The 2022 FIFA World Cup is in the books, and it marks the first major international tournament that PFF has fully graded.
Harking back to PFF’s early days, our staff sat down to dig into the grades and metrics to come up with a list of the top 50 players at the tournament. Here’s what they decided.
1. Lionel Messi, Argentina
To no surprise, the G.O.A.T. tops our list.
The Argentinian legend earned the highest dribbling grade (95.0) and completed the most dribbles (26) at the tournament, and his 60.5% completion rate was the highest among players who attempted at least 20 dribbles.
The PSG forward also earned a 90.4 passing grade, fifth among players in Qatar, while his 43 line-breaking passes finished ninth. His seven goals and three assists were just the cherry on top of an all-time tournament performance.
2. Antoine Griezmann, France
Griezmann may not have had his best game in the final, but that should not overshadow his incredible tournament. He finished with a PFF crossing grade of 84.3, fourth among players with 10 cross attempts, while his 87.6 passing grade was also one of the World Cup’s best marks. He left Qatar having created 22 chances, the second-most among all players.
3. Achraf Hakimi, Morocco
The PSG man finished with seven grades over 70.0, the most by any player. Chief among those were his 79.6 aerial-duel grade, his 80.1 50/50 grade and his 77.8 challenge grade.
Hakimi won 44 challenges in all, third at the World Cup, and led the tournament in dribbles defended with 13.
4. Kylian Mbappé, France
The Golden Boot winner comes in at No. 4 after scoring eight goals and accumulating two assists. Mbappé was held in check in both the quarterfinal and semifinal, as he generated only 0.03 expected goals (xG) against England and 0.33 xG against Morocco.
The French superstar did finish with a shooting grade of 86.5, good for seventh-best among players who took at least five shots. He was also a menace in possession, leading all players with 34 possessions in the opposition’s box.
5. Jude Bellingham, England
The English wunderkind had an excellent tournament, only confirming rumors that he will be the hottest name heading into the winter transfer window.
Bellingham finished with three goals, one assist and four key passes, ultimately producing a 91.8 shooting grade, 76.7 passing grade and a 92.1 challenge grade.
Bellingham defended 70% of the dribbles against him, first among players who defended at least 10 dribbles. He also completed 89.8% of his passes, 10th among center midfielders.
6. Theo Hernandez, France
After his brother Lucas was ruled out of the World Cup with an injury in France’s first match, Theo Hernandez stepped up big for Les Bleus. His 90.5 crossing grade led all full-backs and ranked second among all players in the World Cup. He also put up a 79.4 50/50 grade, a 78.9 challenge grade and an 80.1 defending-dribbles grade.
The AC Milan defender was also key in France’s attack, creating 11 chances (first among full-backs) and scoring the important opening goal in the semifinal against Morocco.
7. Luka Modric, Croatia
The 37-year-old Croatian legend was once again world-class in what was possibly his last World Cup. The Real Madrid maestro dominated the competition with a 91.9 passing grade and a tournament-leading leading 58 completed line-breaking passes.
Although he couldn’t achieve the goal of winning it all, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner will still be remembered as the key player who helped Croatia win back-to-back World Cup medals.
8. Casemiro, Brazil
Despite Brazil’s shockingly early exit from the World Cup, Casemiro had a spectacular tournament. The five-time UEFA Champions League winner orchestrated Brazil’s attack, producing an 88.0 PFF passing grade, a top-10 mark, to go with an 81.7 shooting grade.
He was also a defensive force in the midfield, leading the Brazilian side with nine blocks and winning 14 of the 15 50/50 duels he faced. In the end, he earned an 87.1 PFF grade for 50/50 duels, the fifth-best mark at the tournament.
9. Josko Gvardiol, Croatia
Only 20 years old, Gvardiol shined bright in his first World Cup, attracting top clubs around the world. He led all center-backs with an 88.4 grade for 50/50 duels and was a huge defensive presence, earning 70.0-plus PFF grades for challenges (75.1), defending dribbles (77.9) and tackles (71.8).
