Lionel Messi was the hero of the highest-scoring World Cup in history. FIFA+ looks back on a historic tournament.
- Lionel Messi was the star as Argentina returned to the summit of world football
- The highest-scoring World Cup in history set new standards on and off the field
- Morocco helped make history for Africa, while Kylian Mbappe dazzled in defeat
This was always going to be a FIFA World Cup™ like no other.
The first to be hosted in the Middle East, the first to be played in November and December, and the first of its size to be held in such a small geographical area, Qatar 2022 offered a fresh twist on this old and much-loved festival of football.
But while the treading of so much new ground came with opportunities – the novel prospect of attending multiple World Cup matches in a single day, for example – the risks were clear and undeniable.
Gianni Infantino admitted as much earlier this week, when he confessed to pre-tournament concerns “about having so many fans from so many countries, at the same time, in the same place”.
“In a normal World Cup, you have in one city fans of two countries, not more,” added the FIFA President. “Here, you have 32 countries plus all [the] other fans from the world who come to enjoy the World Cup together.”
Who are the best fans at the FIFA World Cup™️?
Arab fans in Qatar discuss the best fans they have seen at the FIFA World Cup™️
Given that the place in question has a population of less than 2.9 million and its stadiums are all within a 35-mile radius, questions naturally arose about how Qatar and its infrastructure would cope with a such a mass invasion. Others wondered how the on-field fare would be impacted by the tournament taking place in the middle of most players’ domestic seasons, with reduced preparation time an inevitable consequence.
One by one, of course, those doubts have been swept away by a tidal wave of fantastic football, flawless organisation and friendly, passionate atmospheres on the streets and in the stadiums.
Jurgen Klinsmann this week described it as “a World Cup organised to perfection”, while Infantino has been far from alone in declaring Qatar 2022 to be, quite simply, “the best ever”.
Messi’s defining moment as a FIFA World Cup™️ winner
This is the moment striker Lionel Messi knew he would become a FIFA World Cup™️ winner after Argentina beat France on penalties in Qatar.
The same description is, of course, being applied increasingly widely to the tournament’s star man. Lionel Messi was already a leading contender for ‘GOAT’ status but his claims to that title have been further fortified by a truly magnificent month in Qatar.
In the highest-scoring World Cup of all time, it was goals from Argentina’s captain that did most to determine the direction of the title. Not even Argentina’s fiercest rivals could begrudge this wonderful player his well-deserved moment with the prize he has so long coveted above all others.
Champions: Argentina Runners-up: France Third place: Croatia
adidas Golden Ball: Lionel Messi (ARG) adidas Golden Boot: Kylian Mbappe (FRA) adidas Golden Glove: Emiliano Martinez (ARG) Best Young Player: Enzo Fernandez (ARG)
Argentina v France | Final | FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™
From the butt of the world’s jokes to the worthiest of champions, La Albiceleste enjoyed one hell of a ride. And just as no-one foresaw that opening-match defeat to Saudi Arabia, few could have imagined that they would recover to achieve their long-held dream in such impressive – and dramatic – circumstances.
As for their talisman, what more can be said? Messi is quite rightly a beloved figure far beyond Argentina’s borders, and neutrals across the world were both captivated and converted to Argentina’s cause by the little magician’s pursuit of World Cup glory.
It took 88 years of attempting for an Africa team to reach the World Cup semi-finals. Morocco were the continental trailblazers.
After sinking Belgium in the group stage, Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri and Co eliminated Spain in the last 16 and Portugal in the quarter-finals. The Atlas Lions also gave France a strict examination in the last four before losing an end-to-end encounter with Croatia 2-1 in the battle for bronze.
Road to the semi-finals: Morocco
Morocco is in the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in the history of Arab and African teams, watch their journey at Qatar 2022™ so far!
It simply must rank as one of the greatest achievements in World Cup history – a nation inhabited by fewer than four million people finishing second and third at back-to-back editions.
Zlatko Dalic lost several key components of his 2018 side, such as Danijel Subasic, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, but new stars emerged in the shape of Dominik Livakovic and Josko Gvardiol to complement the divine talent of Luka Modric. The Croatian highlight was a stunning elimination of tournament favourites Brazil en route to finishing third.
Would four-time champions Germany or 21st-century titans Spain win Group E? Japan made a mockery of the question the masses were assessing by slaying both those giants to finish top. They also became only the third team in World Cup history, and the first since West Germany in 1970, to win two separate games in which they had been trailing at half-time.
The highs and lows of the FIFA World Cup™️ 2022 group stage
From Japanese joy to German tears, these are the high and low moments for teams of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™️ in Qatar.
- Lionel Messi: This requires an article all of its own and, fortunately, we have one. Enjoy our detailed rundown on the various national and global records that were rewritten by Messi at Qatar 2022.
- Kylian Mbappe: With eight goals in seven appearances, the France talisman produced the highest-scoring World Cup by any individual player since Ronaldo emerged with an identical haul from 2002. Mbappe also became just the fifth player in World Cup history to score in separate finals, the first to score a final hat-trick since Geoff Hurst in 1966 and, with four goals across 2018 and 2022, is now established as the highest-scoring player in the history of football’s showpiece fixture.
- Lionel Scaloni: At 44 years old, the Argentinian became the youngest coach since fellow countryman Cesar Luis Menotti – who was 39 in 1978 – to win the World Cup.
- Yassine Bounou: The Morocco hero became the first African goalkeeper to record three clean sheets in a single World Cup edition.
- Olivier Giroud: The big Frenchman only started for France due to a late pre-tournament injury to Karim Benzema but certainly made the most of his opportunity, scoring four times to move on to 53 for his country – two clear of Thierry Henry’s previous record of 51.
France: All of Olivier Giroud’s FIFA World Cup goals
Rewatch all of Olivier Giroud’s FIFA World Cup™ goals as France’s all-time record goal scorer looks to pull further clear of Thierry Henry in the scoring charts.
- Neymar: In a tournament that ended in tears for the Brazil No10, he nonetheless equalled Pele’s 77-goal haul to become A Seleção’s joint-record scorer.
- Hugo Lloris: The France skipper surpassed Lilian Thuram (142) as his country’s all-time record caps holder and also became the first goalkeeper to reach the milestone of 20 World Cup appearances.
- Harry Kane: With his 52nd and 53rd international goals, the England captain moved alongside Wayne Rooney as the Three Lions’ all-time record scorer.
- Ivan Perisic: The Croatia wide man scored one and set up two for the Vatreni, meaning that he now has six goals and five assists across the last three World Cups. Only the great Messi (21) can claim more direct goal involvements during the same period.
- Goncalo Ramos: The rising Portugal star became the first player to score a hat-trick on his maiden World Cup start since Miroslav Klose in 2002. He was also responsible for the first treble in the knockout stage since Tomas Skuhravy at Italia ‘90.