From Tearful Ronaldo to Sadistic Messi: The Top 10 Moment in the 2022 World Cup

Once upon a time in Qatar, FIFA managed to organize a World Cup in the winter. Whether we liked the idea or not, the mid-season event became a reality and the rest of the globe had to cope with it. But as the curtain falls on one of the most unusual of tournaments, the 2022 World had produced a plethora of iconic moments and events that will remain carved in our memories for a long time. Some are controversial whereas others are dramatic or heart-warming, but they’re sensational all the same.

So let’s recall ten of the most memorable events from the first ever World Cup held in the Middle-East region.

1 – Saudi Arabia Deliver Upset

What is a World Cup without at least one shocking upset? Luckily for Qatar 2022, the event featured a handful of stunning results, but the most significant remains the very first which occurred on Day Three.

Astonishingly, Saudi Arabia produced a stellar second half display to turn the table on Argentina, much to the delight of the Arab supporters in Doha – except for those who were cheering on Lionel Messi and co.

The fact that the Albiceleste went on to win their next six matches en route towards the title while KSA lost their next two makes the whole outcome even more perplexing.

The Green Falcons returned home following their group stage elimination, but at least they enjoyed their moment in the sun at the expense of the eventual winners.

2 – Group E Drama

Starting 2026, the World Cup tournament will undergo a major overhaul with 48 teams split between 16 groups. Whether this new format will work to the better or worse remains to be seen, but thankfully, the current one delivered one last memorable group stage before bowing out in fashion.

The first round reached its climax during the third and final matchday in Group E, which had already been a chaotic group from the very start match, when Japan stunned Germany in a come-from-behind victory.

However, the Blue Samurai were far from done. Despite their defeat to Costa Rica, they managed to deliver yet another upset in the final matchday, this time at Spain’s expense.

But that’s not all. At one point in the second half, Costa Rica were leading against Germany, putting themselves temporarily in the second round alongside Japan with the two European giants out of the tournament.

Eventually, the Germans roared back to win 4-2. While their solitary win in the tournament did them little good as they waved Doha goodbye, it did salvage Spain’s hopes, in what was one of the most twisted group stage endings in history of the World Cup.

3 – Noppert’s Astonishing Revival

From Paolo Rossi to Roger Milla, the World Cup is all about fairytales and unforeseen career revivals.

This edition introduced the world of football to Andries Noppert, a gigantic goalkeeper from nowhere (he actually plays for Heerenveen) who suddenly became a starter for the Netherlands, although he was yet to make his international debut prior to the tournament.

What makes this renaissance even more astonishing is that the Dutchman’s career wasn’t going anywhere in previous years. In fact, the 28-year-old was a mere backup for Serie B side Foggia between 2018 and 2019.

While he hardly managed to leave his mark on the pitch during his forgettable stint in the peninsula, Italians recall Noppert as the goalkeeper who had to pay local mobsters to retrieve his stolen car.

Surely he’ll be able to afford a better one soon enough.

4 – Infinite Added-Time

Football fans have long been accustomed to added-time which is about a minute or two in the first half, and around four or five minutes at the end of the second period.

But contrary to the norm, the 2022 World Cup adopted a more precise method to calculate stoppages which resulted in a higher number of minutes in added time, even reaching double digits on a few occasions. At times it felt as we have another chapter to witness after the 90th minute.

Expectedly, the verdict was split between those who encouraged the new policy and those who detracted it. But we wouldn’t be surprised to see it gradually imposed in other football competitions.

5 – USA and Iran Kick Politics Out

With nations all over the world colliding on the pitch under the watchful eyes of the entire globe, the tournament often ends up taking political twists.

So when the United States and Iran met for a decisive encounter to determine the runner-up of Group B, the political label was simply inevitable. While a section of the media tried its best to paint the encounter in a controversial light, football prevailed in the end.

Christian Pulisic scored the winner which secured USMNT’s path towards the Round of 16 while both sets of players exchanged embraces at the final whistle following what a normal and relatively peaceful match of football.

