The 2022 World Cup might be remembered for the battle of the Golden Boot between France’s star Kylian Mbappe and Argentina great Lionel Messi, but there have also been some unforgettable performances in midfield.
Croatia veteran Luka Modric deserves all the plaudits that come his way as he was once more the midfield heartbeat of a Croatia side that again surprised the pundits by reaching the semifinals.
The 37-year-old defied his age and was particularly impressive in his team’s quarterfinal win over Brazil on penalties. He struggled in the semifinal defeat to Argentina, when it looked like the minutes of Croatia’s exhausting campaign finally caught up with him.
For Argentina, Enzo Fernandez has been one of the unexpected stars of the tournament. He began the first two matches on the bench but made an immediate impact when introduced as a substitute against Saudi Araba and Mexico. He started in Argentina’s final group match against Poland and has not looked back, showing his versatility by playing as an attacking playmaker and also in a holding midfield role.
Brazil’s Casemiro also warrants a mention here. The Manchester United enforcer was arguably his team’s best player at Qatar 2022 but, like many of his teammates, he was below par in the quarterfinal defeat to Croatia.
Antoine Griezmann is a forward but in this tournament he has played all over the pitch. He has provided assists, scored goals, has been instrumental at set pieces and has helped out in defense.
Sofyan Amrabat, the Moroccan holding midfielder, is another who has had a superb tournament, particularly because of his defensive attributes. He is currently at Fiorentina but could be pursued by bigger clubs in the upcoming European winter transfer window.
Although England didn’t progress beyond the quarterfinals, it was a breakout tournament for Jude Bellingham. He is only 19 years-old and was outstanding with his poise beyond his years, creativity and hard work in defense. It’s no wonder nearly all of Europe’s biggest clubs are on his trail. ■