World Cup 2022 awards: Best XI, Ballon d’Or, Pro Soccer Talk’s best moments

December 19, 2022

Who will be FIFA’s best squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar?

We don’t know yet, but we’ve done our best to show credit to exhausted World Cup writers Joe Prince-Wright, Andy Edwards and Nick Mendola.

Yes, there was obviously a lot of talk about Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, but the boys had plenty of time to focus on the youngster’s masked return from Croatia Great performance from Croatia.

There’s also a fancy Dutch set piece, impressive goalkeeping, and a youth player award.

Let’s take a deep dive into the best of the Middle East from last month.

Golden Ball, Silver Ball, Bronze Ball

Joe Prince-Wright: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Sofyan Amrabat

Andy Edwards: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Dayot Upamecano

Nick Mendola: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Emiliano Martinez

Best Goalkeeper + Why

Joe Prince-Wright: Hugo Lloris (France)

He’s stood tall when France needed him and led by example. Special mentions to Emi Martinez and Wojciech Szczesny too.

Andy Edwards: Dominik Livakovic (Croatia)

He made massive saves in regular time and extra time, preventing the most goals (FBRef) of any goalkeeper at this World Cup, as well as multiple penalty shootouts. No one came up bigger, and more often.

Nick Mendola: Emiliano Martinez (Argentina)

What Andy said about Livakovic is so true and he was going to be my man… right up until the very end end of the final. The Aston Villa man denied Kolo Muani at the end of extra time and then made a huge save in spot kicks .

Young Player Award

Joe Prince-Wright: Jude Bellingham (England)

Andy Edwards: Josko Gvardiola (Croatia)

Nick Mendola: Josko Gvardiola (Croatia)

All-Star Team/Best XI

Joe Prince-Wright: Hugo Lloris (France); Achraf Hakimi (Morocco), Josko Gvardiol (Croatia), Romain Saiss (Morocco), Jurrien Timber (Netherlands); Theo Hernandez (France), Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco); Jude Bellingham ( England), Antoine Griezmann (France), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Kylian Mbappe (France), Olivier Giroud (France)

Andy Edwards: Dominik Livakovic (Croatia); Achraf Hakimi (Morocco), Josko Gvardiol (Croatia), Harry Maguire (England), Jurrien Timber (Netherlands); Adrien Rabiot (France), Mohammed Kudus (Ghana); Bruno Fernandes (Portugal) , Antoine Griezmann (France), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Kylian Mbappe (France)

Nick Mendola: Emiliano Martinez (Argentina); Theo Hernandez (France), Josko Gvardiol (Croatia), Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina), Achraf Hakimi (Morocco), Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco), Enzo Fernandez (Argentina), Luka Modric (Croatia) , Antoine Griezmann (France), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Kylian Mbappe (France).

Top Moment of the Tournament

Joe Prince-Wright: Morocco reaching the semifinals. History was made and their squad and Walid Regragui totally deserved it.

Andy Edwards: Netherlands’ set-piece equalizer against Argentina, 11th minute of stoppage time.

Nick Mendola: It’s Lionel Messi sneaking a kiss on his long-sought World Cup Trophy while walking past after collecting his Golden Ball… but a shout to Saudi Arabia’s early-morning upset of Argentina and Goncalo Ramos’ 67-minute hat trick after being put in the difficult spot of taking Cristiano Ronaldo’s starting spot for a knockout round game.

Biggest Failure of the Tournament

Joe Prince-Wright: Denmark. What on earth happened!?

Andy Edwards: Germany

Nick Mendola: Belgium. If the USMNT’s Golden Generation pulls something like this at the end — should they stay golden, pony people — I won’t leave the house for like a month.

Biggest Surprise of the Tournament

Joe Prince-Wright: Morocco. Nobody really saw it coming. What a fun run and they inspired so many around the world.

Andy Edwards: Morocco

Nick Mendola: Morocco.


Joe Prince-Wright: Tim Ream. The American Dream. Sure, Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic were very good and led the midfield and attack respectively, but without Ream the USMNT would not have made the last 16. His influence on the entire defensive unit was enormous and the USA made the knockout rounds because they were so solid in the group stage.

Andy Edwards: Tyler Adams.

Nick Mendola: Christian Pulisic. I know he missed the big chance early against Netherlands, but this kid has been under the spotlight almost from the moment he showed up but many others didn’t in Couva back in 2017. All he’s done when healthy is deliver despite — as his commercial repeats — “pressure pressure pressure pressure.” The brave goal against Iran. The sensational assist to set up Weah versus Wales. He delivered.

Grade the USMNT

Joe Prince-Wright: B-

Andy Edwards: B

Nick Mendola: B-. They were the second-ranked team both in FIFA and ELO Ratings in their group. They beat a team they should’ve, and drew two teams they weren’t supposed to (a good one vs England and a bad one vs Wales). One-and-done versus the Dutch in the knockout rounds. Not bad. Not great.

Pick the 2026 Winner

Joe Prince-Wright: France (they are stacked) and I really wanted to say England but just couldn’t do it. Maybe Brazil will be closer too?

Andy Edwards: Brazil

Nick Mendola: Spain. Pedro and Gavi leaving Qatar with the experience they gathered at such tender ages could leave the Spaniards simply looking to find their center forward answer over the next four years. Unai Simon was also good.

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