At a time when football needed a major face-lift, Qatar 2022 may have provided the sport with the perfect opportunity to remind everyone of why we fell in love with the game and what it’s always been about…
Written by Olugbenga Olonade
…. and here we are!!!
The climax of what would likely go down as one of the most memorable football tournaments in the history of the sport. Qatar 2022 has been fascinating to watch from the moment it was unveiled on the opening day when the hosts Qatar took on Ecuador, thus unravelling the plot to determine which country would be crowned champions of the world. The tournament did not fail to deliver, churning out ninety minutes – and sometimes 120 – of quality football and quickly creating a reputation of producing stimulating and nail-biting football games for the entire tournament.
Oh what a final! The perfect ending. The greatest World Cup final and possibly the most enjoyable football match ever played. It’s a football match that will be talked about several decades on and it’s all so poetic that the eventual champions had to be Argentina, in Lionel Messi’s final World Cup game, and in the first World Cup tournament since the passing of Diego Maradona; almost like it’s been written in the stars. Qatar 2022 broke the record for most goals in a World Cup tournament and may have possibly settled the never-ending GOAT debate….or maybe it hasn’t
Much had been said about Qatar and what they may or may not have done to secure the hosting rights for the grand event, a lot of concerns had been raised about the idea of hosting a FIFA World Cup tournament in the middle of the season and there was quite a lot of denunciation of the Arab nation’s human rights issues especially as it involved the treatment of foreign workers, but while all of those concerns were possibly genuine, valid and should be taken seriously, it almost seemed as if everyone had forgotten about the most important element which is basically the essential reason why people from all over the world would have – and have – gathered to witness the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup – The Football.
Qatar 2022 will be remembered for many things but from a pure footballing perspective, the tournament will be remembered most for the number of upsets that it witnessed. This World Cup started producing suspense and shock results from the group stages. Germany’s Mannschaft, Belgium’s Red Devils, Denmark, Uruguay, and Mexico all made up the tournament’s first group of high level casualties with Germany, Belgium and the South American nation’s ouster particularly surprising because they happened in spectacular fashion. But of course, having so many upsets in one tournament was always going to have its own downside and this one came in form of the prevention of what may have been the most epic semifinal match-ups in football’s recent history, a chance to see Argentina against Brazil, Messi against Neymar and of course Portugal against France, Ronaldo against Mbappe; an idol/protege or role model/follower face-off of some sort.
While some nations probably continue to regret what turned out to be a disappointing tournament for them by any yardstick, it certainly wasn’t the case for some other nations who would likely look back at Qatar 2022 and feel some form of satisfaction for what they were able to achieve over the past month. Japan, South Korea and Morocco all qualified from their groups against the odds with the Atlas Lions reaching the semi finals thus, becoming the first African nation to achieve such feat while Poland’s qualification at the expense of Mexico somewhat describes the entire theme of the tournament in three words – “anything can happen!“.
Now, let’s assume that you’ve got the most skeptical of minds and still need some convincing on Qatar 2022’s magnificence, then you’d only need to take a trip through a not-so-distant memory lane to recall some of the tournament’s greatest moments; Herve Renard’s masterclass against Argentina probably got you asking yourself “what the hell is going on?” while everyone probably had one or two jaw-dropping moments when it seemed like Spain and Germany were both heading for a first round exit, and how about the Netherlands’ fight back from 2-nil down against Argentina in the quarterfinal and the drama that ensued? I bet you also remember Richarlison’s spectacular goal in Brazil’s opener, Goncalo Ramos’ show-stopping display in the round of 16, Dominik Livakovic’s goalkeeping masterclass that sent Brazil packing, Antoine Griezmann’s “Kante-like” performance to help the Les Blues reach consecutive World Cup finals, and of course, the Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe show that we got served in the tournament’s concluding game, a display that would be narrated almost like a folklore and passed on from one generation of football followers to another.
All things considered and barring any unforeseen events, this should definitely be the last time the football world would witness the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi at the World Cup. Journeys that started in 2006 for both footballers whom most of their fans refer to as GOAT finally reached its end and Qatar 2022 will always be remembered as the the last World Cup tournament that both players were involved in even if most fans would have loved to see both legends of the game face eachother in the final.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has definitely left a lot of sweet memories and one can only hope that Canada, Mexico and the United States can deliver the same or perhaps, more. Off the pitch, the tournament has been predominantly violence free and the organisers have been able to create a spectacular event even in the face of constant allegations of human rights violation and borderline fault-finding on everything related to the tournament. The hosts were able to create a spectacle by doing well to focus specifically on the sole reason for the tournament. So while Lionel Scaloni, Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentina team continue to celebrate as deserved winners of the World Cup trophy, the true winner of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup is….football.
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