Sports fans all across the world united this December to watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup tournament held in Doha, Qatar. For many fans it felt like this year’s tournament was full of extraordinary highs and surprising new records, as new countries emerged as top contenders, and beloved players had their final send off. FIFA President Gianni Infantino introduced the tournament as the best World Cup tournament in history, and this year, it seemed that nearly 4 billion spectators agreed.
Before The First Kick
Planning for the 2022 World Cup got off to a shaky start, facing controversy, protests, and backlash as soon as Qatar was announced as the host country. Attendees became concerned over the practicality of hosting a global event in a country that upholds strict laws, which includes a ban on alcohol, as well as the issue of moving the event to the fall season due to Qatar’s extreme heat in the summer months.
The World Cup, which takes place every four years, kicked off on November 20th with a match between host country Qatar and Ecuador, which ended in a score of 0-2 respectively. From early on in the tournament, teams faced shocking upsets, such as Argentina’s surprising loss to Saudi Arabia on day three, who won 2-1.
The first two games played by Team United States came as a shock for fans when game one ended in a 1-1 score against Wales, followed by a 0-0 draw against England on day six. This was a big win for the United States, who did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup but made it through the knockout stage of the games in 2022.
This year’s series of matches lacked many of the European names most football fans are familiar with including Italy, which didn’t even qualify to complete, Portugal, Spain, and Germany, who had an early exit, and fan favorite Belgium, who did not make it out of the group play round. While Europe may not have been shining its brightest this year, it allowed the spotlight to shine on a new continent: Africa.
Moments To Remember
Morocco made World Cup history by becoming the first ever African and predominantly Arab nation to advance into the semifinals! Morocco gained the fanbase of the entire content and Arab world, including those from the host country Qatar, until their final game in the semifinals against France. This accomplishment is even more significant when you realize that out of 88 World Cup semi-finalists , 85 have been from European or South American countries.
Qatar’s World Cup will also go down in history for being the first to use female referees at a men’s tournament! There were a total of six women officiating the games, including American Kathryn Nesbitt, and an entirely female crew that officiated the match between Germany and Costa Rica!
During the tournament, American sports fans mourned the death of famed sports journalist Grant Wahl, who collapsed during the match between Argentina and the Netherlands. Wahl had covered a total of 11 World Cups throughout his career, including six mens and five women’s. Football fans and the sports journalist communities poured out their love and support to the late legend, and his contributions to his field.
There were many feel good moments shared throughout the tournament, such as the viral photo of Team Japan’s locker room after their loss to Germany, which they left impeccably clean! Another viral moment for Japan came when an eight-year-old otter named Taiyo, who lives at the Maxell Aqua Park Shinagawa, accurately predicted the team's loss.
While allegiances often lie within their countries and home teams, many eyes remain on key players, like Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi. News outlets called the 2022 World Cup the “Last Dance” for two of the world’s most famous football players, who are now in their mid to late-30’s and could possibly retire after this year’s games. Ronaldo fans were surprised to see that their favorite player was not on the starting lineup for several of Portugal’s matches, but despite this, he was able to secure the record of the first male player to score a goal at five separate World Cups.
It is safe to say that Messi fans were more than satisfied with his final performance on the field! After a shocking 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia, Messi spoke directly to his fans, stating “my message to the supporters is to have faith. We won't leave them stranded." Messi’s message was received loud and clear, as Argentina advanced to play against France in the 2022 World Cup Final.
At the game’s halftime, Argentina held a strong position of 2-0, but France’s Kylian Mbappe, who is a current teammate of Messi’s on Paris Saint-German , was in the pursuit of his own world record, becoming only the second man in World Cup final history to score a hat-trick, or three consecutive goals for his team. In the end, during a penalty shootout, Messi scored the final and winning goal, securing Argentina’s spot as the 2022 World Cup Champion.
Cheers and celebration erupted across cities all over the world, as Messi secured his first World Cup title, and his legacy as the best footballer in the world.
The next World Cup in 2026 is set to take place in 16 separate cities across three North American countries; the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Canada will host games in Toronto and Vancouver; Mexico will hold matches in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City; while the United States will host the majority of the games across the following cities: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle!