The best defenders of the 2022 World Cup

Henry Burt
Was Josko Gvardiol the defender of the tournament?
Was Josko Gvardiol the defender of the tournament? / ANP/GettyImages
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With so few games in which to impress at a World Cup, it's often the goalscorers who grab the headlines and acclaim.

But every great team is built on strong foundations, and no team progresses very far in this competition without good defenders doing their job consistently.

There were some outstanding defensive displays in Qatar this year - but who were the best defenders of all? Let's take a look.


5. Harry Souttar

Harry Souttar
Souttar stood out for the Socceroos / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

The only player on this list proven to be able to do it on a wet, windy night in Stoke, even Harry Souttar himself wouldn't have expected to make this list a month ago.

He might only be a Championship player at club level, but the 24-year-old played out of his skin in Qatar. At 6 feet and 6 inches tall, Souttar absolutely bullied attacking players and was undoubtedly his side's player of the tournament.

4. Raphael Varane

Raphael Varane
Varane has been central to France's success / Visionhaus/GettyImages

At one point, it looked as though Raphael Varane would miss this World Cup entirely. Now, it's impossible to imagine this one without him.

The Manchester United man was utterly imperious alongside Dayot Upamecano for France, helping Les Bleus reach the final without conceding an open-play goal in the knockout phase until meeting Argentina.

3. Cristian Romero

Cristian Romero
Ice in his veins / Richard Sellers/GettyImages

The modern centre-back needs to possess a lot of skills, from reading the game to strong ball control. Above all, though, it helps if you're a literal psychopath. Enter Cristian Romero.

The Spurs defender played this World Cup with the frantic, take-no-prisoners energy of a man with three months to live, reportedly telling club teammate Harry Kane that he would 'smash him' if Argentina met England in the competition. We're glad it didn't come to that - but a moment of silence for Romero's other victims would be nice.

2. Roman Saiss

Romain Saiss
Saiss was an unlikely hero for Morocco / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Morocco's run to the World Cup semi-finals was defined by hard graft and a shared desire to give everything for the cause. No player encapsulated that mentality better than Roman Saiss.

The former Wolves man gave everything for his country - even starting against France when he was quite clearly injured. Maybe the Atlas Lions were too sentimental in letting Saiss play through an injury, but you can't deny the commitment to the cause.

1. Josko Gvardiol

Josko Gvardiol
Gvardiol was one of the star players in Qatar / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

Learning that Josko Gvardiol is only 20 years old is one of those facts that makes you question everything you know.

Not only is he built like a brick outhouse, with a beard that many men in their thirties couldn't grow, but he's also the most wonderfully composed and skilled defenders you could ever wish to see.

Croatia were very impressive on their run to the semi-finals, but Gvardiol was arguably their best player of all.

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