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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly | Qatar World Cup 2022

The Good And The Bad of Qatar 2022: Round Up of The FIFA World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is finally over and for many calling it the greatest edition of the tournament, you’re not wrong. We’ve been left with many highs – Japan, Morocco, Lionel Messi and Australia – and many lows; I’m looking at you, Germany. Thanks to BetKing, who provided the best odds anywhere in the country as thousands of football lovers won millions of naira among others. But, now the World Cup is over, let’s take a look at the highs and lows in Qatar.

THE GOOD

The Two Lionels

For years, Lionel Messi had been trying to get his hands on an international trophy, with no success. Twice he got to the finals of the Copa América and once, the World Cup. On all three occasions, he was left heartbroken and, for a brief moment, even retired from international football. He had proven to be an all-time great with his performances at club level, and even helped Argentina win the U-20 World Cup (2005) and an Olympic gold in 2008. He had been coached by eight different managers at International level, including Tata Martino, Jorge Sampaoli and the icon himself, Diego Maradona. However, it was his namesake and teammate from the 2006 World Cup in Germany – a relatively unknown name to the average football fan – that proved to be the missing piece.

Now coached by Lionel Scaloni (2018), Lionel Messi and his teammates embarked on a quest to restore glory to the national team. They had their own share of lows, most notably the 2019 edition of Copa América in which they finished in 3rd place, but they built on that and it soon paid off. A 35-game unbeaten run in which they lifted the Copa América (2021) for the first time since 1993 followed, and the proverbial monkey was now off Messi’s back.

Coming into the tournament, this was billed as the World Cup to end all debates about whom the Greatest of All Time was. The World Cup is the Holy Grail and the one trophy that sets apart the greats from their peers. Players like Pele, Diego Maradona, Franz Beckenbauer, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo Nazário had cemented their legacies at the World Cup while other equally talented players like Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, Marco Van Basten and Eusebio who had won the Champions League, Ballon d’Or and even the EUROs (save for Eusebio) are always perceived as just a tier lower than the aforementioned World Cup winners. The two greatest players of this generation, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, both knew it and their cryptic collaboration sponsored by Louis Vuitton summed it up.

Argentina win incredible World Cup final in shootout | Reuters

Though Cristiano Ronaldo suffered a humiliating tournament that saw him benched throughout the knockout stages, Lionel Messi held up his end of the bargain by getting to the final. As usual, this journey didn’t come without its obstacles. Their 35-game unbeaten run was snapped in their opening game by underdogs, Saudi Arabia, and this prompted lots of doubts about Argentina’s title credentials. Then, Lionel stepped up – this time, Lionel Scaloni. The big calls to bench the experienced Angel Di Maria, Papu Gomez and Lautaro Martínez for Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernandez and Julián Álvarez as well as retaining faith in Nicolás Otamendi and Cristian Romero instead of starting the in-form Lisandro Martínez turned out to be a masterstroke. Argentina went on to become only the second country in World Cup history to win the tournament after losing the first game, after Spain in 2010. Lionel Messi put on a show for the ages in Qatar with seven goals and three assists in seven games, including two in what is inarguably the greatest World Cup final of all time. Twice Argentina held the lead and twice, Kylian Mbappé – the next inline to the throne – pulled France back to make it 3-3 after extra time and send the game to penalties.

19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche famously said “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” and those years of heartbreaks in three finals for Lionel Messi and his teammates – which included two penalty shootout losses to Chile in the Copa América – made them ready for this moment. While Kingsley Coman and Aurélien Tchouaméni missed their penalties for France, the Argentines remained flawless from the spot to seal the victory. It was a moment that ended 36-years of wait and left the 5’7’ giant from Rosario standing as the greatest player the greatest sport has ever seen.

Messi = G.O.A.T 🐐


Kylian Mbappé Shines

Speaking about all-time greats in their field, American Rapper, Jay-Z famously said “moral victories are for minor league coaches” but for 23-year-old Kylian Mbappé, we’ll make an exception. The Frenchman’s performance in the final was nothing short of breathtaking; a historic hat-trick. Time after time, when the pressure was at it’s highest, he stepped up to pull his country from the jaws of defeat, though they eventually succumbed in the penalty shootout. He ended up winning the Golden Boot over Lionel Messi with 8 goals, and his 12 World Cup goals is just 4 shy of Miroslav Klose’s record of 16. We are witnessing the story of an all-time great being written, and we can only count ourselves lucky.

Kylian Mbappe wins World Cup Golden Boot award, beating Messi | Qatar World Cup 2022 News | Al Jazeera

Morocco’s Deserved Run

Morocco’s run may have been a fairy tale, but make no mistake, it was planned, and it was deserved. In 2009, the Moroccan government unveiled the King Mohammed VI Football Complex – a sports complex in Maamoura covering almost 30 hectares with an overall investment of $65.4 million, built over a period of 3 years. Earlier this year, coached by current National team coach Walid Regragui, Wydad AC won the CAF Champions League – their 2nd in 5 years and their 3rd appearance in the final since the Moroccan government deliberately started pumping in hundreds of millions into their football. Simply put, they were deliberate about their success both in the domestic and international, and they earned it. Tales of their run in Qatar will be told forever and the entire continent will forever remain grateful for the extra spots they’ve earned for subsequent editions of the tournament, which makes future World Cup Qualifiers for Africa more navigable. They’ve also put themselves in a very strong position to host the 2030 edition of the World Cup, which they’ll be bidding for. It really was a success for Morocco and hopefully, a template for other African countries to follow.