So kudos to the American and Iranians players for kicking politics out of the contest.

6 – Germany Controversial Gesture

On the opposite side, Germany failed to stay away from controversy. After being prevented from sporting their rainbow captain armband, Hansi Flick’s men started their aforementioned match against Japan by raising eyebrows even before kickoff.

The eleven starters all covered their mouths with their hands during the pre-match photo, suggesting that they were being repressed by the event’s organizers, or even by their own football federation.

At the end of the day, the European giants suffered a major blow at the hands of the Blue Samurai which ultimately cost them a place in the next stage.

Some claim that this gesture caused an internal conflict within the squad while others believe that it diverted their attention away from football.

So whether it truly sabotaged their campaign or not, we’ll never know, but one thing is for sure, this controversial gesture definitely didn’t help the Germans’ case.

7 – Morocco Fairytale

We football fans can be a paradoxical bunch at times. We often hope to witness the conventional giants colliding in the final stages of every tournament, but at same time, we crave for an underdog to root for.

So in this regard, Morocco was truly a gift sent from the heavens. The Atlas Lions beat Belgium in a showing of dominance which ultimately prompted the early elimination of the Red Devils. In the Round of 16, they bested Spain in penalty shootouts before valiantly defending a slim lead against Portugal until the final whistle to book a place in the semi-final.

Even though defeats to France and Croatia followed, the North Africans were the undisputed fairytale story of the 2022 World Cup.

Aside from their brave displays, wonderful skills and superb tactical organization, we’ll always remember the Moroccan players for the extraordinary emotions they evoked among their supporters or even their own loved ones.

If we’re going to depict Morocco’s unforgettable campaign in one scene, then it has to be Sofiane Boufal sharing a dance with his ecstatic mother following the historic victory over Portugal.

8 – Ronaldo Exits in Tears

In football, generations rise and fall, but it’s not often that you get to spot the exact moment that symbolizes the end of an era.

But when a devastated Cristiano Ronaldo left the pitch in tears following what was presumably his final World Cup appearance, it truly felt as if an entire chapter in the sport’s history has reached its expiry – especially with an uncertain future awaiting the Portuguese.

But it wasn’t just CR7. For the better or worse, Qatar 2022 also marked the likely end of other icons, with Lionel Messi and Luka Modric on top of the list.

Some were more satisfied with their end game than others, but surely their departures will leave a major gap on the global scene, and it’s now up for a new generation of stars to pick up the torch.

9 – Messi’s Dark Side

This truly was Leo Messi’s World Cup with every sense of the word. We’ll get to his exploits later on, but let’s begin with his more notorious acts.

While the Argentine usually does his talking with his out-worldly feet, he displayed his more sadistic side during the course of the tournament.

Whether it was his constant bickering with the referees or hurling insults towards Netherlands striker Wout Weghorst during a live post-interview, the 35-year-old had his hands full during his stay in Doha.

In an even more bizarre occurrence, a social media feud erupted between Messi and boxing legend Canelo Alvarez who claimed that the number 10 disrespected the Mexican jersey during Argentina’s post-match celebrations.

Thankfully for Messi, this one reached a happy ending with the two men settling the issue without the need of a boxing ring.

But it remains to be seen if “Messi x Weghorst” will ever have an encore.

10 – Messi The GOAT

Apparently, an entire entry dedicated for Messi won’t do him justice. So here’s another one.

Aside from showcasing his dark side at times, the Paris Saint-Germain superstar did what he does best: scoring and creating goals while leaving defenses in shambles.

During the course of his career, the Barcelona legend collected trophies left and right, but the big one had eluded him, prompting some to disregard him from the GOAT debate, especially since the likes of Pelé and Diego Armando Maradona had cemented their places in the history books through the World Cup gate.

So after lifting the iconic trophy in Doha on the back of a stellar campaign, Messi now has a genuine claim for the GOAT crown, even if the debate will never reach a conclusive verdict.

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