Twenty Best Moments From the 2022 FIFA World Cup
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is now in the rearview mirror. The event, planning, and location were not without their share of controversies, but in the end, the players on the pitch and the fans in the stands delivered one of the best editions of the tournament ever. The number of games decided late, incredible moments of individual brilliance on the pitch, and instantly iconic stories were being written before our very eyes. Even the most ardent naysayer of Qatar 2022 (and they’d have good reason to be) will admit that the finished product delivered in spades.
Honing them all down to 20 great moments is no easy feat. Frankly, the number of entries on the list could easily be doubled. But for brevity’s sake, we’ll do our best to not over-indulge. Without further ado, let’s relive some unforgettable stories.
20-The Canadian Men’s National Team
It is difficult to not reserve at least one spot to express more personal thoughts and emotions. We use the bottom of the list to highlight the bewildering presence of Canada at this tournament. The country co-hosts the 2026 edition, meaning they’re obligated to present a team. That doesn’t always equate to high quality. Qatar’s unit in 2022 didn’t perform especially well. What made Canada’s entry to Qatar 2022 was that the squad earned its place. After a 36-year absence and many, many embarrassing nights on the field, Canada, under the guidance of manager John Herdman, had finally formed a decent ensemble. They didn’t rock the boat much, losing all 3 of their matches and finishing with a -5 goal differential, but big strides were made.
This isn’t a new story insofar as Japanese fans had been known to perform this act at past sporting events, but a World Cup is a global phenomenon. After each of their games and as most other people flocked back to their hotels, fans of the Japanese team remained near their seats and picked up the litter. It’s an incredible sign of respect and tidiness, one that, without wanting to sound didactic, almost no other fan base comes close to. If one can believe it, the Japanese Football Association even sent 8,000 bags to help the fans clean up.
18-Infantino’s Opening Press Conference
It’s entirely up for debate as to whether FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s opening press conference was one of Qatar 2022’s “best moments” but one thing is for sure: it was memorable. As an institution, FIFA has a long way to go before it has regained the trust and respect of many football fans. Who is to say that Infantino’s monologue came from a place of sincerity or was no more than a clumsy PR stunt? “…today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled…” It went on and on, with Infantino using his past experiences as a child to cite discrimination because he was mocked for his red hair and freckles… As we said, it was memorable.
17-Woman Referees and Crews
It sounds incredible that the first World Cup match refereed by a woman came in 2022, but better late than never. The big day came on December 1st for the third and final group stage game between Costa Rica and Germany. Leading the calls on the pitch was Stéphanie Frappart, 39 years old and hailing from Le Plessis-Bouchard, France. It was quite a contest to be a part of, as both teams went back and forth in a six-goal marathon that ended 4-2 in favour of the Germans. Félicitations, Stéphanie.
16-The New Generation
Every edition seems to make heroes out of a new batch of incredible young talent who relish the global stage. Many fresh faces had people take notice of their skill sets at Qatar 2022, some of whom were hoping to do away with lingering demons, like England’s Bukayo Saka. Harassed for missing the deciding penalty at Euro 2020, he opened his Qatar 2022 campaign with a brace against Iran. Portugal’s Gonçalo Ramos, only 21, practically took care of Switzerland himself in the Round of 16 with a hat trick. The Netherlands’ future man Cody Gakpo made a case that he is already their main man with 3 goals in total.
Ghana only played three contests at Qatar 2022 since they failed to make it out of the group stage. Why should they make the list? Because each one of their contests bubbled with drama and adventure. The opening salvo pitted them against the heavily favoured Portuguese, but this didn’t appear to impress Ghana too much, as they made Ronaldo and company fight tooth and nail for a 3-2 victory. Then came a topsy-turvy thriller against the Korea Republic, which the Africans won 3-2. Finally, with all to play for, they fell 2-0 to Uruguay but in the process dragged the South Americans with them out of the tournament, thus exacting a small measure of revenge for a controversial 2010 Round of 16 contest.
