Football & Management

Qatar 2022: A World Cup of the Underdogs?

Argentina Had Won the Mondial Twice by 1994 When Saudis Qualified for their first World Cup

 American fans chanted “IT’S CALLED SOCCER!” There is certainly an argument for calling the Beautiful Game “soccer” since its  “inventors” could not triumph over the perceived impostors that dare to call it “soccer”.

Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, USA – reader, these are not the conventional headliners on the global football stage. You would be forgiven if your first thoughts led you in the direction of a G20 summit or similar. Welcome to Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. This brief list outlines the matchdays 1 and 2 upsets and surprising results. The traditional footballing nations and multiple Mondial winners would be expected to be in this lineup. 

Incredibly, at the ongoing World Cup, a first-time hosting for the Middle East, we are getting the shocks early on. Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina with a 2-1 score line. Japan then announced their intent with a shock win over four-time World Cup winner, Germany. Again, another nation with a great footballing tradition fell. Then Qatar 2022 started to look like the tournament of the underdogs. 

To put the Saudi win in perspective, Argentina boasts arguably the Greatest. Of. All. Time, Leo Messi, captain and a line-up of accomplished players from elite European football leagues. The Green Falcons of Saudi Arabia on the other hand, first qualified for the World Cup in 1994 when Argentina had already won two World Cup trophies. Recall that the South American powerhouse is a several-time runner-up. Apples and oranges spring to mind. From reports, Saudi Arabian citizens were rewarded with a Public Holiday while rumors swirled around social media that the players would each be given a Rolls Royce for their efforts so far.  

USA is on the list courtesy of a comeback goal to draw with Wales and holding England to a goalless draw on Matchday 2. American fans chanted “IT’S CALLED SOCCER!” There is certainly an argument for calling the Beautiful Game “soccer”. Its  “inventors” could not triumph over the perceived impostors that dare to call it soccer. Iran beat Wales by two goals.  Perhaps this is not as great an upset given that Wales are only re-joining the World Cup party after 64 years.  But it broke hopeful Welsh hearts nonetheless. 

The Year of Brazil?

Matchday 1 gave us THAT Richarlison scissor-kick, an early contender for goal of the tournament – five-time champions Brazil will typically enter as favorites at the World Cup but haven’t actually won it since 2002. Might this be their year? They certainly laid a marker with the decisive victory over Serbia, despite the unfortunate injury news of their superstar forward, Neymar. Tim Weah was the scorer of the USA goal. He did this in front of his father, George, the only African footballer to have won the Ballon d’Or. We also saw history made as Cristiano Ronaldo put the united gate behind him to become the first man to score in five different World Cups. 

As matchday 2 rounds up, there is some restoration of world order. Messi led Argentina to a win over Mexico in front of a record-breaking crowd of nearly 90,000, raising hopes that they will qualify for the round of sixteen. Kylian Mbappé was at his rampaging best with two goals that mean defending champions France become the first nation to qualify for the next round. Senegal put Africa on the scoresheet with their win over hosts Qatar. The loss unfortunately gave Qatar a record they would rather not claim – the earliest elimination of a host country in 92 years of the World Cup. 

Qatar 2022…A World Cup of Records: Messi, France, Lewandowski, Thuram

Other records are being set – Lionel Messi was the youngest and has become the oldest man to assist and score in a single game at a World Cup, doing so in 2006. The France team becomes the first defending champions to reach the knockout stages in the following World Cup since Brazil in 2006. Lewandowski, a prolific goal scorer on the club stage, scored his first World Cup goal for Poland. Marcus Thuram for France reminded us that we are of a certain generation since we watched his father, Lilian Thuram, France’s most-capped player lift the cup in 1998.

The $300 Billion Mondial

The tournament is just getting underway. There will be more shocks and many more stories. A lot of non-football issues have been said in the run-up to the tournament. Protests have been chronicled.  What tends to happen is that football gets on with the business of football. The Qatar Organizing Committee reportedly spent about $300 billion in developing infrastructure for the tournament. From all accounts, the atmosphere at each stadium has been electric.  Fans are enjoying the special excitement that comes around only every four years. 

Which of the twists and turns will come to define Qatar 2022 remains to be seen. But football fans with an estimated global viewership of five billion will make the most of this current football fest.

Lande Abudu

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