FIFA World Cup 2022 — a review: Celebrations, tears and unusual stars — Qatar 2022

Published December 24, 2022
Lionel Messi, with teammates, lifts the FIFA World Cup Trophy
Lionel Messi, with teammates, lifts the FIFA World Cup Trophy

After one of the most spectacular finals to be witnessed in recent times, the FIFA World Cup 2022 came to an end in Qatar. Argentina defeated France in an epic final, in a penalty shootout last week, winning the title for the third time and reclaiming it after a gap of 36 years. Captain Lionel Messi got the trophy he desired, deserved and earned, besides another award, the Golden Ball, which no one has won twice, except him.

Being the second FIFA World Cup to be held in Asia, and the first in the Middle East, Qatar announced itself to the world. The way the event was managed by the energy-rich Gulf state was praised by visitors and teams, as well as experts.

Despite the negative reports in the media outlets of countries that were hoping to host the event, the success of organising the FIFA World Cup has given the Qatari authorities the courage to even bid for the Olympic Games, to be held in 2036.

Neymar crying at the end of the knock out stage
Neymar crying at the end of the knock out stage

The day when Argentina dethroned Europe!

No non-European team has been able to win the World Cup since Brazil’s win in 2002, but Argentina took it upon itself to end the reign of Europe by winning the trophy, bringing an end to the sequence that featured Italy (2006), Spain (2010), Germany (2014) and France (2018).

The final between Argentina and France was the battle of the giants, since both were searching for their third title. Argentina won the coveted trophy in 1978 and 1986, while France as recently as 1998 and 2018.

With Messi battling Mbappe for the highest goal scorer’s place, the match became the most-watched football match in history with over 20 million viewers. It was a dream final where two two-time winners were fighting for the title.

Argentina was leading the match with two goals in the first half, but France’s Mbappe somehow regained his composure and scored two goals in two minutes to level the match, that went into extra time, where French Club colleagues Mbappe and Messi scored one goal each to take the game to a penalty shootout.

Argentina showed their superiority in the penalty shootouts and won the game after two French players failed to send the ball into the goal. While Mbappe became the first player in World Cup history to score a hat-trick in the final since Geoff Hurst of England, in 1996, Messi managed to score two goals in the big match and ended up taking the trophy.

Fernandez, Messi, Martinez and Mbappe with their respective awards
Fernandez, Messi, Martinez and Mbappe with their respective awards

Messi got the Golden Ball, again!

Although the best players from around the world came together in Qatar for the mega event, the tournament belonged to just one man — Lionel Messi.

The 35-year-old Argentine had the best World Cup so far, netting the ball twice in the final. He managed to score seven goals in seven matches, plus a handful of assists that resulted in crucial goals, and ended up with 13 goals in five World Cups, which is just three short of the all-time record holder Klose of Germany.

After scoring on a penalty in the quarter-final match against The Netherlands, he became the only player in history to have scored in every group stage of the FIFA World Cup; be it qualifiers, opening round, knockout stage, quarter-finals, semi-finals, or the final. Messi just didn’t stop there, as he continued to feed his fellow footballers throughout the tournament and if he was removed from the equation, Argentina wouldn’t have been able to go through the first round.

Cristiano Ronaldo in tears after the semi-final loss
Cristiano Ronaldo in tears after the semi-final loss

A tournament to forget for Cristiano Ronaldo

However, Messi’s biggest rival for the post of Greatest of All Time (GOAT) succumbed to his own fame before the tournament. What began with an explosive pre-tournament interview, Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was not much of an attraction. He did score on a penalty against Ghana in the first round, becoming the first man to score in five different World Cups, but that was the only good thing for him.

His tantrums continued, which even annoyed the coach, who had him substituted against South Korea and benched for games against Switzerland and Morocco. When Portugal lost to Morocco 0-1, Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup career came to an end and his tears were for real. He will not be able to emulate the Brazilian Ronaldo who was part of three consecutive finals for his county, winning two — one in 1994 as a non-playing member of the squad, and one in 2002.

Morocco made history as the first African and Arab-speaking country to reach the World Cup semi-finals
Morocco made history as the first African and Arab-speaking country to reach the World Cup semi-finals

Morocco made history!

Out of the 32 teams that participated in the tournament, Morocco turned out to be the underdogs since they became the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

After playing a goalless draw with Croatia in the group stage, they became giant killers and first took out second-ranked Belgium 2-0 in the group stage, defeated former champion Spain in the Round of 16, and then went past Portugal in the Quarter Finals, only to lose to the impressive French team in the semis, and later to Croatia in the third position playoff.

Morocco’s Sofiane Boufal with mother celebrates victory against Spain
Morocco’s Sofiane Boufal with mother celebrates victory against Spain

The mega event of upsets!