14-Korea Republic Leaves it Late
One moment it looked as though Son Heung-min and his fellow countrymen were about to pack their bags and leave Qatar. Their third group-stage game against Portugal was level at 1-1. Not a bad result considering the opposition, but not good enough to take through to the knockout stage. Then, in a bewildering sequence, Korea took over the ball deep in their own territory, with non-other than Son leading the charge. As an army of Portuguese players finally converged around him deep in their own territory, he somehow slipped a ball through everyone for teammate Hwang Hee-chan, who pounced on the opportunity to slide home the winner. In about 5 seconds, Korea was suddenly through!
Another inclusion that’s not an obvious selection in a “great moments” list. Suffice it to say, it was a shocker. When the Costa Rica-Germany third group stage game concluded and the European side had emerged 4-2 victors, it was insufficient to carry them through due to Japan’s win over Spain. The Japanese had begun their campaign by surprising the Germans 2-1, meaning the latter’s 1-1 draw with Spain in the second game and the win in the third awarded them only four points and too poor a goal differential. The Deutschland is usually a heavy favourite and it came to Qatar with an entirely new generation of talent, but the stage seemed a little too big for them.
12-France’s All-Time Goal Scorer
No, it isn’t Zinedine Zidane. It isn’t Thierry Henry either. Nor is it Michel Platini. That impressive statistic belongs to Olivier Giroud. At 36 years of age, he netted his 53rd career international goal in the Round of 16 clash against Poland, which the French captured 3-1. It was quite the turnaround from Russia 2018, a tournament during which the striker didn’t net a single goal despite his side winning it all.
11-A Goal, a Smile, and a Red Card
Not many players get to celebrate game-winning goals against perennial favourites Brazil. Cameroon entered its final group game against the South American giants with a chance to make it to the knockout stages. The division’s other game, Serbia-Switzerland, was played simultaneously and a Swiss victory thus eliminated Cameroon from contention. Whether they knew it at the time or not, Cameroon kept on pushing as best they could until Vincent Aboubakar scored off a header after a brilliant run toward goal. Aboubakar was so elated that his overly-enthusiastic celebrations earned him a red card. Even the referee appreciated the moment, smiling and offering a handshake before sending the goal scorer off.
10-Cameroon 3-3 Serbia
When a World Cup begins, most fans salivate at the prospect of seeing the game’s great stars face each other for new, iconic chapters in the sport’s history. Except for their national supporters, few people looked forward to Cameroon vs Serbia in Group A. After all, it was the same group as Brazil, so what did it matter anyways? Well, this 3-3 thriller ended up making a terrific case for giving any unit, however small, the benefit of the doubt. Serbia looked to be in complete control with a 3-1 second-half lead off some wonderful goals, only for the African nation to storm back and force both sides to share a point each.
9-Brazil’s Joga Bonito
Everyone always expects some magic from Brazil at the World Cup. The phenomenal thing about those expectations is that they are often met. The 2022 moment of brilliance came in the team’s first group-stage game against Serbia. Already leading 1-0, the Seleçao looked to put the game away when Vinicius Jr. drove down the left flank, cut inside, and fed a medium-height, rather powerful cross to Richarlison. The latter welcomed the ball with his left for control, spun around, and rocketed a shot with his right on a volley. As English commentator Peter Drury plainly asserted on the telecast: ”Now that, THAT IS BRAZIL!”
8-Friends turned Foes
An inevitable occurrence at any World Cup, especially for nations that have world-class players, is when club colleagues meet as opposites when representing their countries. Qatar 2022 featured a few such moments, oftentimes in extremely high-pressure situations. Tottenham Hotspurs teammates Richarlison and Son Heung-min squared off in the Round of 16 when Brazil tussled with the Korea Republic. Paris-Saint-Germain stars Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi crossed paths in the final. Arguably the most memorable came at the quarter-final stage when France and England did battle. Not only do French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and English striker Harry Kane play for Spurs, but they also faced each other for penalty kicks during the game. Plural. Two times. Kane scored the first time to level the terms, but missed his second opportunity, ultimately helping France win 2-1.