His versatility was also on display, as he completed 53 line-breaking passes, the third-most at the tournament, and all five of his dribble attempts to lead all center-backs.
10. Mateo Kovacic, Croatia
In addition to Croatia’s third-place finish, the Chelsea midfielder should be proud of his overall performance. He boasts three top-three PFF grades, having put up the tournament’s second-best dribbling grade (93.5) and tournament-leading marks in challenge grade (94.3) and tackling grade (96.9).
On top of that, he created nine chances, second among his Croatian teammates, and applied a tournament-leading 329 pressures.
11. Aurélien Tchouaméni, France
Tchouaméni anchored the French midfield throughout the tournament, impressing in a number of games. He did miss a penalty in the World Cup final shootout, but that shouldn’t overshadow his performance. He excelled defensively, posting the highest 50/50 grade among all players (93.1) and the third-best grade among midfielders for aerial duels (90.1).
12. Bruno Fernandes, Portugal
It was a disappointing World Cup for Portugal, but Fernandes excelled. He was a constant threat, ultimately earning a 91.7 passing grade, and he led the tournament with eight defensive-line-breaking passes. The Manchester United midfielder also chipped in with two goals and three assists in his four games as one of the focal points of Portugal’s attack.
13. Vinícius Junior, Brazil
The Real Madrid star furthered his reputation as one of the most exciting players in football during his first World Cup. With six PFF grades above 70.0, he ranked above average in pretty much every category across the tournament. He produced two assists and seven key passes, contributing to his 77.5 passing grade. His best game came against South Korea in the Round of 16 when he scored and picked up one of his assists.
14. Sofiane Boufal, Morocco
Now plying his trade in Ligue 1 with Angers, the former Southampton winger was a key part of Morocco’s history-making side. He earned a 91.0 dribbling grade over the tournament, second among players at his position. He produced a 91.5 dribbling grade in the Round of 16 against Spain alone, the second-highest single-game dribbling grade of the tournament.
15. Julian Alvarez, Argentina
Another player who feels like he’s announced himself as a star over the last month, Alvarez was crucial to Argentina’s World Cup win. Not even the first choice to lead the line when the tournament started, Alvarez had made the position his own by the end of the group stages. He was direct and exciting throughout the knockout stages, exemplified by his four goals and 85.5 shooting grade.
16. Olivier Giroud, France
Giroud did not have a World Cup final to remember, but we mustn’t forget the role the striker played in getting France to that point. He scored four goals to become France’s all-time leading goal scorer and was the World Cup’s highest-graded player for aerial duels (94.8).
17. Emiliano Martínez, Argentina
Martinez’s heroics in the final secured the Golden Glove Award and a No. 1 spot on PFF’s list of top goalkeepers. The quality of his shot-stopping shone through in our metrics, with Martinez boasting the tournament’s second-highest shot-stopping grade at 88.0. His positioning was also superb, as he received zero downgrades for positioning through seven matches.
Unsurprisingly, Martinez’s highest-graded save was that 123rd-minute denial of Kolo Muani, which gave Argentina the opportunity to win the World Cup final on penalties. Talk about delivering when it matters most.
18. Nayef Aguerd, Morocco
Morocco did not concede a goal to an opposition player until the semifinal, and much of this defensive success is down Aguerd. He earned the highest challenge grade (86.2) of all center-backs at this World Cup and was 100% successful on his 50/50s (2-of-2) and dribbles faced (4-of-4). On top of that, he also produced the highest clearance grade (90.4) of all center-backs.
19. Frenkie de Jong, Netherlands
An all-around midfielder, De Jong contributed in various ways at this World Cup. He led the Dutch side in passes completed (366), including the fifth-most line-breaking passes at the tournament (51). He was also a force in the air and put up the tournament’s second-highest aerial-duel grade (93.5), behind only Oliver Giroud. He also chipped in with a goal and an assist before their quarterfinal exit to Argentina.
20. Pedri, Spain
The Barcelona midfielder earned a 92.1 passing grade for the tournament and was near the top of nearly every passing metric. He completed 395 passes, 13th among all players, including 52 line-breaking passes (4th), five defensive-line-breaking passes (3rd) and six chances created (37th). He was also combative when required, winning five of the seven 50/50 challenges he was involved in.
21. Joshua Kimmich, Germany
Kimmich’s 91.8 passing grade ranked third overall among all players, but that wasn’t the only area in which the playmaker excelled. As the main outlet for Germany, receiving more targets than any other teammate, he complemented his 91% pass completion rate with a 79.8 shooting grade and a 72.9 crossing grade, top-10 among central midfielders.
22. Richarlison, Brazil
Richarlison led the line brilliantly for Brazil throughout the tournament to finish as the country’s top scorer with three goals in four matches. His shooting prowess earned a 92.4 grade, behind only Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar and South Korea’s Hee-chan Hwang among fellow strikers. While neither of that duo makes this list, Richarlison does for his work off-the-ball, as he recorded the most pressure attempts for Brazil (129) and won more 50/50 duels than he lost to grade out at 82.2 in that facet.
23. Tyler Adams, United States
Announced as USMNT captain for the World Cup despite being only 23, Adams led by example to help his team reach the Round of 16 with a crucial performance against Iran. The midfielder starred in the winner-takes-all clash with an 89.0 passing grade and a team-leading challenge grade of 81.1.
24. Alexis Mac Allister, Argentina
Mac Allister sent Argentina on their way to a dominant first half in the final against France, starting the move that saw him provide the assist for Angel Di Maria to make it 2-0. Across the whole tournament, Mac Allister was solid in defensive duties for the champions, posting an 87.6 challenge grade while receiving only three positioning downgrades over his eight matches. If not for his 58.7 passing grade, the Argentine would be much higher on this list.
25. Adrien Rabiot, France
Among all players at the World Cup to be involved in more than 70 challenges, only Croatia’s Dejan Lovren fared better than France anchorman Adrien Rabiot, with the latter’s 7.2 challenges won per 90 minutes narrowly outdone by Lovren’s 7.4. Together with Aurélien Tchouaméni, Rabiot formed a formidable midfield partnership en route to earning a 90.8 aerial duel grade and an 86.0 grade on 50-50s.
26. Éder Militão, Brazil
Militão was the strongest performer in the Brazil back line in the tournament, particularly when involved in 50-50 duels, He won 80% of those he was involved in and earned an 84.3 50-50 duel grade to rank 15th best among all players to contest at least five 50-50 duels and fourth among all defenders. He was also reliable in the air, winning 61% of his aerial duels to reach a 77.1 grade on such instances.
27. Wojciech Szczęsny, Poland
Juventus’ Szczęsny is the second-ranked keeper on this list. Poland’s No. 1 faced the most shots on target, 27, and saved the most, 22, of any keeper throughout the tournament, despite playing in only four games. His strong performance between the posts earned him an 85.1 shot-stopping grade, the fourth-best mark at the position. An additional feather in his cap was the fact he was the only keeper to save a penalty from Lionel Messi.
28. Cody Gakpo, Netherlands
Gakpo scored in all three of the group games despite managing just three shots on target. Although he didn’t get on the scoresheet in the knockout rounds, he finished with an 81.3 shooting grade with a 100% success rate from his shots on target. And despite not coming away with any assists in the tournament, Gakpo did have the most passes of any Netherlands player that created chances for his teammates (11).
29. Ousmane Dembélé, France
It was a World Cup final to forget for Dembélé, who gave away an early penalty and was substituted out before halftime. However, the rest of his tournament wasn’t so lamentable. The winger ended with the 15th-best crossing grade for all players (79.4) and the 19th-best passing grade (83.6). He created 13 chances in total and finished with two assists, both of which rank second for France, behind only Antoine Griezmann.
