Whether it was FIFA World Cup qualifiers, UEFA Nations League points or simply national pride at stake, June’s international games provided plenty of drama. We witnessed incredible performances from the world’s biggest stars, including defensive masterclasses, dominant midfield displays and ruthless displays of offensive prowess. In this article, we select 4 of the best, with Memphis Depay, Ben Davies, Lionel Messi and Son Heung-min. With each of these stars expected to shine at the World Cup in Qatar, expect to see them in many other FIFA highlights in the coming months.
FIFA 22 Highlights #1: Memphis Depay (vs Belgium)
Going into their June 3 clash with Belgium, the Netherlands had not beaten their neighbors in 25 years. But thanks to a world-class advanced display from Memphis Depay, that unwanted record was put to bed – in some style. Depay scored 2 as the Dutch dispatched Roberto Martinez’s men 4-1 and his electric pace was a constant thorn in the side of Belgium’s three aging backs (Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Dedrick Boyata have a combined age of 99).
The Barcelona striker showed poacher’s instincts for both goals; for his first, he latched onto an incisive through ball from Daley Blind before powering between two defenders and carefully placing the ball in the back of the net. That made it 2-0 on the night after the explosive Steven Bergwijn opened the scoring with a rocket from 30 yards out. Depay’s second goal (the Oranje’s fourth) was again assisted by Blind; this time a looping header found its way to the forward in the box. He took it on his knee and coolly stole it past the keeper.
The Dutch are looking to make up for lost time at the World Cup in Qatar, after failing to qualify for 2 of their last 3 major tournaments. And they will be among the favorites in the competition, although their success will depend heavily on the form of the star man, Depay. Based on this display, Louis Van Gaal’s team will be a force.
FIFA 22 Highlights #2: Ben Davies (vs Ukraine)
Wales had to wait a long time to qualify for the World Cup. Before their 1-0 playoff win over Ukraine on June 5, the last time they made it to the final was in 1958. They did so this time thanks to Gareth Bale’s deflected free kick in the first half, some outstanding saves from goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy – and a defensive masterclass from Ben Davies.
The 29-year-old center-back has been in fine form for his club, Tottenham, from 2021-22. It was arguably his best season in North London – only five players logged more minutes as the club finished fourth in the English Premier League and, in the process, secured UEFA Champions League qualification. In his last 11 appearances, Spurs have won 8, drawn 2 and lost 1, conceding only 5 goals.
Against Ukraine, Davies continued this form, contributing 4 interceptions, 2 clearances and 2 vital blocks to deny Andriy Yarmolenko and Ruslan Malinovskyi. It was a nervous 90 minutes for the Wales fans, but thanks to their team’s reliable center back, they were able to celebrate at the final whistle.
FIFA 22 Highlights #3: Lionel Messi (vs Estonia)
If you’ve heard someone suggest that Lionel Messi is past his best, you might want to direct them to his highlight reel from this game.
Sure, there are tougher opponents in international soccer than Estonia. But after inspiring Argentina to a 3-0 victory over European champions Italy on June 1, Messi scored all the goals as the Albiceleste beat the Baltic nation 5-0 just four days later. The maestro opened the ball with a calm penalty after 8 minutes of play. On the stroke of halftime, Messi blasted another into the roof of the net from a tight angle. His third was a predatory finish, knocking away Nahuel Molina’s right wing cross with precision 2 minutes into the second half.
His fourth was arguably the pick of the bunch. Collecting a loose ball in the penalty area, the Paris Saint-Germain striker entered the box and produced an outrageous dummy to beat the Estonian goalkeeper and a defender before rolling the ball into an empty net. Then, when Pablo Dybala’s 76th-minute shot was saved by the goalkeeper, Messi reacted most quickly to bring the ball home.
Now fourth on the all-time international scoring list with 86, the Argentine genius still has a way to go to catch up with his great rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored an incredible 117 for Portugal. But if Messi were able to win this year’s World Cup, it would prove a more than adequate consolation. It is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.
FIFA 22 Highlights #4: Son Heung-min (vs Chile)
If ever there was a man for the big occasion, it’s Son Heung-min.
Not only has the Tottenham striker been in sensational form in the English Premier League this season (scoring 23 times to top the scoring charts alongside Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah), but he has also scored several vital goals against Spurs’ closest rivals, including the Reds, Manchester City. and Arsenal. In these games, the pressure was really high. On June 6, he played his 100th game for South Korea in a friendly against Chile. Of course, it’s natural for a star to want to score a landmark opportunity like that with a goal. But you often see players trying too hard, taking chances and usually getting a little carried away.
Not Son. In the 90th minute, he kept his head cool to convert a free kick from the edge of the box and celebrate his century of appearances in spectacular fashion. He also made headlines during the game for breaking up an altercation between Chilean teammates Benjamin Kuscevic and Paulo Díaz. What a guy! Surely a must-have in any World Cup fantasy team?
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