The Qatar 2022 World Cup certainly had its share of unexpected results, untimely injuries and unhappy exits. The tournament began without four-time winners Italy, who failed to qualify for the event. Hosts of the last World Cup, Russia, wasn’t allowed to participate due to their invasion of neighbouring country Ukraine, which made the tournament more interesting, as better teams qualified in their place.

As for injuries, France lost their ace player Karim Benzema before their first match and missed the tournament, while Brazil’s Neymar also got injured midway through the tournament. However, this time around he returned for the remaining matches, but since his team lost in the quarter finals, he just had two matches to show his prowess on the field.

The tournament began with one of the biggest upsets in recent years, minnows Saudi Arabia defeating eventual winners Argentina 1-2. After the unexpected victory, the Saudi King announced a one-day national holiday to celebrate the win, but after the match, Messi’s team came back and was on top of the group with back-to-back wins against Poland and Mexico.

France, the eventual runners-up, weren’t much different as they also lost to Tunisia 1-0 in the group stage, but it did not come as hard as Argentina’s loss, since they had already qualified for the next stage. In that match, they rested their main players while Tunisia had a full-strength squad, hence the upset.

Mbappé scored a hat-trick in the final
Mbappé scored a hat-trick in the final

Winners of the 2014 edition, Germany were placed in Group E, that also featured 2010 winners Spain alongside Japan and Costa Rica. However, after making fun of the laws in Qatar by covering their mouths, German players were unable to do the one simple thing expected from them — win the match against Japan who ended up beating the four-time winners 2-1, and followed that victory by repeating the same scorecard against 2010 winners Spain, which sent them to the top of their group, and Germany out of the event.

Belgium, the second seeded team of the tournament, was the biggest disappointment since they failed to go through to the next round while Morocco emerged as the top team. Croatia, also placed in Group F like Morocco and Belgium, ended up as the second-best team and managed to reach their second consecutive semi-final by qualifying for it.

Former hosts South Korea were a surprise inclusion to the knockout stage, as they beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in their final group match 2-1. Portugal, with a couple of prior wins, managed to reach the next round, but former two-time winners Uruguay were left out in the cold, despite finishing with the same number of points as Portugal.

Saudi Arabia jubilant after their World Cup win over Argentina
Saudi Arabia jubilant after their World Cup win over Argentina

When the going got tough …

The tournament entered its most interesting phase when 24 out of the 32 teams were knocked out in the first two rounds. With the quarter finals came the option of not settling for a draw, hence when the first two quarter finals were decided on penalty shootouts, it got everyone around the world involved.

Eventual winners Argentina emerged victorious against The Netherlands in the first quarter-final where, after the two teams drew 2-2, Argentina was declared winners on scoring more goals in the shootout. The second one between Croatia and Brazil ended at 1-1, before a lacklustre performance from the five-time champions Brazil ensured that Croatia reached the semi-finals.

The next day France beat England 2-1 in one of the most hyped matches of the quarter-finals stage, while Morocco’s win over Portugal came as a surprise, in the decider for the fourth team to play the last four. Argentina beat Croatia easily 3-0 in the first semi-final, while France ended Morocco’s dream run with a 2-0 win to set a date with Messi’s clan.

In the end, Argentina ended up winning the gold medal while France had to be content with the silver, while the winner of the third position playoff Croatia got their hands on the bronze medal.

Statistically, this World Cup was better in many ways; there were five penalty shootouts at this year’s event, while 172 goals were scored throughout the 64 matches, which is the most for any single edition in the history of the competition.

Actor Morgan Freeman and Qatari YouTuber Ghanim al Muftah take part in the opening ceremony
Actor Morgan Freeman and Qatari YouTuber Ghanim al Muftah take part in the opening ceremony

And the award goes to ...

And then there were the awards that were given to the most outstanding players of the tournament. France’s Kylian Mbappe, the man who scored as many as eight goals in seven matches during the World Cup got the Golden Boot award, while Argentinean trio of Lionel Messi, Enzo Fernandez and Emi Martinez received the Golden Ball, the Young Player Award and Golden Glove awards respectively.

Since its introduction in 1982, Lionel Messi became the first player to win the Golden Ball at two different World Cups. He had earlier won the trophy in 2014 when Argentina was defeated by Germany in the final, but here the trophy was given to him for winning the event.

Surprisingly, England won the Fair Play Trophy because they picked up only one booking until they lost in the quarter-finals. It is said that this World Cup would be the last one to feature 32 teams, since the next one in Canada, United States and Mexico is slated to host 48 teams.

However, the success of this event might make FIFA change their mind, because this event proved that the lesser the teams, the better the results.

Published in Dawn, Young World, December 24th, 2022

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