The tops and flops of Qatar’s World Cup

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup drew to a close on Sunday with a spectacular Argentinian victory over France’s Les Bleus in the final. FRANCE 24 takes a look at the highs and lows of the competition. 

The World Cup greatest hits

A successful organisation

There were beautiful stadiums, a seemingly infinite supply of volunteers, flawless security, free and efficient transport as well as accommodation that more than rose to the challenge of hosting the World Cup. The tiny Gulf nation of Qatar deserves credit for its organisation of football’s biggest tournament, and the way it welcomed more than a million fans – no mean feat for the smallest nation to ever host the competition. The wealthy state spent lavishly on buildings, hotels and transportation: $220 billion in all, twenty times more than Russia spent in 2018.

A spectacular World Cup

More goals were scored at Qatar than in any other World Cup. Players notched up a record 172 goals – including six goals as Argentina and France slugged it out in what many see as the best World Cup final in history.

As ever, there was the odd dull match. But some games really captured the attention of the footballing world – notably in the group stage, which saw Saudi Arabia’s surprise victory against Argentina, and Japan’s shock win over Germany.

The game’s star players were out in force: Lionel Messi dazzled throughout the competition – turning an uneven if spirited Argentina into a powerhouse – while Kylian Mbappé’s lacerating pace and clinical finishing skills produced eight goals to win him the Golden Boot. 

Solid France performance

Few pundits expected France to pull off a second consecutive World Cup title – largely because no team had managed such a feat since Brazil in 1962. Injury woes further dampened expectations, with huge talents like Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba out of action.

But manager Didier Deschamps plugged the gaps tremendously, especially with the extraordinary re-invention of winger Antoine Griezmann as a masterful link between defence, midfield and attack. Second-choice players drafted into the squad also flourished – notably centre-half Dayot Upamecano, whose heroics rescued France late in that frenetic showdown with Argentina.

Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was solid as ever. Olivier Giroud surpassed Thierry Henry’s 51-goal record for Les Bleus. And of course, Mbappé was sublimely Mbappé – not least when he scored a hat trick in that noble defeat against Argentina.

A historic fourth place for Morocco

Morocco made World Cup history by becoming the first African and Arab nation to reach the final four of the competition. Walid Regragui’s team notched up a series of incredible victories over Belgium, Spain and Portugal and became a colossal source of pride for both Africa and the Arab world.  

At the outset of the tournament, Morocco were hardly fancied to reach the semi-finals. But they showed unbelievable team spirit and tactical acumen, defending with finesse and courage before stunning their opponents on the counter-attack.

Morocco’s performance will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the great stories of the competition.

The World Cup flops

Great teams missed out   

Fans might have been left spellbound by play at the 2022 World Cup, but many leading football teams left with their dreams in tatters. Neymar’s Brazil were eliminated on penalties by Modric’s Croatia in the quarter-finals – despite a stupendous last 16 display against South Korea setting them up as major contenders. Germany, a four-time world champion, couldn’t even get out of the group stage, while Belgium crashed out disastrously at the hands of Morocco in the last 16.  A string of decisive England victories filled their fans with hope, as wunderkinds Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham sparkled alongside established talents like Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson. But Kane’s penalty miss shattered that hope as they went packing in the quarter-finals with their loss against France.  

Referees often not up to standard 

The length of stoppages during games was not the only talking point at the World Cup: the refereeing sparked incomprehension and anger on several occasions.  The massive imbroglio around a French goal cancelled by the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) after the match against Tunisia led the French Football Federation (FFF) to file a complaint. The Moroccan federation also felt wronged – claiming that two penalties were overlooked against the French team in the semi-final. Lastly, Szymon Marciniak, the referee that oversaw the final, came under fire for his lax whistle and for making several mistakes.  

A mixed atmosphere 

The stadiums were not always full, the consumption of alcohol was carefully regulated, and there was little fervour in the streets of Doha. Despite being immaculately organised, Qatar was never going to win a World Cup for atmosphere. With exorbitant prices, a time of year not conducive to extended vacations and numerous calls for a boycott, the 2022 World Cup was not as popular and unifying an event as previous editions such as Brazil in 2014 or Germany in 2006. 

A red card for freedom of expression 

Qatar, supported by FIFA, has been slammed for its human rights violations and the ecological impact of its World Cup. The Qatari government imposed restrictions on freedom of expression, symbolised by the infamous case of the multicolored “One-Love” armband, in support of the LGBTQ+ cause, and the banning of the rainbow flag from stadiums. Finally, the allegations of corruption between Qatar and six European Members of Parliament that surfaced during the competition, sparked controversy. 

This article has been translated from the original in French. 

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