The 2022 FIFA World Cup came to a close on Sunday with Argentina winning beating France in a thrilling final game. It was a final for the ages and most likely a final many football fans would consider one of the greatest finals they have ever witnessed. By winning on penalties, Argentina were back as world champions for the first time since 1986. If France had been successful, they would have become only the third team in the history of the tournament to win back-to-back trophies – Italy and Brazil managed this feat in the 1930s and 1950s.
From an African perspective, this tournament will fondly be remembered for Morocco’s journey and ultimately their performances in Qatar. Qualifying top of Group F which contained Croatia, Belgium and Canada before having to go through Spain and Portugal in the knock-out round, was a tremendous achievement. Everyone could see how much it meant to the fans when they easily outnumbered French fans in their semi-final match at Al Bayt Stadium. With that, Laduma Analytics put together their African Team of the Tournament.
Goalkeeper – Yassine Bounou (Morocco)
The Sevilla goalkeeper conceded one goal in the group stages – an own goal against the Canadians where the ball came off one of his teammates. Overall his performance at the tournament for the Atlas Lions was excellent. He nearly tarnished that in the Thrid-place playoff when he mis-hit a pass that nearly resulted in an own goal.
Defender – Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)
We also had Hakimi in our AFCON team earlier this year and he again makes the cut having been solid in Morocco’s best-ever World Cup tournament. He played 543 minutes over the course of 7 games, the third most minutes of all Morocco players (behind Sofyan Amrabat & Hakim Ziyech). Whilst he did not score a goal (except the paneka against Spain in the penalty shootout), he did assist once, took four shots and also created three chances. The Paris Saint-Germain wing-back is good with a lot of attributes: the ball to feet, pace down the line, goal threat and general possession ability.
Defender – Romain Saiss (Morocco)
The former Wolves defender was solid at the back of the Atlas Lions’ defence and even managed to score a goal for his country at the tournament. His injury held him back against Portugal and even starting him against France seemed very odd to a lot of people. Despite that, the Besiktas defender managed to complete 80% of his passes.
Defender – Kalidou Koulibaly
Koulibaly has been an important member in the heart of many club and country defensive units over the years. His only goal came in Senegal’s final group game against Ecuador which sent the Lions of Teranga into the knockout stages. Him and his team-mates frustrated an England side for 39 minutes before being put to the sword 3-0. He still remains a strong physical central defender and Chelsea fans will hope he can continue his international form in the blue coloured shirt.
Defender – Youssouf Sabaly (Senegal)
The Real Betis defender was a real threat down the right-hand side for Senegal. He played all four of Senegal’s matches, was extremely attacking going forward, especially with creating seven chances and having two shots at goal.
Midfielder – Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)
Ever present in the heart of Morocco’s midfield, Amrabat played the most minutes of all Moroccan players at FIFA World Cup 2022. Defensively solid in a team that conceded only 1 goal up until the 3-0 loss to France. He recovered the ball 51 times and also played the most passes out of all his team-mates (259).
Midfielder – Mohammed Kudus
Kudus has had a phenomenal rise in recent years and is still only 22 years of age. Despite Ghana having a poor tournament finishing bottom of their group, Kudus scored two of the team’s five goals. His eight shots was far above any Ghanian team-mates, only Andrey Ayew came closest with three shots taken in their 3 group games.
Midfielders – Ismaila Sarr
Sarr was one of the stand-out players of the group stages. He especially stepped up to help his country heal from the news that their talisman Sadio Mane would not be fit to play at Qatar 2022. His speed and danger going forward was evidenced with his 10 shots throughout the course of the tournament. Sarr also managed to create six chances for his team-mates.
Midfielders – Hakim Ziyech
It has been quite a turnaround for Ziyech in a Morocco shirt. He fell out with the previous manager before being called back into the national team set-up before this World Cup. He was one of Morocco’s best attacking players in the group stages, registering a goal and an assist. Later in the tournament, especially the knockout stages, he contributed a goal against Spain in the penalty-shootout to help his country become only the fourth African team to qualify for the quarter-finals of a FIFA World Cup.
Forward – Vincent Aboubakar
Even though Cameroon did not make it out of Group G, we had to include the top scorer from the 2022 AFCON. The Indomitable Lions scored four goals in three games with Aboubakar scoring 50% of his team’s goals before being sent off for a second yellow card in the final group game. His wonder goal against Serbia will also live fondly in the memories.
Forward – Youssef En-Nesyri
The Sevilla striker still only aged 25 scored two important goals in his country’s pursuit of qualification for the World Cup final. His first goal against Canada was vital for qualification out of a group that included Croatia and Belgium, yet his second was perhaps the one he will go down in Moroccan folklore history for. The height he got off the ground to beat the Portuguese defender and goalkeeper from a left-footed cross was sublime. He finished the tournament with two goals, tied alongside Mohammed Kudus (Ghana) and Vincent Aboubakar (Senegal).