A word on Cristiano Ronaldo’s legacy on the international stage, his penalty in the second half against Ghana was a significant moment in the event’s lauded story. No other player in World Cup history has ever scored in all five tournaments they played in. To have partaken in five is itself an achievement, but to have found the back of the net at least once each time is a record no other player may ever break. He quite literally started scoring in World Cups in 2006, which feels like a lifetime ago. Consistency matters!
Even though the Final ultimately pitted regular heavyweights France against Argentina, there was no shortage of unexpected results at this past edition of the World Cup. Ironically, one of them involved the eventual champions. The road to their 3rd star got off to a demoralizing start for Argentina, who fell 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in their opening match. The Japanese defeated both Germany and Spain 2-1 after falling behind 1-0 each time. Tunisia left Qatar with pride restored by vanquishing France 1-0 in their final game. Cameroon earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Brazil. And then of course there was…
No team made as many heads spin as Morocco. For starters, the country’s best finish all-time was a Round of 16 elimination in Mexico in 1986. But this squad was different. Composed of many players with Moroccan roots but actually born outside the country, it was a collective of staunchly disciplined players who gave the opposition almost no hope whatsoever of scoring. They sported one of the World Cup’s greatest defences, allowing only a single goal when they head into the semi-final against France. Even then, it was a flimsy own-goal conceded against Canada. The Belgians, Croats, Spanish, and Portuguese were helpless in the face of a Moroccan wall that never gave an inch. It wasn’t the sexiest style of play, but it got the African continent its best finish ever (4th).
4-One Last Ride
Some players have left indelible marks on the beautiful game. The greatest have done so for both club and country, and three names that immediately come to mind are Croatian Luka Modric, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Argentina’s Lionel Messi. All three have played several World Cups, earning love and admiration from fans the world over. Different players in their own rights, each possesses a seemingly indefatigable energy to be part of the greatest games, be they at the domestic or international levels. With Qatar 2022 in the books, so too are the World Cup careers of these three giants. Gracias, obrigada, hvala vam.
3-Save of the Tournament
It’s not often that the save of the tournament earns that moniker for both being an exquisite example of goalkeeping and the single most important save. Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez was the man of the moment deep into the second extra-time frame of the Final against France. Mbappé had only just levelled the terms at 3-3 when suddenly a brilliant ball set Kolo Muani free on the right side. Martinez came out to challenge, and when the Frenchman rocketed a shot, the keeper’s out-stretched left leg parried the shot. It was virtually the last moment before penalties. If that had gone in, France would be two-time defending world champions as of this writing.
2-An Instant Classic Final
It was as if the 2018 contest in Russia hadn’t satiated the desire for fireworks. The stakes between France and Argentina needed to be that much higher. Four years ago, the sides had met in the Round of 16, a beguiling match that concluded 4-3 in favour of eventual champions Les Bleus. Both teams seemed more than happy to oblige fans with a game just as if not more dramatic, this time in the grand finale. 4 goals in regulation, France coming back from 2-0 down, Argentina reclaiming the lead in the second extra-time period courtesy of Messi, only for Mbappé to answer with his hat trick goal, and finally penalties. It was a breathtaking affair, one that will be discussed for ages.
Given the hour, given the man, how could Messi finally lifting the World Cup trophy not be the number 1 moment of Qatar 2022? Lionel had accomplished everything a professional player of his calibre could. It had taken a while to capture a Copa America title, but even that had been done in the summer of 2021, defeating Brazil in the final no less. But the World Cup was what so many people hoped he would finally grasp. It took a while, as France pushed Argentina to penalty kicks, but all the tension and breath-holding paid off. Yes, officially speaking Argentina won (deservedly so. They brought a great team to Qatar), but it’s very difficult to not see this as Messi’s victory.