It goes without saying that in football, playmaking is just as important as goalscoring. Although it’s the goalscorers that walk away with the plaudits most of the time, players who create chances are just as important to teams.
Creating a chance or setting up your teammates to score has to rank right behind finding the back of the net for your side. Sometimes, the assist provider would have done the bulk of the work and all the striker would have needed to do was poke the ball into the net.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at five of the best assists at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
#5 Son Heung-min to Hwang Hee-chan (South Korea vs Portugal)
South Korea produced a brilliant comeback victory in their final group stage game against Portugal to book a berth in the round of 16. Ricardo Horta opened the scoring for Fernando Santos’ men in the fifth minute of the game before Kim Young-gwon restored parity in the 27th.
They desperately needed all three points and they didn’t secure the winner until the 91st minute. The ever-reliable Son Heung-min took the ball from inside his own half and ran almost 70 yards with it. Once he was near the opposition’s box, he raised his head and noticed Hwang Hee-chan’s run into the box.
Son waited for a split-second longer, attracting three defenders to him before playing an incisive through ball to the Wolverhampton Wanderers forward.
He produced a neat finish to win the game for his side. South Korea had just conjured up one of the greatest moments of the group stage. But it was all down to Son’s effort and presence of mind.
#4 Daley Blind to Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands vs USA)
The Netherlands dominated the United States for the greater part of their round of 16 encounter. Their full-backs were in full flow and Denzel Dumfries was the star of the show with two assists and a goal. Daley Blind did pretty well for himself too, scoring a goal and producing a peach of an assist.
After racing to a 2-0 lead, the Netherlands offered the USA a glimmer of hope by conceding a goal in the 76th minute. But they were quick to extinguish it too. Just a few minutes after the USA get their goal, Blind receives the ball deep on the left wing and is left unmarked. At this point, there are four USMNT players guarding the penalty area.
Unbeknownst to any of them but Blind, Dumfries is lurking on the far side. Blind takes a touch and whips the ball in to Dumfries with pin-point precision and the youngster comfortably slots it home to put the game to bed.
#3 Lionel Messi to Nahuel Molina (Argentina vs Netherlands)
Argentina were expected to have trouble trying to break down the dogged Netherlands defense in their quarter-final game. They did find it hard to find a breakthrough but that was until Messi decided to take things into his own hands. He received the ball not too far inside the Dutch half.
The 35-year-old then motored inwards, dragging Nathan Ake with him. As Messi darted inside, Argentine right-back Nahuel Molina made a run to the edge of the box. Messi did not even need to raise his head to take a look.
He nonchalantly released a no-look pass through the legs of Ake into Molina’s path and the full-back made no mistake as he buried the ball in the back of the net. Messi took out six players with that one pass.
#2 Vinicius Junior to Lucas Paqueta (Brazil vs South Korea)
Brazil absolutely demolished South Korea in the first-half of their round of 16 encounter. The Selecao put the ball in the Koreans’ net as many as four times inside the 36th minute and their fourth goal was a thing of beauty.
Brazil embarked on one of their sweeping counter attacks and it was a three-on-four situation as Neymar played the ball out to Vinicius on the left wing. The Real Madrid winger forayed into the box, took a half turn and slowed things down.
By that time, Richarlison and Raphinha were picked up by their markers, Neymar seemed to be running straight into traffic. That was when Lucas Paqueta made an entry into the scene with a late run into the box.
He called for it and Vinicius produced a spectacular lobbed pass right into his path and the midfielder booted into the bottom left corner in emphatic fashion.
#1 Lionel Messi to Julian Alvarez (Argentina vs Croatia)
Josko Gvardiol, the 20-year-old Croatian centre-back, has had a fantastic World Cup and is widely regarded as one of the best defenders of the tournament. Even he couldn’t come away unscathed from a battle with a 35-year-old Messi.
With the score at 2-0, Messi receives the ball on the right wing near the halfway line. Gvardiol comes out to challenge him but the seven-time Ballon d’Or gets the better of him and races away to the byline. But Gvardiol catches up with him and Messi can’t get the cross in.
No problem. He keeps hold of the ball and executes a turn before dropping his shoulder and sending Gvardiol the wrong way. He turns around again and this time, he manages to gain a yard on the young centre-back.
Messi then showcases an incredible amount of strength to hold him off as he make sinroads into the penalty area and then dislodges a pass through Gvardiol’s legs to find Alvarez. All the young striker needs to do is sweep it home and he does so with ease.