The Youngsters Shine

The Qatar World Cup saw a lot of youngsters and debutants shine and make a name for themselves on the world’s biggest stage. Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez was named the Young Player of the Tournament after his role in the heart of Argentina’s midfield, but other young players too had outstanding performances. Enzo’s Benfica teammate, Gonçalo Ramos scored the tournament’s first hat-trick and the only one in 90 mins. Croatia’s Joško Gvardiol was arguably the best defender in the tournament, while England’s duo of Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka were simply excellent for the Three Lions. Morocco’s Azzedine Ounahi won’t be at Angers much longer after his performance in the tournament and PSV are already fielding calls for the brilliant Cody Gakpo who scored thrice. Jamal Musiala was one of the few bright spots for Germany who had an abysmal outing, while teenagers, Pedri and Gavi also had impressive displays before getting knocked out by Morocco. Of course there’s also Aurélien Tchouaméni who was tasked with filling in the role of the legendary N’golo Kante, and he did himself proud.

Antoine Griezmann

If this tournament was a glimpse of what is to come in the second half of the Atlético Madrid star’s career, then he can be assured he’ll remain relevant for years to come. Tasked with in an unfamiliar role in midfield due to the absence of Paul Pogba, Griezmann executed this so well many believe that despite Mbappé’s 8 goals, he was Les Bleus’ best player in the 2022 World Cup. His willingness to give up his scoring for the greater good was admirable and showed just how selfless he’d become as a teammate. When attackers age and the goals fade, they either reinvent themselves to remain in a top club (like Paul Scholes did at Manchester United) or move to a less competitive team/league. For Griezmann, he’ll be on our screens for a long time.


THE BAD

Germany’s Woes Continue

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the worst performers at this world cup were the Germans. In EURO 2000, they famously finished bottom of their group with 1 point and 1 goal scored. This prompted a revamp of the German football model both at the club and national level that culminated in the 2014 triumph in Brazil. That (group stage exit at the EUROs) was considered a crisis for German football. I wonder what they’ll call back to back group stage exits at the FIFA World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Gamble Doesn’t Pay Off

Cristiano Ronaldo left crying as World Cup dream ends in tears with elimination to Morocco | Sporting News

Cristiano Ronaldo’s strategy of burning bridges with Manchester United and telling the world – via the now infamous Piers Morgan interview – that he was still capable of delivering at the highest level backfired, and it did so spectacularly. Though he scored a penalty in the opening game, what followed was a series of poor performances that left Head Coach Fernando Santos no choice but to bench the 5-time Ballon d’Or winner. Things quickly changed as his replacement, Gonçalo Ramos, netted a hat-trick against Switzerland – a clear an obvious sign that they were now better off without him as a starter. To make things worse, while the wilting of his career was being witnessed by billions around the world, his arch nemesis, Lionel Messi, claimed football’s most priced trophy and pretty much secured a record extending 8th Ballon d’Or title.

Diogo Costa Fails To Shine

Portugal’s Diogo Costa had had a fine start to his season with FC Porto, where he helped them qualify for the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League, thanks to his three penalty saves. He was instantly linked with Man Utd as a replacement for David De Gea, with many even citing him as a long term replacement for Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich. As expected, much was required from him in Qatar but his poor displays – especially in the quarter-final where his mistimed attempt to save Yahia Attiyat Allah’s cross saw Youssef En-Nesyri nod home the winner – has left his many suitors questioning the 23-year-old’s decision-making.

Uruguay

Group H was always going to be a tricky one to navigate, but considering the firepower the Uruguayans had, they would agree this was a terrible outing. They failed to score in their first two games against South Korea and Portugal before Giorgian de Arrascaeta’s first half brace against Ghana gave them 3pts. However, that wasn’t enough as they crashed out in the group stage leaving Luis Suarez in tears.

Andre Ayew

With a chance to reach the Round of 16 on the line and an opportunity to put a 12-year-old demon to bed, Andre Ayew froze for what seemed like an eternity before casually strolling to the penalty spot and hitting a feeble shot which Uruguay’s Sergio Rochet had no problems saving. The Ghanians never really recovered from that miss, and they bowed out of the tournament.

Belgium’s Golden Generation

In the past few weeks, this group of Belgians have been labeled many things; chokers, bottlers, unimpressive, underachievers and a lot more too colorful to type out. A lot of it has been unfair. A third place finish at the 2018 World Cup was a respectable achievement for this group, considering the level of talent other teams have had in this era. However, the criticism gotten following their group stage exit for this World Cup is completely justified. They scored just one goal all tournament and never looked like the better team in any of their three games. Tales of internal conflicts between senior players were made worse after Kevin de Bruyne publicly stated the team was too old. A bitter end to a group of super talented players.

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