Magic Messi and marvellous Mbappe among superstars in our World Cup Best XI

Magic Messi And Marvellous Mbappe Among Superstars In Our World Cup Best Xi
Argentina’s Lionel Messi and France's Kylian Mbappe
Share this article

By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA, Doha

Argentina captain Lionel Messi and France striker Kylian Mbappe certainly lived up to their star billings by scoring five goals in a mind-blowing World Cup final to more than guarantee their places in the best XI.

There were many standout performances in Qatar, some from players who were expected to shine and others who did so against the odds.


Here, the PA news agency picks its team of a tournament unlike any other.

Goalkeeper – Emiliano Martinez (Argentina)

Emiliano Martinez has been in fine form for Argentina.
Emiliano Martinez was in fine form for Argentina throughout the finals (Nick Potts/PA)


While Morocco’s Yassine Bounou and Dominik Livakovic of Croatia would have been deserving of a place between the posts, Aston Villa stopper Martinez just about edges it. A little over a decade ago he was playing in Sky Bet League Two at Oxford but here in Qatar he saved two penalties in the shootout win over the Netherlands to keep alive the World Cup hopes of Argentina and Messi and became an increasingly dominant presence within the squad as they marched on towards glory. His save from Randal Kolo Muani with seconds remaining in extra-time spared Argentina from an agonising defeat in the final and his dominance in the next crucial shootout helped his nation finally get over the line.

Right-back – Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)

He has a close friendship with Paris St Germain team-mate Mbappe but – while the France forward drew most of the plaudits – Hakimi deserves his spot in the team of the tournament on his own merit. His big-game experience certainly helped Morocco defy the odds and reach the last four and his threat going forwards caused plenty of problems while he also played his part in a solid defensive unit.

Centre-back – Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)


Josko Gvardiol was one of the best young players in Qatar.
Josko Gvardiol was one of the best young players in Qatar (Adam Davy/PA)

One of the breakout players in Qatar, the towering centre-back is likely to have plenty of suitors following some strong and assured defensive displays that belied a 20-year-old coming up against some of the world’s premier attacking talent – even if he was shown up by Messi in the semi-final, there is no shame in that. The RB Leipzig centre-back was a colossus once more as Croatia took bronze.

Centre-back – Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina)


While there were some downs, including the defeat by Saudi Arabia and the two late goals scored by Wout Weghorst in the quarter-final win over the Netherlands, Otamendi’s experience proved vital at the heart of the Argentina defence and he – along with Messi – were the only outfield players at the finals to play every minute.

Left-back – Theo Hernandez (France)

Came off the bench to replaced his injured brother, Lucas, in the opening game against Australia and did not look back and made the left-side of the France defence his own. Showed his capabilities defensively, although was caught out against England, and also opened the scoring in the semi-final win over Morocco.

Midfielder – Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)


Morocco’s Sofyan Amrabat was one of a number of players from the African nation to catch the eye.
Morocco’s Sofyan Amrabat was one of a number of players from the African nation to catch the eye (Adam Davy/PA)

In a system largely set up to defend and keep things tight, Fiorentina midfielder Amrabat thrived in the middle of the park. A stern challenge to halt a lung-bursting run from Mbappe in the semi-final showed his steel but he was also good when in possession of the ball and could find some big-name suitors sniffing around before long.

Midfielder – Jude Bellingham (England)

While Bukayo Saka had strong claims to be included, Borussia Dortmund’s Bellingham is the only England player to make the cut. The 19-year-old was the driving force for Gareth Southgate’s team in Qatar, taking the sort of responsibility players years his senior could only dream of – he opened the scoring against Iran and all but ran the show in England’s last-16 win over Senegal.

Midfielder – Antoine Griezmann (France)

Formerly a forward, Griezmann has been reinvented as a midfielder in France’s squad and the change made by Didier Deschamps proved to be inspired. Voted the third-best player as Les Bleus won the 2018 World Cup, he has shone again here in a new role which saw him provide both assists in the quarter-final win over England.

Forward – Lionel Messi (Argentina)

The 35-year-old made winning the World Cup his solo mission, at what is almost certainly his last tournament, and he succeeded in truly scintillating style. His opener in the final against France and extra-time strike took him to seven goals for the tournament and he was also the top assist provider. He produced moments of magic his historical Ballon D’Or-chasing rival Cristiano Ronaldo could only have dreamt of in Qatar.

Forward – Kylian Mbappe (France)

Kylian Mbappe has enjoyed another fine World Cup for France.
Kylian Mbappe has enjoyed another fine World Cup for France (Mike Egerton/PA)

The pretender to Messi’s crown, Mbappe once again shone on the world stage, scoring five goals to help France to back-to-back finals. A club-mate of Messi at PSG, he could not quite outshine football’s brightest star despite being, at times, completely unplayable at yet another tournament. His dramatic late brace in the final brought his tally to seven goals and he ultimately snatched the Golden Boot from Messi’s grasp by grabbing his hat-trick right at the death in extra-time.

Striker – Olivier Giroud (France)

When Karim Benzema was injured on the eve of the finals, it was seen as a monumental blow to France’s hopes of retaining the World Cup. However, Giroud, who spearheaded the attack in 2018 without getting on the scoresheet, stepped up to fill the sizeable hole and the 36-year-old was in fine form this time around, hitting goals in knockout-round wins over Poland and England. His early withdrawal from the final should not count against him.

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by