Qatar 2022 is the first World Cup to be hosted in the Middle East, the first to be played over November and December, and the first of its size to be held in such a small geographical area.
It was an opportunity for fans to see a full repertoire of this era’s greatest football maestros, culminating in a final of fantastic football. However, human rights issues remained at Qatar 2022, FIFA banned captains from wearing LGBTQ+ armbands and threatened sanctions for any team whose captain wore it on the pitch.
The entire German national team posed for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths in protest of having their freedom of expression curtailed. Iran’s players stayed silent during the Iranian national anthem ahead of their match with England, and their team’s captain, Ehsan Hajsafi, spoke in favour of the protests in Iran. Wales displayed rainbow flags at its training camp in Qatar in a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community meaning that the issue of human rights, both in Qatar and further afield, was never out of the picture.
On the football front, the lesson in Qatar ‘22 was that teams with star players can’t just turn up and expect to qualify. This is a World Cup where the big names took a beating; Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Belgium, France all were beaten before the group stage was done. Every country’s football is growing. No one is entitled!
Qatar 2022 was a tournament that the Arab world, Africa and the larger Global South will never forget. Morocco became the first African nation to ever reach the World Cup semi-finals, only three African nations had ever reached the quarter-final stage before, so the Atlas Lions will be remembered as heroes with wins over former colonial nations Portugal, Spain and Belgium. It is a story that has defied all the odds.
France made it to back-to-back finals despite several of their star players missing from the tournament. Another incredible show of resilience saw Croatia finish third, while Cristiano Ronaldo became the first man to score in five World Cups.
Ultimately, this was a World Cup where the “La Albiceleste “shined for the first time since 1986 and one where Messi consolidated his status as the greatest footballer of all time. Argentina ended the period of European dominance in the World Cup, as no South American team had managed to win the title since 2002, when Ronaldo Nazario’s Brazil beat Germany in the final.
In the final against Argentina, Kylian Mbappe dazzled in defeat, scoring a hattrick. And with eight goals in seven appearances, Mbappe produced the highest-scoring World Cup by any individual player since Ronaldo in 2002.
Despite the off the pitch controversies, for football fans Qatar 2022 offered a fresh twist on this old and much-loved festival of football with twists, turns and upsets galore. For the more detached observer, it remains to be seen whether the global tournament will leave a legacy of change and progress for Qatar that can be celebrated as widely as the sporting achievements.