Best World Cup moments, disappointments and players of the tournament

Argentina and France have emerged as finalists for the World Cup 2022 after some enthralling football.

There have been plenty of upsets in Qatar, while some of the world’s best have dazzled throughout the tournament.

After Saudi Arabia delivered Argentina a shock, Lionel Messi has carried his country to the final, looking for redemption after heartache in the final eight years ago against Germany in Rio de Janeiro.

From the best moments, the most outstanding player (no surprises here) and the verdict on England and Wales, who both shared disappointment.

Here Independent Sport breaks down the best and worst from Qatar:

Biggest Moment

Miguel Delaney, chief football writer: The manner that Germany’s admirable silence gesture has provoked angry responses reflects a victory greater than anything happened on the pitch, but this is ultimately about the pitch. There are many moments, the World Cup transcending its problematic stage in the way it often does, from Morocco’s rise to Richarlison’s acrobatics. In terms of its historic weight and emotion, though, there was something even more transcendental about Leo Messi’s goal against Mexico. The strike itself was divine, with its beauty made all the better because it was such a defining moment, rescuing Argentina after the shock of Saudi Arabia, and setting them on a new path – perhaps destiny. Fittingly, in the moments after such a release, Messi showed his relief in a manner even more freighted with grandeur. “Thank you, Diego.” It was a moment of private prayer, amid the most raucous public atmosphere.

Richard Jolly, senior football correspondent: The final whistle in the Morocco-Portugal quarter-final, confirming Morocco had become the World Cup’s first African semi-finalists and Cristiano Ronaldo’s time in this tournament would end in disappointment.

Mark Critchley, northern football correspondent: Wout Weghorst’s stoppage time, 101st-minute equaliser against Argentina. It did not count for much in the end but was the high point of the most entertaining game of the tournament.

Ben Burrows, sports editor: Ghana had promised to retire Luis Suarez from the World Cup, to exorcise the “devil himself” from this grandest of tournaments for good. Twelve years after he broke their hearts with his handball in the quarter-finals in South Africa, they got as close a view as possible this time as South Korea’s late goal sent Uruguay – and their talisman of so many years – crashing out. There were tears from Suarez as the bitter reality of knowing this might very well be it at this level began to sink in. Ghana might not have got through themselves as they had so hoped, but after more than a decade of waiting for a measure of revenge this, as second prizes go, was about as good as they could ever have wished for.

Karl Matchett, sports reporter: I’m going for a moment that just had crazy written all over it and produced maybe the maddest swing in emotions at the time – even though, ultimately, it counted for zero. That was Netherlands’ comeback against Argentina late in the quarter-finals, two down to 2-2 in the final eight minutes plus (a lot of) injury time. The nerveless free-kick, the fact it was Wout Weghorst who finished it off, the incredible release of emotions from both sides in different ways, the fact the Albiceleste had collapsed from such a position of strength… all of it was extremely World Cuppy, and the fact it all swung in the other direction afterwards for penalties only adds to it for me.

Jack Rathborn, assistant sports editor: The stunning drama, shock and marvel surrounding Wout Weghorst’s stoppage-time equaliser against Argentina, completing a remarkable comeback for the Netherlands. It was a raw and frantic strategy from Louis Van Gaal to get it in the mixer and allow Weghorst and Luuk De Jong to feast as the Albiceleste melted under pressure. The genius involved to take the kick short and then Weghorst’s composure will live long in the memory despite ultimately falling short on penalties.

Lawrence Ostlere, assistant sports editor: There have been so many but the one that really left my jaw on the floor was Wout Weghorst’s 100th minute goal: the guile, the calm, the narrative, everything about it. Beyond the football itself it was Iran’s silence during their national anthem, which was incredibly powerful.

Jamie Braidwood, sports reporter: The answer is Wout Weghorst’s equaliser against Argentina, but I have also enjoyed the passion and noise brought to the World Cup by the fans of the Albiceleste and Morocco. Argentina’s fans have brought an energy to the tournament that has lifted the World Cup, reminding you why it’s worth waiting four years for. Weghorst’s equaliser silenced them but it wasn’t for long.

