2022 FIFA World Cup


(REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

Lionel Messi (center, lifting the trophy) led Argentina to their third World Cup title and their first title since 1986. Messi scored twice and converted a penalty in Argentina’s thrilling victory over defending champions France in the final.

Rohit De, Staff Writer

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was definitely one to remember, with many twists and turns and a final for the ages. This World Cup was the first to be held in the Arab world and a majority Muslim nation.



Before the World Cup, there was controversy surrounding the host nation of Qatar. Qatar likely obtained the right to host the World Cup as a result of bribery and corruption by the FIFA organization. It did not have the infrastructure to host the World Cup, so it had to build many stadiums with migrant workers. Thousands of migrant workers are said to have died in constructing stadiums, although Qatar has downplayed this and other abuses migrant workers face. Qatar has a generally poor human rights record, especially in regards to migrants, who are often trapped in Qatar once they arrive and work in horrid conditions. Alcoholic beverages were also banned at this World Cup, despite the fact that it seemed that they would not be banned otherwise. 


This World Cup was also the first to be held in the winter, since Qatar’s desert climate would make it unsuitable for a traditional summer World Cup, and this change upended the traditional soccer season schedule. 64 matches were played across 29 days in 8 stadiums across 5 cities.



Nevertheless, 32 nations and many fans from around the world still arrived in Qatar for the World Cup. (2020 European Championship winners and four-time World Cup champions Italy were noticeably absent, as they failed to qualify for the World Cup for the second consecutive time.) The teams were divided into 8 groups of 4 for the group stages, with each team playing 3 games. The top two teams from each group advanced to the knockout stage. A team gets 3 points if they win, 0 points if they lose, and 1 point if they tie.


The Netherlands, the 2010 runner-up and 2014 third place finisher who returned to the World Cup after missing it in 2018, finished on top of Group A with 7 points. Senegal defeated Ecuador on the final match day to advance with 6 points. Ecuador finished with 4 points, while host nation Qatar finished bottom of the group with 0 points, scoring only 1 goal. Qatar was the first host nation to finish with 0 points in the history of the World Cup.


2018 semifinalists England finished on top of Group B with 7 points. The United States were also in this group; they had missed the 2018 World Cup after a shock defeat to Trinidad and Tobago on the final day of qualifying. The Americans drew 1-1 against Wales before holding England to a surprising 0-0 draw. They entered the final match day needing a win against Iran to advance; Christian Pulisic scored the only goal of the match to send the US through to the knockouts with 5 points. Iran finished third in the group with 3 points, while Wales, who were in their first World Cup since 1958, finished bottom of the group with 1 point.


Entering the tournament, Group C heavyweights and 2014 finalists Argentina were on a 36-match unbeaten streak and were one of the favorites to win it all. However, even after a Lionel Messi penalty goal, they were shocked 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in one of the biggest World Cup upsets in recent memory. Nevertheless, Argentina won their next match against Mexico 2-0, with goals from Messi and young midfielder Enzo Fernández. Despite a Messi penalty being saved, Argentina won their final match against Poland 2-0, advancing as winners of Group C despite losing their first match. Poland still advanced to the knockouts with 4 points, edging ahead of Mexico, also with 4 points, on goal difference. Saudi Arabia finished last in the group with 3 points, but they have an upset win against Argentina to remember for ages.


Defending champions France were placed in Group D. They lost star striker Karim Benzema to injury before the tournament began, though; Benzema had won the Ballon d’Or (awarded to the world’s best player) for 2022. After going down 1-0 against Australia in their first match, they came back to win 4-1. France then defeated Denmark 2-1 behind 2 goals from Kylian Mbappé. (France had played these two teams in the 2018 group stages, too.) They rested most of their starters against Tunisia and lost 1-0 after a late French goal was disallowed. Nevertheless, they advanced on top of the group with 6 points and a superior goal difference, defeating the “champion’s curse” that had affected the defending champions of the last 3 World Cups. Australia rebounded from their 4-1 loss and won their next two matches to advance in second place with 6 points. Tunisia finished third with 4 points, while Denmark, a popular dark horse pick before the tournament, finished last with 1 point.


Group E was by far the craziest group of the tournament, with 2010 champions Spain and 2014 champions Germany in the same group. After going out in the group stages in 2014, Germany had a point to prove, but they lost 2-1 to Japan after leading 1-0. Spain thrashed Costa Rica 7-0 in their first match before drawing Germany 1-1. Costa Rica surprisingly beat Japan 1-0, leaving all four teams with a chance to advance on the last match day. Germany and Spain went 1-0 up against Costa Rica and Japan, respectively, and it looked like both teams would advance. However, Costa Rica and Japan each came back to go ahead 2-1; at that point, both Spain and Germany would have been eliminated. Germany scored 3 goals to defeat Costa Rica 4-2, but Japan held on to defeat Spain 2-1. As a result, Japan finished on top of the group with 6 points, followed by Spain and Germany with 4 points and Costa Rica with 3. With a superior goal difference, Spain advanced in second place ahead of Germany, who crashed out in the group stages for the second straight World Cup.


