sheets against Belgium and Croatia and nabbed an assist in a 2-1 win over Canada.

Center Midfield
Tyler Adams | United States 🇺🇸

Adams has been the best player for one of the best defensive teams in the tournament. He played the full 90 minutes in all three games, allowing just one goal – a penalty kick. Only three midfielders have won more tackles per 90 in the tournament than Adams, and he has grown more confident in possession across the Americans’ three games. He has turned into a simply elite ball-winning midfielder.

Center midfield
Casemiro | Brazil 🇧🇷

The Manchester United man has pulled all the strings for Brazil, and even showed up with a rare goal, a late winner against Switzerland. He’s been the anchor for Brazil in the center of the pitch, and will grow even more important as they face more dangerous sides throughout the competition.

Left midfield
Kylian Mbappé | France 🇫🇷

Mbappé has a strong argument to be the current best player in the world. He’s 23. He already has seven goals at the World Cup. He picked up a goal and an assist and Australia before a brace in a 2-1 win over Denmark, proving that 2018 wasn’t just a flash in the pan. It was the arrival of a player who could turn out to be one of the greats.

Attacking midfield
Bruno Fernandes | Portugal 🇵🇹

Tied with Mbappé for the lead with four combined goals and assists, the Manchester United playmaker has taken the burden of chance creation and scoring from Cristiano Ronaldo and pushed Portugal to a Group H win. With two goals (you’re not stealing that one, Ronaldo) and two assists, Fernandes is responsible for two-thirds of Portugal’s goals at the World Cup.

Right midfield
Cody Gakpo | Netherlands 🇳🇱

Tied with Mbappé and Spain’s Alvaro Morata for the Golden Boot lead, Cody Gakpo has been one of the revelations of the tournament. Able to play anywhere across the front line, the Dutch attacker is a constant threat around the box. He’s been the focal point of their attack, filling in well for the injured Memphis Depay.

Striker
Enner Valencia | Ecuador 🇪🇨

Valencia is the only player on this list to be eliminated in the group stage. The Fenerbahçe striker scored 75% of Ecuador’s goals at the tournament and started the World Cup off with a bang, fighting through injury to score a brace in the opener against Qatar and stealing a point from the Netherlands.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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