Alex Pattle, sports reporter: I’m going to have to join my colleagues who picked Weghorst’s equaliser against Argentina. Of all the shocking and emotional moments at the tournament, this was the one that had the most visceral effect on me, forcing me involuntarily onto my feet and to nearly shriek in disbelief.

Kieran Jackson, sports reporter: Let’s not forget the craziness of the group stage here. Come day three of the tournament, the 2022 World Cup was yet to burst into life. But the first of the early kick-offs, Argentina vs Saudi Arabia, delivered in a fashion virtually nobody would have foreseen. Argentina, on a 36-game unbeaten streak, were one up at the break through Lionel Messi’s penalty but were made to rue a string of missed chances as the boldly brilliant high-pressing style of Saudi led to two goals in five second-half minutes. Backs against the wall, the team ranked 51st in the world fought for their lives to secure their most famous win in front of a disbelieving crowd in the Lusail Stadium and millions watching worldwide. An all-time World Cup shock – and the shocks have continued aplenty. The biggest perhaps being that Argentina have recovered to reach the final.

Wout Weghorst’s second goal sparks wild Dutch celebrations


Biggest disappointment

MD: Brazil, mostly for the fact we didn’t get a Brazil-Argentina semi-final. So much was building up to it. There were a few other let-downs, especially Spain after the way they opened the World Cup against Costa Rica. Off the pitch, there’s the fact so few players used their considerable voice in support of migrant workers or Qatar’s many other issues – especially the England squad.

RJ: The majority of votes will probably go to Germany or Belgium but for Spain to start the World Cup with a 7-0 thrashing and end it with no more wins and to go out after 1,000 passes and one shot on target showed how they can be the most pointless team in world football.

MC: The OneLove armband campaign was a debacle, from its inception to its failed implementation, but the blame ultimately lies with Fifa for making even that inadequate show of solidarity impermissible.

BB: Belgium were disappointing but given pre-tournament concerns their early exit was hardly unexpected. Germany’s, after a stunning defeat by Japan, was far more surprising. They had never failed to get out of the group in 80 years before 2018. Now they’ve not managed it in back-to-back tournaments. Even with room still to grow, a talented young team promised far more than they delivered in Qatar.

KM: Denmark, Wales and Uruguay were really disappointing. The two former nations did absolutely nothing. The latter did, but far too late – they needed to be a lot more aggressive and attack-minded earlier in the tournament. They were capable of a lot and have nobody but themselves to blame. Belgium underachieved the most perhaps but they went well beyond disappointing into the land of outright rank embarrassment. Horrific from them and got what they deserved, manager and players alike.

JR: Denmark. One point and one goal from three games after entering the tournament as dark horses was a huge letdown. There is no shame in being caught in a whirlwind as Kylian Mbappe ran riot, but they will be haunted by the slow start out the blocks against Tunisia and then surrendering to a spirited, yet limited Australia.

LO: With all due love and respect for Croatia, the possibility of Brazil facing Argentina in a World Cup semi-final was incredibly exciting, and so it was a pity we didn’t get to see that. There haven’t been many heavyweight showdowns in this World Cup, a testament to those teams who have overachieved.

JB: Uruguay. They were so tepid in their opening draw with South Korea and defeat to Portugal, after coming into the World Cup as dark horses. Uruguay did show up when they had to beat Ghana and finally brought some fight, but after South Korea’s late win over Portugal it didn’t matter. It was too little too late and they only had themselves to blame.

AP: The lack of conviction in any opposition to Fifa or the general human-rights issues surrounding this tournament. Some teams and individuals’ hearts were in the right place, but their actions did not do justice to that fact.

KJ: Belgium. Their fortuitous win against Canada was a sign of things to come. Ponderously slow in possession and less than convincing out of it, they got what they deserved against Morocco before a Romelu Lukaku horror show in front of goal against Croatia rather appropriately summed up their tournament. Completely fruitless. And the end of an era.

Denmark look dejected after conceding against Australia


Best player

MD: Leo Messi – he has defined this World Cup, and so far been more influential in the two biggest games than Kylian Mbappe. The biggest now awaits.

RJ: Kylian Mbappe has been sensationally good at times and has felt unstoppable. In a tournament where there are two players who, in their different ways, can do things no one else can, I will opt for him ahead of Lionel Messi.

MC: Lionel Messi. He usually is.