2018 runners-up Croatia and third place finishers Belgium were both placed in Group F. Neither of these teams finished on top of the group, though; Morocco topped the group with 7 points. Belgium and Croatia played in the last match with a chance to advance to the group stages, but Belgium wasted many chances in a 0-0 draw that saw Croatia advance to the knockouts with 5 points. Belgium finished in an underwhelming third with 4 points, while Canada, in their first World Cup since 1986, finished in last with 0 points, although the Canadians scored their first ever World Cup goal. 


Tournament favorites Brazil were placed in Group G. They won against Serbia 2-0 and Switzerland 1-0, with striker Richarlison scoring the goal of the tournament against Serbia. (Brazil, Serbia, and Switzerland were also in the same group in 2018.) They rested their starters against Cameroon, who obtained a 1-0 upset win against the Brazilians. Serbia and Switzerland played in the other day three match, with a spot in the knockouts on the line, just like 2018. Switzerland came back to win 3-2 and advance in a tense match. Brazil finished on top of the group with 6 points, followed by Switzerland with 6, Cameroon with 4, and Serbia with 1.


In Group H, Portugal, with star striker Cristiano Ronaldo in what could potentially be his last World Cup, won their first two matches against Ghana and Uruguay, with Ronaldo becoming the first man to score in five World Cups. They played South Korea in their last match, who needed a win to advance to the knockouts. Portugal went up 1-0, but South Korea came back to win 2-1 with a last-minute goal in stoppage time, narrowly eliminating Uruguay on the basis of goals scored. Portugal finished on top of the group with 6 points, followed by South Korea with 4 points, Uruguay with 4 points, and Ghana with 3 points.


This will be the last World Cup group stage like this, as the tournament is expanding to 48 teams in 2026. The format for 2026 remains to be seen, though; FIFA had planned to have 16 groups of 3 teams, but this could change to 12 groups of 4.



In the first knockout stage match, Group B runners-up United States played Group A winners Netherlands. Poor defending saw the Americans go down 2-0, but they scored a goal in the second half to give themselves a fighting chance. Nevertheless, the Dutch scored as a result of more poor defending to advance 3-1. With a young team with promising players like Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic, Americans should be optimistic for 2026, though. In the second knockout match, Group C winners Argentina survived a late scare against Group D runners-up Australia to win their match 2-1, with goals from Lionel Messi and young striker Julián Álvarez.


Group D winners France defeated Group C runners-up Poland 3-1, with Kylian Mbappé scoring two goals. Group B winners England defeated Group A runners-up Senegal 3-0 to set up a heavyweight quarterfinal against the French.


Surprise Group E winners Japan tied Group F runners-up Croatia 1-1 after 90 minutes of regular time and 30 minutes of extra time, sending the game to penalties; Croatia advanced 3-1 on penalties. Group G winners Brazil thrashed Group H runners-up South Korea 4-1 to advance.


Group F winners Morocco held Group E runners-up Spain to a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes, sending another game to penalties. Spain missed all of their penalty attempts in the shootout as Morocco advanced 3-0 on penalties, becoming only the fifth African nation and first Arab one to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals. Group H winners Portugal surprisingly benched Cristiano Ronaldo against Switzerland; his replacement Gonçalo Ramos scored 3 goals in a 6-1 victory.



In a rematch of a 2014 group stage match, Brazil played Croatia. After the game ended 0-0 in regular time, Brazilian star Neymar scored a goal in extra time to put Brazil up 1-0; nevertheless, Croatia equalized with 3 minutes left and won 4-2 on penalty shootouts, eliminating the tournament favorites and advancing to the semifinals for the second straight World Cup, an impressive feat for the small nation.


Argentina then played the Netherlands in a rematch of the 2014 semifinals. In a tense game with many yellow cards, they had a 2-0 lead thanks to a goal and assist by Lionel Messi after 80 minutes; however, the Dutch proceeded to score 2 goals, including one with the last kick of regulation, to tie the game. Like the 2014 semifinal, the game went to penalties, and just like their previous meeting, Argentina advanced on penalties, 4-3.


Morocco played Portugal in the third quarterfinal, defeating the Portuguese 1-0. Morocco became the first African and first Arab nation to reach the World Cup semifinals, as all-time great Cristiano Ronaldo played in what was likely his final World Cup match. Morocco conceded no goals to opposition players through the quarterfinals; their only goal conceded was an own goal against Canada.


In the last quarterfinal, defending champions France played 2018 semifinalists England. Even though the French star Mbappé was kept quiet, France advanced 2-1 after English captain Harry Kane missed a game-tying penalty after converting one earlier in the match. 



Argentina played 2018 runners-up Croatia in the first semifinal match. This was a rematch of a 2018 group stage match, which Croatia won 3-0. Lionel Messi opened the scoring with a penalty, while Julián Álvarez scored 2 goals to send Argentina through to the finals 3-0. Lionel Messi and Argentina returned to the finals after losing 1-0 there to Germany in extra time in 2014.


