Despite a slew of controversies off the field, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will go down as one of the most entertaining and memorable editions in the tournament’s history. From astonishing upsets to last gasp nailbiters, from brazen skills to flamboyant celebrations, Qatar’s World Cup had it all.
Argentina would ultimately emerge victorious, winning the nation’s third World Cup title. Lionel Messi finally captured the trophy he has so long craved and so long deserved. Led by Messi’s captivating brilliance, which was rewarded with the Golden Ball award for player of the tournament, Argentina dominated their opponents and deservedly came away as World Champions.
In a tournament filled to the brim with highlight reel goals, dramatic results and showstopping moments, we’ve managed to round up 11 of the best that will go down in history. This is what we’ll remember when we look back on this remarkable World Cup.
Saudi Arabia Shocks The World
The 2022 FIFA World Cup started off with a bang. On only the third day of the tournament we witnessed one of the biggest ever World Cup upsets. Saudi Arabia weren’t highly touted heading into Qatar but pulled off a shocking win against star-studded Argentina.
A Lionel Messi penalty gave Argentina an early lead but with two goals in quick succession, the Saudi’s found themselves leading one of football’s top teams. Saudi Arabia’s stout defence held out an Argentinian attacking barrage, ending Argentina’s 36 game undefeated streak and giving the Saudi’s only their fourth ever win at the World Cup.
The victory was received with jubilation by Saudi Arabian fans both in Qatar and at home. The nation declared a public holiday the day after the match. It was even reported that the Saudi Arabian players would be rewarded for their efforts with a Rolls-Royce Phantom, but that turned out to not be true. Regardless, this early upset set the tone for what would be a dramatic tournament.
Brazil Put On A Show
Entering the World Cup ranked number one in the world and as favourites to lift the trophy, expectations were high for Brazil. The South American giants did not disappoint. With their usual flair and style, the Brazilian’s opened their campaign with a 2-0 win over Serbia, which included perhaps the goal of the tournament from Richarlison.
Subsequent dominant victories against Switzerland and South Korea allowed plenty of opportunities for flamboyant dances and raucous celebrations amongst the nation’s fans. Brazil’s campaign ended short of its ultimate goal, but the Brazilian’s left their mark on the tournament through their sheer entertainment factor.
Madness In Group E
A group that pitted footballing titans Spain and Germany against star-laden upstarts Japan and Costa Rica was always going to be entertaining, but not many would have predicted the number of shocking results this group would produce. On matchday one, Japan pulled off a massive 2-1 upset against Germany, while Spain demolished Costa Rica in a record-breaking 7-0 win. Just a few days later Costa Rica bounced back with a 1-0 win against an overconfident Japan.
Heading into the group’s final matchday, the results were anyone’s guess. Keeping with the theme of unpredictability, every team in the group was in a position to qualify for the round of 16 on matchday three. Japan and Spain would eventually advance, but not without proving to the world just how unpredictable football can be.
Socceroos Defy The Odds
Heading into the World Cup there were hopes that Australia might be able to win their first game on the world’s biggest stage in 12 years. Not only did the Socceroos do one better, defeating Tunisia and then Denmark in the group stage, they also progressed to the knockout stages for only the second time in the country’s history and the first time since 2006.
Taking on tournament favourites Argentina in the round of 16, led by the legendary Lionel Messi, the Socceroos had a heavy task ahead of them. Despite losing 2-1, the ‘roos performed valiantly and made the country proud. If a few chances had gone the Socceroos way, we might have seen them make an even deeper run.
Argentina And The Netherlands Battle It Out
The quarterfinal showdown between Argentina and the Netherlands would be many fans pick for the match of the tournament. The historical rivals met for the sixth time in their world cup history. Previously encountering each other in hot-tempered matches, including the 1978 final.
The matchup more than lived up to the hype. Argentina controlled the game for the first 70 minutes, taking a commanding 2-0 lead before a change in tactics flipped the game on its head. Substituting on the towering Luuk de Jong and Wout Weghorst, the Dutch switched the tempo. With Weghorst scoring two goals, the second of which was essentially the last kick of the ball in regular time, the Netherlands brought themselves back from the brink of elimination.
The comeback couldn’t be completed, with the match eventually being decided on penalties. Argentina claimed the victory with some uncharacteristic trash-talking from Lionel Messi. All in all 18 yellow cards were handed out to players and coaches during the fiery encounter, leaving fans in awe of a game that will go down in history.
Ronaldo’s Dramatic Farewell
Cristiano Ronaldo had a topsy-turvy tournament if there ever was one. Right up there with Messi in the greatest player of all time debate, Ronaldo had just as good of a chance to claim his first World Cup trophy but fell short of that goal in the quarterfinals.
