The ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar is turning out to be one of the most competitive editions in the tournament’s history, with both upset victories and memorable moments of individual brilliance.
While football is a team sport, there are instances where an individual’s contribution to the team’s win overshadows the effort put in by the rest of the team members.
To reward such performances and make individual players stand out, FIFA instituted the Man of the Match awards for all games at the World Cup in 2002.
The winners were chosen by a technical committee in the first two tournaments, but the award is now given after an online poll conducted by FIFA on its website with the fans deciding the winner of the award.
Here are five players with the most Man of the Match awards in FIFA World Cups.
#5: Kylian Mbappe – 4
After helping his side to the world championship in 2018, Kylian Mbappe has once again been the main man for defending champions France in the current World Cup.
He claimed his first Man of the Match award when he scored France’s sole goal in their game against Peru in the group stages.
The young sensation then scored twice in France’s game against Argentina to bag his second Man of the Match award at a World Cup, becoming the first teenager since Pele to score twice at a World Cup. For his brilliant performance throughout the tournament, he received the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player award.
Kylian Mbappe has scored thrice in three games in the current World Cup, leading the Golden Boot race alongside Marcus Rashford and Alvaro Morata. France were thus able to become the first team to qualify for the knockout stages, and the Man of the Match award in both games went to the 23-year-old.
#4: Luis Suarez – 5
Uruguay are going through a miserable run at the FIFA World Cup 2022 so far, with the South American side failing to find the back of the net even once in two games.
Once a dominant team in world football, Uruguay’s fortunes in recent years have often been down to one man – Luis Suarez.
The former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid striker is regarded as one of the finest players of this generation, scoring over 500 goals during his long career.
El Pistolero, as he is fondly called by his fans, has scored seven times and provided four assists in World Cups across three editions – 2010, 2014 and 2018 – winning five Man of the Match awards in the process.
While controversies surrounding his behaviour often overshadow his brilliance, Uruguay’s hopes of advancing past the group stages in Qatar rest firmly on Luis Suarez’s shoulders.
#3: Arjen Robben – 6
With six Man of the Match awards to his credit, Arjen Robben was at the top of this list before both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi cruised past him in the ongoing tournament.
The Dutch winger was regarded as one of the finest wingers to ever play the game and played a crucial part in making the Netherlands one of the most feared teams in world football during the late 2000s.
Arjen Robben has scored 37 goals for the Netherlands in his long career. He scored six goals and provided six assists across 15 games across three World Cups, taking his side to the finals of the 2010 World Cup. The former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich star was nominated for the Golden Ball award twice, in both 2010 and 2014.
#2: Cristiano Ronaldo – 7
The top goalscorer in the history of the tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo shares the top spot in this list with Lionel Messi.
Despite issues with his professional career dominating the headlines for much of the season, Ronaldo was quick to get back to business once the World Cup was underway, opening the score for Portugal with a brilliant penalty against Ghana.
With that goal, Cristiano Ronaldo also became the only player to score at five different World Cups, starting in 2006. So far, Ronaldo has scored eight goals across all World Cup tournaments – just one goal away from matching Eusebio’s record of nine goals for Portugal.
The remarkable consistency of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star has propelled Portugal to the European Championship in 2016, and they will be hoping to clinch the World Cup trophy this year.
With plenty of action remaining for Portugal in the current World Cup, the 37-year-old needs to produce more Man of the Match-worthy performances if the Selecao are to lay their hands on the trophy.
#1: Lionel Messi – 7
Argentina had to fight their way through the group stages of the current World Cup after a shock loss to Saudi Arabia in their opener, but Lionel Scaloni’s side managed to comfortably advance to the knockout rounds.
That was in part thanks to Lionel Messi’s stunning goal against Mexico in a must-win game, for which he bagged his seventh Man of the Match award at the World Cups.
Lionel Messi now has eight goals to his name at World Cups, just two shy of Gabriel Batistuta’s record for Argentina.
His greatest performance came in the 2014 edition where he scored four goals and was awarded the Golden Ball award. His four Man of the Match awards in that World Cup is also the highest for any player in a single edition of the tournament.
Argentina, despite their initial slip-up, remain one of the favourites to win the FIFA World Cup 2022 alongside Portugal. One can thus expect both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to dominate the proceedings in Qatar, and add to their tally of Man of the Match awards.
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