In the second semifinal, France played Morocco. France went up 1-0 early, and although Morocco created many chances, they lost to the French 2-0. France became the first defending World Cup champion to reach the final since Brazil did in 1998, and they sought to become the first repeat champions since Brazil in 1962.



In the third-place play-off, Morocco played Croatia in a rematch of their first group stage match, which ended 0-0. Croatia won the third-place play-off 2-1, obtaining the bronze medal for this World Cup. They finished with a medal for the second straight World Cup, after finishing runners-up in 2018. Morocco finished in fourth place, which is still the highest finish for any African or Arab team.



Argentina played defending champions France in the 2022 World Cup final at Lusail Iconic Stadium, in the city of Lusail near the Qatari capital of Doha. Almost 89,000 spectators were at the match.  Lionel Messi, at the age of 34 and playing in what might be his last World Cup, sought to further his case as one of, if not the, greatest of all time and bring home the World Cup for the first time since the late Diego Maradona did in 1986. Kylian Mbappé and France were looking to become the first repeat champions in 60 years. Both Argentina (1978, 1986) and France (1998, 2018) were seeking their third World Cup title.


Argentina dominated much of the game in regular time. Ángel Di María won a penalty in the 23rd minute, which Messi converted to make the score 1-0. Di María would later finish off a brilliant Argentinian counterattack to put the Albiceleste up 2-0 in the 36th minute, prompting France to make uncharacteristically early substitutions. 


France failed to create many chances until the 80th minute, when Argentinian defender Nicolas Otamendi brought down substitute attacker Randal Kolo Muani in the box for a penalty. Mbappé put the penalty past goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez to make the score 2-1 in the 80th minute. 97 seconds later, Mbappé volleyed a shot home to tie the game at 2-2, despite Argentina’s overall dominance. The game went to extra time after a late save by Martínez.


Messi scored his second goal of the day off a rebound in the 108th minute of the game, putting Argentina up 3-2. It looked like Argentina would win, but a handball by defender Gonzalo Montiel gave France its second penalty of the day. Mbappé converted it once again to make the game 3-3 in the 118th minute. Mbappé became the first player to score a hat trick in the World Cup final since 1966. Kolo Muani had a chance to win the game for France in the 123rd minute but was denied by a brilliant Martínez save.


After extra time, the score was tied 3-3, sending the World Cup final to a penalty shootout for the first time since 2006. (In that final, France had lost 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw against Italy.) Kylian Mbappé converted his third penalty of the day, and Lionel Messi followed suit. French attacker Kingsley Coman’s shot was saved by the Argentinian Martínez, while late substitute Paolo Dybala scored to give Argentina a 2-1 lead in the shootout. French midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni then missed his shot wide, while Argentinian midfielder Leonardo Paredes converted his attempt to put Argentina on the brink of glory at 3-1. Randal Kolo Muani converted his attempt to put the shootout at 3-2, but Gonzalo Montiel, who had conceded a penalty in extra time, converted his spot kick to win Argentina the World Cup in what many have already called one of the best finals of all time.



After coming up short in the final 8 years ago, Lionel Messi finally won the biggest trophy that had eluded him throughout his illustrious career. Messi won his second Golden Ball, awarded to the best player of the tournament, after leading Argentina to the title with 7 goals and 3 assists. Fellow Argentinians Emiliano Martínez and Enzo Fernández won the Golden Glove, for the best goalkeeper, and the FIFA Young Player Award, respectively. Kylian Mbappé, with his hat-trick in the final, won the Golden Boot, awarded to the highest scorer, finishing with 8 goals ahead of Messi’s 7. At the age of 24, Mbappé has scored 12 goals in just two tournaments, equaling the late legend Pelé’s mark and putting him only 4 goals behind the all-time record. (Messi has 13 goals across five World Cups.) Mbappé has also already tied the record for most goals scored in the World Cup knockout stage. Although he lost in the final of this tournament, he won it all in 2018 and has the potential to become an all-time great. Meanwhile, Lionel Messi has furthered his place as one of the greatest players in the history of sport, with many claiming him to be the greatest of all time.


SEE YOU IN 2026!

The next edition of the World Cup will take place in the summer of 2026. It will be the first World Cup to be hosted in three different nations; the United States, Canada, and Mexico are combining to host the World Cup, and all three nations are guaranteed to appear in it as a result. The United States previously hosted the 1994 World Cup, while Mexico hosted the tournament in 1970 and 1986, becoming the first nation to host the World Cup 3 times. Gillette Stadium will be just one of the venues hosting matches in 2026; 60 of the 80 matches, and all of the matches from the quarterfinals onward, will be hosted in the United States, while Canada and Mexico will host 10 each. The 2026 World Cup will also be the first one to expand to 48 teams. It will surely create many memories, just like the 2022 World Cup did.