BB: The big players have shone in Qatar but none quite as brightly as the greatest of all. Lionel Messi has dragged Argentina all the way to the final and inspired his team all the way there. The beating heart of a team desperate to win this trophy more than any other, he’s scored five goals and added three assists so far. They are doing this for him, as they have said all along. He is more than doing his bit too.

KM: It’s Messi or Mbappe, isn’t it, in terms of actual “best”? So I’ll make my “best” the top player who has overextended and impacted most perhaps – basically who has put the biggest gap between their regular recent displays and what they’ve managed to produce in Qatar. That for me is Adrien Rabiot, a midfielder of immense talent but inconsistent at club level and in-and-out for France over the years. Here though he’s played a massive role, excellent defensively and on the ball and setting a big platform for those higher upfield to shine.

JR: It has to be Lionel Messi, the greatest of all time providing a highlight reel of his trademark finish (vs Australia), pass (vs Netherlands) and dribble (vs Croatia), alongside a heavy dose of emotion as Argentina clawed their way to the final.

LO: Lionel Messi. His goal against Mexico launched Argentina’s assault on this tournament and they’ve not looked back. He scored another great goal against Australia, then delivered magical assists against Netherlands and Croatia to help propel his country to another World Cup final.

JB: Lionel Messi. The World Cup lives on moments and, under the most intense pressure, he has produced several to elevate the tournament to a level above anything else in the sport. Everyone will have a favourite but mine was his pass to Nahuel Molina.

AP: Messi. It would feel fitting if he were to lift the trophy in Qatar and get it “in writing”, so to speak, that he has been the best player in the tournament, as well as the greatest of all time.

KJ: Two standouts, of course, but Lionel Messi’s throwback performance against Croatia gives him the edge over Kylian Mbappe ahead of the final. Was twice Argentina’s saviour when a breakthrough was proving difficult – against Mexico and Australia – and has fashioned a belief that it is destiny that Argentina will prove victorious in his final World Cup come Sunday evening.

Lionel Messi salutes Argentina’s fans after beating Croatia


Biggest surprise

MD: Morocco are an obvious choice, given how far they went, but they were well worth that surge and many people hailed them as a potential revelation. I was actually more surprised by how far Croatia went, given this wasn’t anything close to the 1998 or 2018 vintage.

RJ: Apart from Walid Regragui, did anyone think Morocco were capable of this? But then, as Regragui was only appointed three months ago, should we have even realised it was possible?

MC: Cristiano Ronaldo dropping to Portugal’s bench. Even if it was the obvious and correct call, plenty of other managers would not have had to courage to do it, and so one of his oldest mentors and friends Fernando Santos deserved credit.

BB: Everyone will say Morocco and that’s because they are the right answer. A first African semi-finalist in history deserve all the praise they have got after beating Belgium and knocking Spain and Portugal out en route to the final four. Built on a historically good defence and spurred on by an inspirational coach, they have been a revelation.

KM: Morocco feels such an obvious take here, yet it’s still the truth. So a bit more detail on why (other than results) they are the surprise: it’s how quickly the squad has managed to be such a formidable group, how quickly Walid Regragui has got them on board to believe in his way and fight for each other. A coach coming in just a couple of months before the finals is far from ideal but he has been near-perfect in his decision-making and in developing the group dynamic – and all this after they lost one of their most effective attackers, Amine Harit, to an awful knee injury on the eve of the tournament.

JR: Japan and their exhilarating run to the last 16, the Samurai Blue charmed fans around the world with both passion on the pitch and in the stands. A crushing penalty shoot-out loss to Croatia showed the full range of emotions on this compelling rollercoaster, which should leave excitement surrounding their future and presence in the United States, Mexico and Canada in 2026.

LO: Morocco, and specifically smooth midfielder Azzedine Ounahi. He probably won’t need to worry about fighting relegation with Ligue 1’s Angers for much longer.

JB: Croatia’s victory over Brazil. At this point, you shouldn’t be surprised by Croatia’s powers to survive. It really looked like Brazil had finally killed them off when Neymar scored in extra time, but Croatia climbed out from underneath the car they’d been run over by, equalised, and won on penalties. Their ability to control matches through possession, even when they are the underdog, was incredible to see.

