A lot of attention has been allotted to Lionel Messi and how this World Cup could likely be his last one, even before the tournament had kicked off last month.
Argentina and Messi have since shrugged off a scratchy start, a shocking 1-2 defeat to Saudi Arabia, and are now just two games away from emulating Diego Maradona’s and Mario Kempes’ sides from the past.
Rightfully, it has been Messi who has, almost single-handedly, driven the South American side into the last four. Out of the nine goals Argentina has scored in the tournament, six of them have either been scored or assisted by the PSG man.
Messi has dominated the numbers, not just for his team. No player has taken more shots or created more chances for his teammates at Qatar 2022 than the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.
He has succeeded to do this despite the fact that he has been the obvious target of opponents, which has also resulted him being fouled 19 times, the highest in the tournament, so far.
The French Dispatch
The only players to match the lofty standards set by Messi are not so surprisingly French - Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.
In Mbappe, France has an elite forward, who isn’t shy to trigger, with 22 shots, which puts him right behind his PSG teammate Messi.
He is leading the golden boot race with five goals and looks set to obliterate many a World Cup record.
Griezmann has worn many hats for France throughout his illustrious international career. From a rapid left winger to a free-scoring false-9 and now to an all-purpose midfielder who pulls the strings, the Atletico Madrid man has transformed himself multiple times.
In Qatar 2022, he is tied at the top for key passes with Messi at 16, and created both of France’s goals against England in the quarterfinals as he became his side’s leading assist provider of all time.
Griezmann’s withdrawn role has resulted in him taking fewer shots at goal (6), but this has enabled Mbappe and Olivier Giroud to thrive upfront.
The French success at Qatar has also been aided by the creative prowess of Ousmane Dembele and Theo Hernandez, with the latter being the most attack-minded defender in the tournament with 11 chances created from the left flank.
It is common knowledge that the probability of goal scoring rises along with an increased volume of shots.
But a few players have shown remarkable efficiency with which they have found the back of the net. The most prominent of them has been Cody Gakpo of Netherlands, who scored thrice from a mere three shots on target (total of five shots)
Goncalo Ramos of Portugal and Bukayo Saka of England are next among the lot with three goals from seven shots.
Brazil’s Richarlison and Spain’s Alvaro Morata managed to score thrice from just eight shots at goal.
Germany’s under-performing forwards
German players, despite the fact that their side exited in the group stage, are a prominent presence in the attacking chart.
Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry and Joshua Kimmich all feature in and among the best attacking players of the tournament, which explains Germany’s expected goals (as calculated by Opta) tally of 10.1, which is still the second best in the tournament, behind Argentina.
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ALL STATS VALID BEFORE ARGENTINA VS CROATIA SEMIFINAL
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