30. Virgil van Dijk, Netherlands
The lasting memory of van Dijk in this World Cup will likely be his missed penalty at the start of the quarter-final shootout defeat to Argentina. Prior to that, however, the Liverpool defender had earned the fourth-best passing grade of all center-backs (84.6) with the third-most line-breaking passes of any player for the Netherlands. He was also strong in 50-50 duels, winning 80% of those he contested to earn a 78.3 50-50 grade.
31. Raphaël Guerreiro, Portugal
Guerreiro was one of the standout full-backs at the tournament and one of Portugal’s key creative threats. His 81.9 crossing grade ranked third at the position and 12th among all players. The Borussia Dortmund man also showcased the passing ability that has allowed him to play in central midfield in the past, registering an 81.8 passing grade, creating four chances and averaging 4.3 completed line-breaking passes per 90 minutes (10th for full-backs, minimum 100 passes).
32. Harry Souttar, Australia
Souttar excelled at the back for Australia and was a key part of a side that ran eventual winners Argentina close in the Round of 16. He led all center-backs with an 89.0 aerial duel grade and won 71% of his aerial challenges. He also won 66% of the challenges he was involved in, leading the team (minimum five challenges), and recorded an 80.3 grade in a tournament performance befitting a Stoke City defender.
33. Mohammed Kudus, Ghana
While it was ultimately a disappointing World Cup for Ghana, Kudus can be pleased with his performance, particularly in the win over South Korea when he scored twice. His 83.0 shooting grade and four shots on target both led the team in an impressive tournament that may well put yet another Ajax player on the radar of bigger clubs. Kudus also performed well in 50-50 duels, winning 60% of them for an 82.0 grade.
34. Yassine Bounou, Morocco
The tale of Morocco’s historic run to the semifinals can’t be told without a mention of Bounou’s fantastic performances, especially his three penalty shootout saves in the Round of 16 against Spain. He saved 58.3% of his shots faced, with two of the five goals he conceded deemed unsavable, and recorded an 85.8 shot-stopping grade, which ranked third for goalkeepers. Bounou also won all four of his aerial duels for a 73.6 grade, which ranked second among goalkeepers.
35. Jamal Musiala, Germany
Germany underperformed at the World Cup, but Musiala at least provided a bright spot. The Bayern Munich player was the third-best dribbler at the tournament by our metrics, boasting a 91.3 grade. Despite playing in only three games, he attempted the fourth-most dribbles of any player. And he still managed to complete 56.67% of them, good for 19th overall (minimum 10 dribbles). Musiala also recorded a 73.1 aerial duel grade that ranked sixth for attacking midfielders.
36. Diogo Dalot, Portugal
As a full-back more renowned for his attacking talents, Dalot used the 2022 World Cup to showcase his defensive abilities. Dalot was the No. 1-ranked full-back with an 87.6 challenge grade, winning eight of his 11 aerial duels and one of his two 50-50 challenges. He tops all players in the tournament with a 92.9 grade defending against the dribble, winning 80% of the dribbles attempted against him.
37. Luis Chávez, Mexico
Chávez had a monstrous tournament in Qatar, leading El Tri in several of our key facets. Chávez finished with an 81.3 passing grade for the tournament, ranking 10th among all central midfielders. Chávez also leaves Qatar with a 78.5 crossing grade, third at the position. Perhaps most impressively, his 93.2 shooting grade led the position and he finished third overall when striking the ball this tournament.
38. Granit Xhaka, Switzerland
Xhaka continued his renaissance of good form this season in the Premier League into Qatar, where he finished fifth among all players with an 88.1 passing grade on 88% pass completion. Xhaka led all Swiss players with his 76.0 challenge grade and ranked fourth among all central midfielders with an 86.5 aerial duel grade, winning nine of his 14 duels in the air.
39. Enner Valencia, Ecuador
Through the opening two fixtures, Valencia was the leading goal scorer of the tournament. An unfortunate knee injury prevented him from finishing the match against the Dutch, though, and he certainly wasn’t at 100% in Ecuador’s pivotal final match against Senegal. Still, Valencia managed to finish as the fourth-highest-graded shooter, with a 93.1 shooting grade. Valencia also led all Ecuadorians with 11 possessions in the opponent’s penalty area.
40. Dominik Livaković, Croatia
Livaković was a rock for the third-place Croatian side in this tournament, facing more shots (78) than any other goalkeeper in the competition. Livaković had numerous highlights throughout the tournament, securing a clean sheet against both Morocco and Belgium in the group stage. He came up huge in both penalty shootouts Croatia participated in, with an incredible three saves in the shootout against Japan in the Round of 16, followed by another penalty save in their upset against tournament favorites Brazil in the quarterfinals.
41. Enzo Fernández, Argentina
Having earned the Best Young Player award at the World Cup, Fernández was a live wire in the heart of the Argentinian midfield, completing 87.9% of the passes he attempted. His 77.8 challenge grade for the tournament showed the other side of his game, too. The cherry on the cake of his performances was a wonder goal against Mexico.
42. Azzedine Ounahi, Morocco
Another young gem of this edition of the World cup, Ounahi was an integral part of Morocco’s dream run to the semi-finals. He produced an 87.7 PFF dribbling grade, ranking second among central midfielders. He impressed as a passer, too, with his 35 line-breaking passes ranking 13th at the position.
43. Dani Olmo, Spain
Olmo led all players with a 94.2 PFF crossing grade from 14 crosses at the tournament. He scored Spain’s opening goal of the tournament and finished with a 79.1 PFF shooting grade. Olmo completed 84.8% of his passes at the tournament, including six line-breaking passes.
44. Silvan Widmer, Switzerland
Widmer impressed going forward and creating for Switzerland at the tournament, producing an 82.9 PFF crossing grade that ranked second among all full-backs, behind only France’s Theo Hernández. He defended well, too, as shown by his 84.8 PFF 50-50 duel grade and 85.5 PFF defending dribbles grade.
45. Harry Maguire, England
Constantly under the microscope for his performances at the club level, Maguire was included in England’s World Cup team and rightly proved the critics wrong. Always an aerial threat offensively, Maguire was a sentinel in defense for England. An 86.1 tackling grade (third) and 83.5 challenge grade (seventh) make a case for him as one of the center-backs of the tournament. He was unlucky on a couple of occasions when his powerful headers hit the crossbar and deprived him of goals to add to his outstanding defensive feats.
46. Ismail Jakobs, Senegal
Jakobs’ 93.3 PFF aerial duel grade was the third best of any player at the tournament, while his 81.7 PFF tackling grade ranked 29th. He won 81.8% of the 22 aerial duels he was involved in and successfully completed a tackle on four of eight attempts. He also successfully defended three of the five dribbles he faced and won four of the six 50-50 duels he was involved in.
47. Jordan Pickford, England
Pickford stood out between the sticks for England with consistently impressive performances. His 93.3 shot-stopping grade was the best of any goalkeeper at the tournament, while his 75.6 passing grade ranked second at the position to only Switzerland’s Yann Sommer.
48. Kim Young-gwon, South Korea
Kim was tremendously consistent for South Korea at the tournament, putting forth a strong performance in a number of facets. He finished with 70.0-plus PFF grades in passing (77.7), aerial duels (82.0), challenges (71.5) and clearances (76.0).
49. Ritsu Doan, Japan
Doan was one of the top crossers of the ball at the tournament, with his 83.9 PFF crossing grade the third best among all players who attempted at least 10 crosses at the tournament. He also impressed on 50-50 duels, winning four of the seven he attempted to earn an 83.2 50-50 duel grade — 19th best among all players to contest at least five 50-50 duels throughout the competition.
50. Neymar, Brazil
Despite playing in just three games at the tournament after missing Brazil’s second and third group stage contests through injury, Neymar was still a key player at the tournament, ranking tied for 28th with 28 line-breaking passes received throughout the World Cup. He was tied for the sixth-most dribbles attempted (27) and tied for the seventh-most dribbles completed (14) at the tournament despite the limited playing time.
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