From Ounahi to Enzo: the unexpected eleven

When a World Cup begins, fans and journalists rub their hands over a feast that promises electrifying matches and prodigious players. There is talk of Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mbappé, Neymar, flashy footballers who have been on the front pages of sports newspapers for years. However, during the World Cup, surnames that no one counted on suddenly appear. Sometimes unpronounceable names, who play in remote clubs or in hidden leagues, and who amaze with their quality, their hierarchy and their impact on matches. They are usually young boys, before whom a promising future opens up, but there are also veterans who lost several trains. There will be people who miss players like Jude Bellingham or Julián Álvarez on this list, two footballers who have exploded in Qatar but who already had many spotlights on them and who are active in top European clubs (Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City). His brilliant performance cannot be considered a surprise. Yes it has been, and not only for Luis Enrique, the formidable champion of Morocco’s number eight, Azzedine Ounahi, a total midfielder who until now was only known to fans of Angers, a modest club in the French First Division. Goalkeeper Livakovic (Croatia, Dinamo Zagreb, 27 years old) If Croatia has returned to the semifinals of a World Cup, it is largely thanks to the performance of its goalkeeper. Dominik Livakovic had a great game against Belgium, saved three penalties against Japan and was huge against Brazil. In the decisive moments he has shown himself to be decisive, with a prodigious display of reflexes when the game ended in a draw and had to be resolved from eleven meters. The penalty that stopped Rodrygo knocked down the Brazilian team, which had become the great favorite to lift the Jules Rimet Cup in Qatar. Defense Ito (Japan, Stade Reims, 29 years old) Japan’s right wing has been the almost exclusive property of Junya Ito, a winger with a winger’s soul, a specialist in dismantling defenses with his speed and the quality of his crosses into the area. Starting in all games, except for the Japanese defeat against Costa Rica, Ito became the sharp dagger with which Japan eviscerated its enemies after putting them to sleep. Defense Gvardiol (Croatia, Leipzig, 20 years old) His coach says that he is destined to become the best central defender in the world. Josko Gvardiol, with his mask, his bulk and his full beard, imposes his hierarchy on the Croatian defense as if he were a war veteran. And yet he is barely 20 years old. Josko broke his nose shortly before traveling to Qatar, in a game with Leipzig, and has been forced to wear that uncomfortable protection that contributes to giving him such a fierce appearance, from an old central defender. The big clubs in Europe have their eyes on him. He has played every minute, including overtime, and his defensive forcefulness unites plenty of quality to move the ball. Although Messi dribbled him for the championship, Brazilian strikers will have nightmares about his mask for months. Souttar defense (Australia, Stoke City, 24 years old) It was very easy to recognize Harry Souttar in the Australian defense. At nearly two meters tall, the pale blond Scotsman, born in Aberdeen, was the tallest footballer ever assembled in Qatar. Souttar decided to play with the shirt of his mother’s native country and his performance has been key for the socceroos breaking their own forecasts and qualifying for the round of 16. He plays in the English Second Division, although the Premier clubs have already set their sights on him. He not only promises defensive efficiency, but his height makes him an offensive argument of the first order in corner kicks. Defender Robinson (United States, Fulham, 25 years old) The United States was one of the teams that showed the most vibrant football during the first phase of the tournament. First, they canceled out England (0-0) and then unleashed an offensive gale in the match against Iran (2-0). In this jovial and carefree team, which plays at a gallop, much of the danger comes from the wings, with two brilliant full-backs: Sergiño Dest and Antonee Robinson. Robinson, on the left wing, showed mischief, speed and overflow. Related news Qatar 2022 standard Yes Deschamps’ contempt that threw Benzema out of the World Cup: “What a pity you have to leave” Rubén Cañizares Karim could have stayed in Doha perfectly, but the ironic tone of his coach showed him the exit door: it was less of a problem Midfielder Amrabat (Morocco, Fiorentina, 26 years old) A pivot of steel with unfathomable lungs through which all Moroccan football passes. Sofyan Amrabat, born in the Netherlands, exemplifies all the virtues that have made the Atlas Lions the most admired team in the World Cup. Abnegation, solidarity and maximum use of available resources. In Qatar he has shown off his defensive efficiency above all, but he also knows how to move the ball judiciously. Fiorentina bought him in 2020 for 20 million euros from Hellas Verona, although his value has skyrocketed with the World Cup. Klopp’s Liverpool drinks the winds for him. Midfielder Ounahi (Morocco, Angers, 22 years old) Luis Enrique has already learned what the Moroccan number eight is called and also where he came from. Azzedine Ounahi plays for Angers, a feisty team in the French First Division, but he may not even end the season there. His monumental physical display and his technical quality have not only seduced the former Spanish coach, but almost all the observers who are following the World Cup in Qatar. He keeps the ball close to his foot, secures passes and finds hidden holes in opposing defences. And he runs continuously. Against Spain he covered 14.7 kilometres. Midfielder Al Dawsari (Saudi Arabia, Al Hilal, 31 years old) Saudi Arabia shattered all odds when they beat Argentina in the first match of the group stage. It was the most shocking result of the championship and it was largely the fault of Salem Mohammad Al Dawsari, author of the second Saudi goal. One of the many of the championship. He picked up the ball on the edge of the area, outwitted two defenders, made a majestic cut and placed it with a touch of silk in Dibu Martínez’s squad. Al Dawasari played a league game with Villarreal, but his entire career has been spent in his native country. In Qatar, this veteran with a good footing, scorer of another goal against Mexico, led the Arab attack and caressed a surprising, and ultimately frustrated, qualification for the round of 16. Midfielder Enzo Fernández (Argentina, Benfica, 21 years old) Lionel Scaloni, the Argentine coach, had to change his plans on the fly. Saudi Arabia destroyed his initial idea and Scaloni looked to the bench in search of solutions. He found them in a 21-year-old boy, Enzo Jeremías Fernández, a native of San Martín and a Benfica footballer. Fernández, who acknowledges looking in the mirror of Frenkie de Jong, has become Messi’s best squire in midfield, where he has formed a well-matched duo with Rodrigo de Paul. Enzo, a player with good technique, a game distributor and a notable striker, came off the bench in the first two games for the Albiceleste and has managed to win ownership. A 5 in the best Argentine tradition, author of a great goal against Mexico. Forward Gonçalo Ramos (Portugal, Benfica, 21 years old) Gonçalo Ramos’ appearance in Qatar was unexpected, scintillating and brief. Condemned to live on the bench under the dictatorship of Cristiano Ronaldo, he only surfaced when the Portuguese star got angry with his coach, with the team and with the entire world. Fernando Santos decided to punish the starting seven and replaced him with this boy from the Algarve who had carved out a place for himself in the Benfica forward. His impact in the round of 16 game, against Switzerland, is difficult to exaggerate: he scored the only hat trick of the championship and showed himself to be a thriving striker, with the capacity for combinative play and great aim. His performance was not so brilliant against Morocco’s stifling defense, but he had already left an indelible mark on the championship. Forward Gakpo (Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven, 23 years old) The Netherlands’ attacking force has rested at the feet of Cody Gakpo, a winger who had already demonstrated his scoring nose in the Dutch league. He has confirmed it in the World Cup, with a brilliant performance in the group stage, facilitating the classification of Van Gaal’s team thanks to his three goals. He also scored them in different ways: with his head (Senegal), with his right leg (Qatar) and with his left leg (Ecuador). His next destination may be at Manchester United, which sees him take over from Cristiano Ronaldo, although there are more interested bell clubs.



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