ALVISE CAGNAZZO: The Serie A stars to dazzle and flop at the World Cup

ALVISE CAGNAZZO: Giroud shows no signs of slowing down, Rabiot has been a surprise package while Szczesny kept Poland afloat – but it’s been a disaster for Lukaku, Dybala and Onana… The Serie A stars to dazzle and flop at the World Cup

  • There are 65 Serie A players participating in the 2022 World Cup held in Qatar 
  • A number of stars from the Italian top-flight have impressed at the tournament
  • But several Serie A players have failed on the grandest stage in the Middle East
  • Below, Sportsmail’s Alvise Cagnazzo looks at who’s dazzled and who’s flopped 
  • France’s Olivier Giroud has done well; it was disaster for Belgian Romelu Lukaku
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

There are 65 players from Serie A participating in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

As many as 21 of the 32 teams to begin the competition boasting at least one player from the Italian divisions – most from the top flight but one (Morocco’s Walid Cheddira) playing in the second-tier Serie B for Luigi De Laurentiis’ Bari.

So how are they getting on at the tournament? Olivier Giroud has showed no signs of slowing down, Adrien Rabiot has been a surprise package and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has kept Poland afloat.

But it’s been a disastrous tournament for Romelu Lukaku, Cameron stopper Andre Onana and Argentina forward Paulo Dybala.  

Below, Sportsmail‘s Alvise Cagnazzo runs the rule over the Serie A stars to dazzle on the biggest stage, and the flops who will have a point to prove when the league returns to action in late December.

There have been plenty of thrills and spills from the 65 Serie A players at the Qatar World Cup

Below, Sportsmail’s Alvise Cagnazzo runs the rule over the Serie A stars to dazzle on the biggest stage, and the flops who will have a point to prove when the league returns to action


Record-breaking goalkeeper Szczesny – 8/10

The Juventus goalkeeper has put 18 months of ups and downs behind him with an exceptional showing at the World Cup which showcased his outstanding penalty-saving ability.

Stopping Lionel Messi’s spot-kick against Argentina helped the former Arsenal stopper enter the Guinness World Record books, becoming just the third goalkeeper to save two penalties (not including shoot-outs) at a single World Cup tournament.

Before him, American Brad Friedel did the same at the 2002 edition in South Korea and Japan, while compatriot Jan Tomaszewski also pulled off the feat in Germany back in 1974. 

Record-breaking Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny brilliantly saved a Leo Messi penalty

He was certainly Poland’s best player in Qatar until their elimination, even surpassing star striker, Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski.

Despite his excellent performances, his Juventus future is uncertain, with his hefty £100,000-a-week contract weighing heavily on a team trying to reduce their wage budget and buy a younger, cheaper goalkeeper.

Atalanta’s Marco Carnesecchi, 22, or Empoli’s Guglielmo Vicario, 26, could be his heirs in Turin but his excellent showings in Qatar have increased doubts about his future.

Untamable Lion Amrabat – 9/10

Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat is the surprise package of the World Cup. No one would ever have imagined Morocco’s rip-roaring ride to the quarter-finals and Amrabat is a key cog in the historic progress of the African side.

Already admired by top clubs in Italy, the 26-year-old has written a very important page in his country’s history in reaching their first ever quarter-final at the tournament, and is the leader of the national team’s midfield. 

Morocco star Sofyan Amrabat (left) could be set for a big move after impressing in midfield

Against Spain the star produced a superb performance, the best of his career, working as a dam in front of the defence and neutralising Luis Enrique’s talented Spanish attackers.

His value is soaring and to buy him today, an interested club could have to pay £35million, including add-ons. Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus are watching him closely. 

Crazy horse Rabiot – 10/10

France’s crazy horse runs like a train and is as strong as a bear. As he freely admitted in a press conference, Rabiot is experiencing the best form of an up-and-down career. 

A few months after rejecting the advances of Manchester United this summer, the midfielder is one of France’s best players, along with Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe. 

Injuries to key midfielders N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, starters in the World Cup win in 2018, are now forgotten.

Adrien Rabiot is France’s ‘crazy horse’ and has been one of the best players for Les Bleus

Rabiot has given manager Didier Deschamps a midfield which has not been so clean and tidy since Emmanuel Petit played. 

Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri has improved his off-ball pressing behind the attackers, with Italian football guaranteeing a greater understanding of tactics he would not have learned anywhere else in Europe.

If France retain their title, all the credit should go to him for his hard work in overcoming the torrent of criticism he has received for poor performances in the last three years. 

The ‘French Benjamin Button’ Giroud  – 10/10

Olivier Giroud is 36 years old but plays with the light-heartedness of a barely 18-year-old boy who is discovering the beauty and charm of being a key player in the latter stages of the World Cup. 

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema’s injury has paved the way for the AC Milan forward to shine, and Giroud is exceeding all expectations by striking up a perfect understanding with forward Kylian Mbappe. 