AP: I can not in good conscience pick anything other than Morocco’s run to the final four.

KJ: It’s not possible to look past Morocco, whose organisation, tenacity and opportunism has thrilled the world in Qatar. Deserved to top the group and earned the rub of the green against Spain in the shoot-out, before stunning Portugal despite injuries aplenty.

Morocco players celebrates after victory over Spain in a penalty shoot-out


England and Wales verdict

MD: England: so close to something historic, but not that memorable. There can be no major criticisms and there is hope for the future – but this was supposed to be at the present, and the chance for the journey to end.Wales: the end of a cycle, so a natural disappointment.

RJ: England played well against the holders and potential winners even as they went out. There should be few recriminations: plenty of England players, led by Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka, had fine tournaments, Gareth Southgate got most of his decisions right and, apart from in the stalemate against the USA, the performances were impressive.

As for Wales, Gareth Bale’s penalty against the United States was a genuinely brilliant moment for a country who had not been to a World Cup for 64 years. Thereafter, sadly, it was an anti-climax. Wayne Hennessey’s kung-fu kick may live long in the memory but for the wrong reasons. For Bale and Aaron Ramsey, it seemed as though the World Cup had come too late in their careers. Wales didn’t do themselves justice.

MC: England were unfortunate, coming out on the wrong side of a tight contest against quality opponents, and there is not a lot else to analyse in that regard. Wales were simply poor. A first World Cup since 1958 came four years too late.

BB: Wales were desperately poor as fears that this would be a tournament too far fast became reality. That they made it here at all should be remembered, though, even if what transpired in Qatar wasn’t at all what they wanted.

England again showed they should now rightly be considered contenders on this stage from now on. Losing by the finest of margins in the quarter-finals to the defending champions shouldn’t detract from another positive step forward for an ascending group of players.

KM: Overall I think it’s a par for England. They were very good in the groups after taking the lead, but uninspiring and decidedly reserved until that happened – therefore for the entire game against USA. Largely the same against Senegal, though they deserve credit for really seizing the moment and taking the game away from the Africans in the last 16, but England reaching the quarter-finals in and of itself isn’t incredible. France was arguably the most mature, forward-thinking and capable performance, but it ended in defeat – so not enough positives to be incredible, even though it was very close to being so.

JR: Immense regret at a timid showing for Wales, who did not do themselves justice on the big stage. Merely qualifying is a huge success though and a step back is required before a harsher examination on Robert Page’s men in Qatar.

England delivered, despite doubts before and throughout, and for that Gareth Southgate should be proud. A genuine contender on the biggest stage, that is evidently the priority beyond establishing an identity or expansive style of play that is to be cultivated no matter the results. There is youth in this squad, too, making 2024 and beyond realistic targets for this group to finally break through and deliver a trophy.

Wales were simply poor. They didn’t do enough to justify themselves here, a real disappointment.

LO: Wales’ draw with USA was a decent result against a good team, but the nature of the defeat by Iran was very disappointing. England did pretty well but came up against a good team and lost the small details of the match. There are positives to take away, like the performances of Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka at their first World Cup, but this was a huge opportunity missed.

JB: England were fine, which I appreciate might be too hot a take to include. I didn’t expect them to progress past France but their performance against the defending champions showed why Gareth Southgate should remain in charge – they are on a journey and I think they should try and figure it out together.

I expected more from Wales but in fairness, their performances showed just how much they overachieved by qualifying.

AP: England went as far as I expected, losing to the team that I expected to beat them, so why do I still feel so proud and simultaneously heartbroken? Probably because their performance in defeat against France was one of the best the Three Lions have mustered in my lifetime, and because – when the equaliser went in – it really felt like they might actually win this one (much like when Luke Shaw scored against Italy in the Euros final).

As for Wales… They let themselves down, to be brutally honest.

KJ: England’s quarter-final exit still stings. It was a par showing for Gareth Southgate’s men in Qatar – beating no top team of note – but they can count themselves unlucky in the last eight against France on one hand. On the other, they still created very little from open play whilst on top midway through the second-half and will live to regret it.

Wales, meanwhile, underperformed given their good tournament record before this. The late loss to Iran was hugely disappointing in particular.

Harry Kane celebrates scoring against France


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *