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World Cup team of the tournament so far: From Maguire to Mbappe

10:00 GMT+3 03/12/2022
Harry Maguire Kylian Mbappe England France World Cup 2022 GFX
There have been stand out performers during the opening fortnight of Qatar 2022 - but who makes GOAL's group stage XI?

The World Cup group stages are over and what a wild ride it has been.

Qatar 2022 has been the tournament of shocks, with the likes of Morocco and Japan stealing the show and former powerhouses such as Germany and Belgium being sent packing.

But what players have been the stand out performers during the opening fortnight? We asked some of GOAL’s writers to come up with the World Cup group stage XI.

Using a 4-2-3-1 formation, this is what they have gone for...

  • Szczesny Poland World Cup 2022

    GK: Wojciech Szczesny (Poland)

    There can’t really be anyone else, can there? Without Szczesny, Poland would certainly be on the plane home, rather than looking forward to a knockout game against France. The Juventus goalkeeper has been in sensational form so far and has saved two penalties, including one to deny Lionel Messi against Argentina. Poland may have still lost that game 2-0, but conceding one more goal during that dramatic final group stage game would have seen Mexico finish above them in the table. It was only Szczesny's heroics that saw the Polish avoid a far heavier defeat.

  • Achraf Hakimi Morocco 2022

    RB: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)

    Morocco have been one of the stories of the World Cup and the form of Hakimi has been crucial to their impressive results. The Paris Saint-Germain star started all three of his nation’s group stage games, helping them to two clean sheets as they topped Group F, finishing above Croatia and Belgium in the process. He also produced one of the assists of the tournament as he sent Youssef En-Nesyri away to score what proved to be the winner against Canada. Hakimi has been one of Europe’s stand out right-backs for some time and now he is replicating that club form on the biggest stage of all.

  • Harry Souttar Australia World Cup

    CB: Harry Souttar (Australia)

    Of all the surprises of the group stage, Australia are surely the biggest. The Socceroos arrived with plenty of enthusiasm but little expectation, but Graham Arnold’s side delivered a masterclass in determination, teamwork and concentration, ensuring European Championship semi-finalists Denmark were sent home early. The star of their team has been Souttar, whose ultra-competitive performances at centre-back are made all the more remarkable by the fact that he had had only played one competitive game in 12 months leading up the tournament, having been sidelined with a knee injury. The Stoke City man’s style is unfussy, but was crucial as Australia kept clean sheets against both Tunisia and Denmark. Whatever happens from here on, the 24-year-old can be proud of his efforts in Qatar.

  • Harry Maguire England World Cup 2022

    CB: Harry Maguire (England)

    Maguire deserves huge credit for the way he has performed so far in Qatar. He came into the tournament under intense scrutiny having lost his place in the Manchester United team following a series of major blunders. But he received the backing of England boss Gareth Southgate, who refused to listen to the calls for Maguire to be dropped, and has repaid his manager with a series of excellent performances. Maguire has helped England to two clean sheets and he was immense in the draw with the United States, while the majority of his team-mates struggled. He has also been a big threat from set pieces in the opposition’s penalty area and has been unlucky not to get himself on the scoresheet at least once.

  • Theo Hernandez France

    LB: Theo Hernandez (France)

    One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, and that has most certainly been the case with Hernandez, who has been the main beneficiary of his brother’s awful luck. It was sibling Lucas who got the nod for France’s opener against Australia, but the Bayern Munich man lasted just 13 minutes before being forced off injured. His ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, sadly, will keep him out for up to nine months. On came Theo, one of the stars of AC Milan’s Serie A winning side last season, and it is fair to say the 25-year-old will have a big part to play if Didier Deschamps’ side are to defend the trophy won in Russia four years ago. With Kylian Mbappe in front of him, Hernandez has been able to pick and choose when to raid forward and when to simply give it to the PSG superstar. His classiness in possession has been matched by some rugged defensive work, and though he has only played one full game so far, there has been no better left-back in the tournament.

  • Casemiro Brazil 2022

    CM: Casemiro (Brazil)

    When Brazil needed someone to step up against Switzerland, it was Casemiro who delivered. The central midfielder was immense in the opening two group games, powering his side to two victories which sealed their qualification through to the last 16 with a match to spare. While two-goal hero Richarlison might have taken the headlines against Serbia, Casemiro was exceptional in the heart of midfield, just as he was against the Swiss. He was as dominant in the midfield as you would have expected, but then he topped off his excellent performance with a fabulous goal to seal a 1-0 win late on.

  • Tyler Adams USMNT England World Cup 2022

    CM: Tyler Adams (United States)

    The United States have enjoyed an excellent World Cup so far and their captain has been at the very heart of those performances. His drive and energy in midfield has set the tone for many of his vibrant, young team-mates to follow. Adams was superb in the final group game against Iran, a game the USA had to win to go through, leading by example – just as he did as Gregg Berhalter’s side pushed England all the way during a goalless draw. What the United States go on to achieve at this tournament remains to be seen, but if they are to progress even further, you can bet that their captain will be key to that ongoing success.

  • Marcus Rashford England 2022

    RW: Marcus Rashford (England)

    A player who has seized his opportunity to impress at this tournament. Rashford started on the bench in England’s opening game against Iran, but scored within a minute of coming on. He then netted twice in the 3-0 success against Wales, including a fabulous free-kick, and played a crucial part in Phil Foden’s strike. Rashford ends the group stages as the joint top scorer at the World Cup and has made it almost impossible for Gareth Southgate to leave him out against Senegal in the last 16.

  • Bruno Fernandes

    CAM: Bruno Fernandes (Portugal)

    Whether he scores or not, Cristiano Ronaldo hogs all the headlines around this Portugal team. But it's been made abundantly clear at this tournament that Bruno is their best player. He boasts a combination of industry and innovation that few other players possess. Indeed, it was Bruno who stepped up when they had been pegged back by Ghana to create two goals, while he then netted twice himself in the vital victory over Uruguay. A class act and a serious Golden Ball contender.

  • Kylian Mbappe France Denmark World Cup 2022

    LW: Kylian Mbappe (France)

    France’s young superstar has lit up the early stages of Qatar 2022, just as he did in Russia four years ago. He scored three goals in his first two starts and you could see how much France’s performance dipped when he was rested against Tunisia for the final group stage game. There is no more daunting prospect at this World Cup than having to try to stop Mbappe. As a teenager, he played a huge role in helping France lift the trophy in 2018 and given the form he has shown already this time around, it would be no surprise to see him do the same this time around.

  • Cody Gakpo Netherlands 2022

    CF: Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)

    Talk about a lesson in efficiency. Three games, three goals, one with his head, one with his left foot and one with his right. Gakpo has only taken four shots in the tournament, but the PSV Eindhoven man’s quality is such that he was still able to fire the Dutch through to the last 16 on such limited service. He has a lot of suitors, the 23-year-old, with Manchester United rumoured to be at the front of the pack. He hasn’t done a lot besides score so far at this World Cup, but in a team as functional as the Netherlands, he hasn’t needed to. The important thing is that he’s been the difference-maker, and with him in the side, Louis van Gaal’s men will feel they are capable of a deep run.

  • World Cup group stage XI

    The World Cup group stage XI

    So, here's who made the cut.

    After a fortnight of unbelievable drama, this is the best World Cup group stage XI that our writers have come up with.