They call it the beautiful game, but whenever you are watching a game, have you paused for a moment and thought about why? How come football can deliver so many laughs and tears, so many passionate moments, so many highs and lows? Well, it is because it is passion and rivalry all made into one and it can tap into one’s primal emotions. And also because it delivers some excellent moments, some unforgettable seconds, that will remain etched into memory.
The FIFA World Cup is surely the top competition in the world, with plenty of lore and vintage matches and moments that have surely resisted the test of time. And it just adds layer upon layer of excellence, something that was proven once again at Qatar 2022.
Under the luxurious setting of the eight superb venues in Qatar, rounded near the capital, Doha, the 2022 FIFA World Cup has already delivered plenty of unforgettable memories for all football fans, especially for the participating teams. From a beautiful goal, to an excellent save or the simple joy of being in the stands, Qatar 2022 had a little something in store for everybody.
But what were the best moments that made everybody think that, well, football is still a beautiful game? What were the exact moments that made us love football even more or for some to start their adventure with this excellent sport?
Korea’s nail-biting win to qualify
Tears were flowing in the players’ and fans’ eyes after the Republic of Korea mounted a huge comeback against Portugal. Down 0-1 after only six minutes, the Asian side bounced back to take a 2-1 win that enabled them to qualify at Uruguay’s expense, with the South American team failing to produce the goods in a 2-0 win against Ghana.
But with the game against Portugal finishing almost 10 minutes earlier, Korea could not celebrate the win until Uruguay’s match finished, as a single goal from the South American side would have sent them packing home, thanks to an inferior goal difference.
The 26 players and the staff huddled in the middle of the pitch, watching nervously the screen of a phone with the final minutes of the game between Uruguay and Ghana. Immediately after that match ended, the Korea players grabbed each other and celebrated, with a huge roar reverberating into the Education City Stadium, in proper celebration.
These will be moments that nobody in Korea will forget and just underline the power of football and its capacity to create emotion barely from nothing, even when the games are over.
Japan remind us why football is beautiful
Japan was definitely one of the biggest surprises of the Qatar 2022 tournament, winning their group and beating Spain and Germany after coming from behind, with an outstanding resilience to beat both European powerhouses with the same scoreline, 2-1, despite their opponents passing the ball four times more than the Asian side.
Sure, Japan had truly mastered the art of counterattacking and has always delivered huge respect for the competition on the pitch. But also off the pitch, where their fans went viral after staying hours after the final whistle to ensure that no piece was garbage was left behind them.
It was a huge sign of respect that enabled us to understand why football can educate and set an example for everybody. Even in defeat, after conceding their first loss against Costa Rica, 0-1, the Japanese fans cleaned the stadium and were cheered and approved by everybody.
A warm embrace between winners and the ones they conquered
The rivalry between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States of America is well-documented and had another episode unfold in Qatar 2022. Iran had three points before their last game of the group phase, while USA was just behind them, with two points, as only a win would have seen them through.
Sure enough, USA, who looked like the better team throughout the tournament, scored first through Christian Pulisic and protected the lead until Antonio Mateu Lahoz, the referee of the match, blew the final whistle, after nearly 11 minutes of stoppage time.
The Iran players fell down to their knees, the team in disarray, and with little to console them after this painful defeat. On the other hand, after leaving out some shouts of joy and tears of happiness, the USA players got up and tried to say some good words to their opponents, which they defeated.
A simple gest of humankind that went a long way, despite the tensions between the two sides. It made us remember why we love football and why players make this game so great. Because, after all, we are all humans. And we all try to give our best to our country.
Football love grips Qatar
The tradition of football in Qatar is nowhere near as big as in other countries, especially in Europe or South America, but the hosts have learned to embrace the sport, after being awarded the organisation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In total, after the first round of the group phase, the attendance figures stood at 94%, dropping a bit in the second round, with another 16 matches played, to 88%.
Over 2.2 million people attended the games at Qatar 2022, a huge number, which underlines the passion put by the hosts and their interest in football, with the biggest stars of the sport, like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo playing their last games at the FIFA World Cup.
It is clear that the legacy for Qatar is huge, with football getting a transcendental passion in the country, despite the early exit for the hosts, which lost their three matches in the group phase, against the Netherlands, Ecuador and Senegal.
We all love beautiful goals
And how could we forget about goals? We fell in love with football because we love the best players and they did deliver in spades at Qatar 2022. Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Kylian Mbappe all scored goals in the group phase of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, delighting their fans with excellent games, as their teams – Portugal, Argentina and France – all progressed to the knockout phase of the competition.
What about Richarlison’s strike against Serbia, which has definitely been one of the top goals of the tournament? A magnificent scissor kick that left Serbia’s goalkeeper without any room to make a save? Or what about the superb shot from Salem Al-Dawsari in one of the biggest shocks of the competition, Argentina’s loss against Saudi Arabia, 1-2.
There have been plenty of goals scored, and plenty of surprises, but the highlight reel for Qatar 2022 just kept on growing and it will not stop until the final. What is certain, though, is that this tournament will leave a huge legacy and it will definitely make plenty of non-football fans convert to the sport.