The 2022 FIFA World Cup has been one of the most exciting editions in the history of the iconic event. So far, there has been no shortage of surprises, elation, upsets and awe-inspiring moments at the World Cup.
Some of football’s biggest names have shown up and delivered the goods for their respective sides. But there have also been players who were unable to hit their usual standards in Qatar.
World Cups are known for birthing new heroes and the story hasn’t been very different this time out. Without further ado, let’s take a look at 5 players who have surprised everyone with their performances at this World Cup.
#5 Hakim Ziyech (Morocco)
Hakim Ziyech’s performances at the 2022 FIFA World Cup underline the saying ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’. Ziyech has hardly played for Chelsea in the 2022-23 season, having started just two games in all competitions so far this term.
That’s why his solid displays at the World Cup have come as a surprise. He was particularly impressive in Morocco’s crucial group stage games against Belgium and Canada.
The 29-year-old’s set-piece delivery has been top-notch. His ability to find space and whip balls into the box from the wing has become a crucial part of Morocco’s attacking plans.
#4 Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)
Croatian centre-back Josko Gvardiol has been one of the breakout stars of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He has arguably been the best centre-back of the tournament and he’s just 20 years old. Gvardiol is built like a tank but more than his burliness, it’s his composure and technical abilities that make him stand out.
His tackling has been exceptional and he’s a great example of what a modern centre-back ought to be like. Gvardiol’s penchant for nailing his last-ditch tackles and game-reading ability is truly beyond his age. With his current form, Josko is likely to have plenty of top European clubs lining up to sign him in the near future.
#3 Dejan Lovren (Croatia)
At the age of 33, Dejan Lovren was not expected to have a massive impact for Croatia at the World Cup. But that’s exactly what he’s gone and done. He started things off with a dominant performance in Croatia’s World Cup opener against Morocco.
Lovren since has stepped up to the task alongside the young Gvardiol and has helped shore up Croatia’s defense. He also picked up the assist for the Croats’ only goal in their Round of 16 win over Japan.
Lovren was extensively tested in the game against Brazil. Except for Neymar’s moment of magic, he looked as solid as a wall.
#2 Romain Saiss (Morocco)
Morocco captain Romain Saiss signifies the warrior-spirit that the African side has showcased throughout the World Cup. The talismanic defender has been a rock at the back for the Atlas Lions and has had a massive impact in the tournament.
Saiss has played a crucial role in Morocco conceding just a single goal in five matches at the 2022 FIFA World Cup so far. Unfortunately, he was stretchered off the field during Morocco’s 1-0 win over Portugal in the Quarter-finals.
However, Saiss remains hopeful of regaining fitness for the Semi-finals. Asked by the media on Friday if he would be fit for the semis, Saiss said (via The National News):
“I will try, I don’t know. We will see tomorrow; we will do some exams to see what kind of injury I have. But I will try my best to be on the pitch. I hope it will be OK.
“After that, if I feel it’s too difficult, I will not take any risks to put my team in trouble just to play the Semi-final. But, of course, I will give everything I can to be here, like I did to be here for 55 minutes today.”
#1 Olivier Giroud (France)
Olivier Giroud was part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup-winning French side. However, he did not score a goal in that tournament and failed to register even a single shot on target. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t make an impact for them.
Giroud’s ability to hold up play and bring his teammates into the game worked wonders for France. However, even four years back in Russia, he pretty much looked like a striker on the decline. But here we are in Qatar four years later and Giroud has been one of France’s best players at this World Cup.
He has scored 4 goals in 4 appearances in the tournament, from which he scored France’s winning goal in the 2-1 win over England in a thrilling Quarter-final.
Giroud ages like a fine wine indeed, as the 36 year old is now France’s record male scorer with 53 goals – overtaking the ever iconic Thierry Henry. After all, the World is His to Take!
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