Evergreen striker Olivier Giroud, 36, is the French Benjamin Button and is still performing well

It’s three appearances, three goals in Qatar for the striker, who will discuss renewing his contract with the Rossoneri in January, potentially for a further two years.

He will be Milan’s heir to fellow veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic and, after surpassing Thierry Henry as France’s record goalscorer of all time, will probably aim to be part of the side at the European Championship in 2024 as well. 

Moroccan gold mine Cheddira – 7/10

Although not a starter for Morocco, Walid Cheddira is an important part of the squad.

From Serie B to the pinnacle of world football, thanks to a brilliant start to the season with second-tier Bari. Now all of Serie A wants to buy him. Currently he would cost around £17m, more than 20 times what he was worth this summer.

The 24-year-old striker was born in Loreto, a small town in Ancona province, and has a dual nationality which lets him be considered as a home-grown player. His record this season: 12 games, nine goals (the top scorer), four assists, one yellow card.

And Morocco striker Walid Cheddira (pictured) is now wanted by every club in the top-flight

He is a top player and can be a key man in the top-flight next season despite his mediocre past. Until two years ago he was helping out in a Catholic church, and in summer 2020 he was playing in football tournaments with his parish.

No one could have imagined such a bright future for Cheddira but he has surpassed all predictions and made himself an important cog in Morocco’s machine.


Wooden-feet Lukaku – 4/10

World-class or just average? The imposing Belgian striker is unrecognisable from the hotshot at Inter Milan two seasons ago and his four amazing misses in the group stage match against Croatia have condemned his side to a disastrous elimination.

Admittedly, he did not arrive in Qatar in the best physical shape shortly after returning from an injury absence, but his record of picking up knocks this season is a concern.

Lukaku was without doubt the worst Serie A representative at the Qatar World Cup and this could affect Inter’s decision on retaining him next season. 

But Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku has endured a disastrous tournament in a group-stage exit

Just a few minutes on the field against Morocco and four chances missed against Croatia is his worst ever moment with the Belgian national team.

Many now feel his physical condition after the brilliant years under Antonio Conte has now worsened to the point of threatening his effectiveness. Then-Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel was probably right to want to get rid of him.

Inter are continuing to monitor the situation and hope his durability does not worsen in the break after the tournament. At Euro 2024, Lukaku will be 32, at the next World Cup he will be 34 and perhaps failure in Qatar will be his last major tournament.

Ugly ducking Dybala – 0/10

‘The Jewel’ will probably end his career forever being the ‘nearly man’ of Argentine football. He has promised much but delivered little in the decisive moments. 

Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni has not put him on the pitch yet in Qatar, an extreme rejection which confirms he is back-up only to the untouchable superstar Lionel Messi. 

Continuous physical problems, a lack of consistency and being let go by Juventus this summer seems to have weighed down his recent performances. 

Paulo Dybala is an ugly duckling that has failed to blossom into a splendid swan for Argentina

The ugly duckling has failed to blossom into a splendid swan and, at almost 30, his highly technical style of play is often useless in modern, fast-paced football, in which physical strength is necessary.

Dybala is a reserve and will probably remain so until Messi’s retirement. Even if he replaces the PSG forward, he needs to avoid serious muscle injuries in future because comparisons with his predecessor could worsen his performances.

Belgium disappointment De Ketelaere – 2/10

Signing Charles De Ketelaere was maybe the biggest mis-step for AC Milan in the transfer market and the attacking midfielder looks like he will crumple in on himself and fall out of contention for Belgium.

The Rossoneri player only confirmed his lack of concentration in his country’s disappointing exit and took to the field far too casually when what was needed was a fight.

His technical and tactical horror show has betrayed the trust of all of Belgium and will see him return to the San Siro torn apart by pain and frustration. From September to December, he has only experienced disappointments.

After club chief Paolo Maldini sanctioned a £30m spend on him this summer, De Ketelaere constantly gives the impression he is incapable of playing on the biggest stage and it will take a lot to recover his confidence. 

Signing Charles De Ketelaere was the biggest mis-step for AC Milan in the transfer market

Scarily controversial Onana – 4/10

Onana is an excellent goalkeeper but his character and personality are not yet worthy of a top club. Cameroon’s adventure ended in the group stage after Onana was sensationally excluded after an argument with team manager Rigobert Song. 

The African national team was unable to count on its starting goalkeeper, who was left out for disciplinary reasons – which had become clear while he was at Ajax.

Despite being loved and respected by important national figure Samuel Eto’o, he wanted to interpret his goalkeeping role in a more ‘modern’ way, clashing with the more traditional view of his coach.

The disappointment of Cameroon’s elimination is added to by the impulsive behaviour of the stopper, who fans and the African Federation will find it hard to forgive. 

Inter hoped to get the goalkeeper back feeling good due to the progress of his national team and instead will have to manage his bad moods. 

Inter Milan will have to manage goalkeeper Andre Onana’s bad mood after Cameroon’s exit

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