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Who has stood out the most at the 2022 World Cup?

In its 92-year history, the World Cup has given players a chance to improve their skills and build their reputations while representing their country on the biggest stage in the world. The 2022 tournament in Qatar has been the same, and now clubs all over the world are using their scouting systems to find new players to add to their teams in the New Year. At the first-ever winter World Cup, Argentina went all the way to win their third world title. Morocco, Croatia, and Japan all did better than expected, and there were also a lot of surprises. Now that the 2022 World Cup is over, Sports Mole looks at five players who really stood out for their countries in the Middle East.

Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)

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Morocco was one of the biggest surprises at this year’s World Cup. They were the first African team to ever make it to the semi-finals, and they were led by Fiorentina star Sofyan Amrabat in the middle of the field. The 26-year-old only played for 14 minutes at his first World Cup in 2018, but he played every single minute of Morocco’s seven games in Qatar. His presence in front of the back four helped the Atlas Lions keep the most clean sheets at the tournament with four. Amrabat got the ball back 57 times, which is more than any other player in a single World Cup since records began in 1966. His hard tackle on Kylian Mbappe in the semi-final was one of the tournament’s biggest challenges. The tenacious midfielder was a key part of Walid Regragui’s well-oiled machine that beat Belgium, Spain, and Portugal on their way to the final four before losing to France and then Croatia in the third-place playoff. Amrabat’s impressive play may have caught the attention of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid before the New Year, but the Fiorentina player, who has made 78 appearances since joining La Viola in 2020, says he still has “a lot of respect” for his current team.

Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco)

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Azzedine Ounahi, a young player from Angers, also stood out for the Atlas Lions at the 2022 World Cup. He played in the middle of the field with Amrabat. The 22-year-old Moroccan No. 8 was mostly unknown before he went to Qatar, but he has impressed many with his play. Former Spain manager Luis Enrique said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the Moroccan No. 8. Just 18 months ago, Ounahi was playing for Avranches in the third level of French football. He made his international debut in January at the Africa Cup of Nations and then played in all seven of Morocco’s games in Qatar. Ounahi, who was born in Casablanca, made a name for himself as a complete midfielder in Regragui’s team. His infectious flair and energy went well with the defensive duties he shared with Amrabat. Ounahi has played 47 games for Ligue 1’s worst team, Angers, since joining them in the summer of 2021. However, his World Cup performance could lead to a move to a top European team, as Barcelona and a number of Premier League teams, like Leicester City and West Ham United, are interested in him.

Enzo Fernandez (Argentina)

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Enzo Fernandez only made his international debut in September and only came on as a substitute three times before the 2022 World Cup. However, the 21-year-old was one of the best players on Argentina’s winning team, along with Lionel Messi, Julian Alvarez, and Alexis Mac Allister, among others. After playing well off the bench in Argentina’s first two group games and scoring his first international goal in the second game, a 2-0 win over Mexico, Fernandez was put in Lionel Scaloni’s starting lineup for the next five games, including the final. In fact, the Benfica player did very well in the final against France. He had more touches (118), more successful passes (77), and more tackles (10) than any other player on the field. His 10 tackles were also the most by a player in a World Cup final since Italy’s Gennaro Gattuso had 15 in 2006.Fernandez won the Young Player of the Tournament award in Qatar because he played so well. He beat out players like Jude Bellingham, Aurelien Tchouameni, and fellow Spaniard Alvarez. The versatile midfielder moved to Benfica from River Plate in the summer, but he has already been linked with a big-money move to a top European club. Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Real Madrid are all expected to fight for his signature in 2023.

Goncalo Ramos (Portugal)

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Goncalo Ramos is another exciting prospect from Benfica. He made a big splash on the world stage when he scored a hat-trick on his first senior start for Portugal in their 6-1 win over Switzerland in the round of 16. The 21-year-old striker had only played 33 minutes in three sub roles before facing Switzerland. He was picked to start instead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored more goals for Portugal than anyone else. Ramos, however, made the most of his chance to play with the first team. He scored the first hat-trick by any player in Qatar before Mbappe did the same for France in the final. He also set up Raphael Guerreiro for Portugal’s fourth goal in the last-16 match in Lusail. Ramos was given a second straight start in the quarter-final loss to Morocco. Even though he didn’t score, he left Qatar in good spirits and became the first Portuguese player to score a hat trick in a World Cup knockout game since Eusebio in 1966. So far this season, the Benfica academy graduate has scored 14 goals in 21 games for the Portuguese giants. Since then, he has been heavily linked with a possible exit before 2023. Ronaldo’s old team, Manchester United, is thought to be interested in him, and Barcelona is said to have turned down the chance to sign the striker over the summer.

Dominik Livakovic (Croatia)

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Dominik Livakovic watched from the bench as Croatia made it to the final four years ago. At the 2022 World Cup, he was given the number one jersey and was one of the best goalkeepers in Qatar. The 27-year-old kept two clean sheets in the group stage against Morocco and Belgium. He then saved four penalties in two shootout wins against Japan and Brazil in the round of 16 and quarter-finals, tying Danijel Subasic for the most in World Cup history. Emiliano Martinez of Argentina won the Golden Glove award, but Livakovic came close. He made 11 saves against Brazil before the game went to penalties, which was the most saves by a Croatian goalkeeper in a single World Cup game. Josko Gvardiol, a highly regarded defender, is getting a lot of praise for his work in Qatar, but Livakovic also deserves praise for his consistent performances in goal, where he shows off his amazing reflexes and ability to stop shots from 12 yards out. Livakovic has spent his whole club career at Dinamo Zagreb. However, the Zadar-born goalkeeper’s contract is up in 2024, and Bayern Munich has been mentioned as a possible destination. During the summer, clubs like Manchester United, Leicester City, and Nottingham Forest reportedly turned down the chance to sign the goalkeeper for a low price of between £5m and £10m.

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