There was a lot of controversy surrounding the 2022 Qatar World Cup, and expectations were low for many football fans. After all, it took place during the middle of major European domestic leagues and was staged in the heat of the desert. But despite that, it recorded the highest number of goals ever seen at a World Cup and produced some spectacular and unforgettable moments.
It was a memorable tournament for all the right reasons.
Here are some of our favorite moments from World Cup 2022.
5. A Deep Run from Morocco
As any seasoned bettor would expect, people were backing big teams like Brazil, Argentina, England, and France with their outright bets. Few expected Morocco to go as far as they did. Yet, this North African nation outlasted Brazil, England, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Germany.
Morocco was in the same group as Croatia, Belgium, and Canada. The oddsmakers predicted that Belgium/Croatia would progress and Morocco/Canada would fight it out to avoid the wooden spoon. But Morocco defied the odds! Their team got one point against Croatia and then took all 3 against Belgium and Canada.
In the Round of 16, they took Spain to a penalty shootout and won. They followed up with a 1-0 win over Portugal.
During the group stage, many bettors backed Spain to go all the way. When Spain toppled, attention turned to Portugal. So, not only did Morocco beat two top teams, but they beat two top teams in excellent form and shook up the entire tournament.
In the process, Morocco became the first African and Arab team to advance to the semi-final of a World Cup. Unfortunately, the Atlas Lions lost in the semi-final (against France) and the third-place playoff (against Croatia). It was a memorable performance, nonetheless.
4. East Asian Brilliance
Morocco wasn’t the only team to claim a shock group win. Japan was in an equally tough position, with games against Costa Rica, Spain, and Germany. Despite the seemingly impossible challenge placed before them, the Japanese team beat both Spain and Germany to advance to the Round of 16.
Japan couldn’t progress beyond the first knockout game, but it was an epic performance that will be remembered fondly for years to come.
It was a similar story with South Korea, a team with a history of shock World Cup wins.
South Korea drew its first game and lost its second. When all hope seemed lost, they mustered a memorable victory against Portugal and advanced to the knockout stages. They met a very skilful and free-flowing Brazil in the Round of 16, so they didn’t progress further, but they still overcame the odds by advancing Ghana and Uruguay.
3. Saudi Arabia Beats the World Champions
There was a lot of excitement surrounding Argentina before the start of the Qatar World Cup. If you asked bettors for their predictions, most would have told you it was a toss-up between Brazil and Argentina.
After the first game, those bettors were 100% behind Brazil, as Argentina fell to a 2-1 shock defeat to Saudi Arabia. It happened on the third day of the competition, so in the context of everything that happened afterward, it’s undoubtedly the biggest shock of the 2022 World Cup.
Argentina seemed to be in total control during the first half. Messi opened the scoring from the penalty spot after 10 minutes, and they bagged several more goals, only to see all of them ruled out for offside. It looked like they could cut open the Saudi defense at will, and as the second half began, it seemed like it would be a matter of time before they expanded on their 1-0 lead.
But within just 8 minutes of second-half action, the blue and whites were 2-1 down. In the face of extreme odds and one of the best squads in the competition, Saudi Arabia held onto their lead.
If things had gone a different way, Saudi Arabia could have advanced to the Round of 16, and the eventual winners could have been sent home early. As it happens, the rest of the group played out as expected, with Argentina finishing top, Poland second, and Saudi Arabia bottom.
2. A World Cup Final to Remember
The 2022 World Cup final has been referred to as one of the greatest ever. The final match wasn’t explosive or entertaining for the duration, just for it to come to life in short spells toward the end of the game and then again in extra time.
But let’s be honest, the bar is set pretty low for the World Cup finals, and those 20 minutes of action far eclipse anything that has gone before.
World Cup finals are usually tentative and anxious affairs. If we do get goals, it’s often because one of the two teams cruises to victory.
2010 and 2014 were both settled by single extra-time goals. 2006 finished 1-1 and went to a penalty shootout. You have to go back to England vs. West Germany in 1966 for the last time a final had 6 or more goals.
This time, spectators were treated to an epic contest between Argentina and France. It was billed as Messi vs. Mbappé, living up to its billing. Mbappé was electric and bagged a hat-trick, including 2 goals in 2 minutes. Messi opened the scoring and then made it 3-2 late in extra time, only for Mbappé’s third to take the game to 3-3.
In the last kick of the game, France was millimeters from winning the whole thing and would have done so if not for a world-class save from Martinez. There were 6 goals, 8 yellow cards, 30 shots, and some moments that will never be forgotten. The icing on the cake came in the form of a penalty shootout, which ultimately decided the winner.
1. Messi Finally Wins the World Cup
2022 was Messi’s last World Cup—a last chance to get his hands on the most prestigious trophy of them all. It was also the tournament in which the old guard handed the reins to the new, with Messi ceding his status to Mbappé as the greatest football player.
As a result, we could not have asked for a better ending than an Argentina/France final that resulted in an Argentina win. We all got to see Messi lift the World Cup, and we still bore witness to the greatness of Mbappé in the process.
It doesn’t matter where you live, who you support, or even which side you favor in the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate—every true football fan can appreciate how special it was for Messi to finally lift the World Cup trophy.
He has been a great advocate for the game and deserves the “GOAT” (Greatest of all Time) moniker. He’s fast, slick, skillful, and unstoppable when he’s in form. He also excels under pressure and rarely fails to deliver, as we saw during this epic final contest.
It was a true Hollywood ending, capping off an unforgettable World Cup.
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