Ronaldo became the first men’s player to score in five different World Cup’s in Portugal’s opening game against Ghana. He followed that performance up with a very near goal against Uruguay that became the subject of immeasurable memes on social media. With a cross from Bruno Fernandes missing Ronaldo’s head by mere millimetres before finding its way into the back of the net.
After an uninspiring final group stage match, Ronaldo was benched for Portugal’s round of 16 clash with Switzerland. His replacement would then score a hat-trick, cementing Ronaldo’s role as a substitute. Portugal would eventually bow out against Morocco, with a teary-eyed Ronaldo leaving the pitch for the final time in his legendary World Cup career.
Croatia Does It Again
After defying the odds to reach the final of the 2018 World Cup, Croatia, a nation of only four million people, made another incredible run on the world’s biggest stage. After an impressive group stage, which included a finish above Belgium, the third-place team at the 2018 World Cup, Croatia made a reputation as penalty shootout specialists.
First dispatching Japan on penalties, Croatia proceeded to take down tournament favourites Brazil in a clinical shootout. Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the hero, providing save after save to keep his team in the game. Croatia was finally eliminated in the semi-finals, coming up short against a rampaging Argentinian team. But Croatia cemented its place as a rising powerhouse in football, a fitting send off for legendary midfielder Luka Modric
Morocco’s Magical Run
Morocco were the surprise team of the tournament in Qatar. The Atlas lions topped their group after impressive performances against Croatia and Canada, as well as a massive upset against a heavily favoured Belgian side. Morocco continue to pull off upset-after-upset, eliminating footballing powerhouses Spain and Portugal en route to the semi-finals.
Morocco captured the hearts of footballing fans across the globe. Representing the hopes of both Africa and the Arab-world, the Atlas Lions were not short on fans and support. The run couldn’t last however, the Moroccan’s were defeated by France 2-0 in the semi-finals after a commendable effort. Morocco became the first African nation to reach the semi-final’s and only the third nation outside of Europe and South America to do so, symbolising the growth of football outside of its traditional strongholds.
France would ultimately come up short in their quest to retain the World Cup trophy for the second consecutive occasion. Missing out on the chance to become the first nation to win the World Cup back-to-back since Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962. France came agonisingly close to glory, but superstar forward Kylian Mbappe proved he was one of the world’s best with a sublime tournament.
Mbappe bagged eight goals and two assists in Qatar, including all three of France’s goals in the final. The 23-year-old was rewarded for his goalscoring efforts with the Golden Boot, but his extreme output wasn’t enough for France to reign victorious. Despite falling short, Mbappe’s brilliance showed the world what he was truly capable of. Mbappe will be back, and with one of the youngest squads at the World Cup, so will France.
Argentina Reign Supreme
The stars aligned for Messi to finally win the World Cup. The 35-year-old played on another level throughout the tournament. Winning the Golden Ball award for best player, alongside his seven goals and three assists. Emiliano Martinez was the goalkeeper of the tournament, winning the Golden Glove, but the entire Argentinian squad stepped up to claim the nation’s third World Cup Trophy.
After falling flat in their first game in Qatar, a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia, Argentina bounced back in a big way. The South American’s knocked out Australia, The Netherlands and Croatia en route to the final, with Messi scoring in every knockout game. After snapping a 36-year drought with their World Cup victory, expect the streets of Argentina to be raucous for the next few days, or even longer.
With Messi winning the World Cup, perhaps the debate over the greatest player of all time between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is finally settled. A massive boon for his legacy, Messi’s World Cup campaign will go down in history as one of the best ever. It’s certainly one we’ll all remember.
When you think of this tournament’s best moments, on field drama is probably first to come to mind. But off-field matters are just as memorable. It’s the fans that make the World Cup so special and this edition was no different.
This World Cup was the first to be hosted in the Arab-world, opening up the tournament to a whole new group of fans who were keen to make their support known. The banning of the sale of alcohol within stadiums also brought about a distinct change that had many initially worried, but ultimately unbothered.
Japanese fans went viral early in the tournament for their habit of cleaning stadiums after matches. The practice caught on and fans began making an effort to clean up after themselves. All of Morocco got behind their national team, the government even subsidised 30 special flights to Qatar to get as many fans as possible at the tournament. While English fans adjusted well to Middle Eastern culture, with some even finding themselves partying in a Qatari Sheikh’s palace.
These are only a few instances amongst many where the fans proved to be the highlight of the World Cup. The tournament will go down as one of the best, with memorable stories passing down through generations.