After a month of non-stop football action, the 2022 World Cup finally drew to a close with a flourish, as Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup after Argentina saw off France in a penalty shootout.
The tournament will be remembered with mixed emotions, with human rights issues continuing to loom large over the host nation. However, the football served up by the 32 sides was at times breathtaking, occasionally mind-boggling and regularly drama-filled.
Here are our 10 most memorable moments from the tournament.
10. Gianni Infantino’s bizarre rant
Before the competition even began, FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino was keen to hit back at the controversy surrounding the competition being staged in Qatar, including the LGBT record of the country and the reported migrant deaths in building the stadiums.
The way he chose to do it, however, was a little strange. In a bizarre outburst, he claimed that he felt ‘Gay’, ‘disabled’ and ‘a migrant worker’ in a speech that left people more concerned than reassured about the tournament.
9. Football makes Refereeing history
Plenty of history was made at the 2022 World Cup by the players, but also by the officials. French referee Stephanie Frappart became the first female referee to oversee a Men’s World Cup game when she took charge of Germany vs Costa Rica in the final round of group games.
8 Giroud breaks all-time France record
From one record to another, and this time it was the turn of French veteran striker Olivier Giroud to claim the France all-time top goalscorer record.
Equalling Thierry Henry’s record of 51 goals for Les Blues with a header against Australia, the former Arsenal and Chelsea man went one better against Poland, grabbing his 52nd goal for his country and taking him clear at the top of the charts.
Giroud added another for good measure against England in the quarter-final, ending the tournament on four goals. He is unlikely to have the record for too long, however, with Kylian Mbappe already having racked up 36 goals for his country at the age of just 23.
For now, however, the record is Giroud’s.
7. Goncalo Ramos hits debut hat-trick
Dropped by Manchester United ahead of the tournament, all of the focus was on Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line for Portugal. After three average performances in the group stage, however, he was dropped by his national side too, with Fernando Santos turning to young star Goncalo Ramos to spearhead the Portugal attack in the knockout stages.
It was a masterstroke. On his World Cup debut, Ramos netted a hat-trick and grabbed an assist as a newly-rejuvenated Portugal attack put six past Switzerland to head through to the quarter-final, and add further question marks about the importance of Ronaldo, now 37, to his national team.
It was a moment to savour for Ramos, though, who will be expected to shoulder that responsibility more often in the years to come, and the 21-year-old gave a strong first impression.
6. Japan top Group of death
In a group with Germany, Spain and Costa Rica, no one really gave Japan a chance. 70 minutes into their opener, those predictions seemed well-founded, with the Blue Samurai 1-0 down to Germany, only for them to mount a late comeback and pick up a shock 2-1 win over Hansi Flick’s side.
They looked to have thrown away a massive chance at qualification days later, when they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, only to repeat their comeback trick in their final game to shock Spain, top the group, and send Germany home, all by the finest of margins.
It was a fitting end to a truly bonkers group, which at one point in time saw Costa Rica and Japan heading through over the European giants, and put the Blue Samurai firmly on the footballing map.
5. Netherlands’ late free-kick against Argentina
Handed a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, it looked for all the world as though Cody Gakpo was going to shoot 10 minutes into stoppage time.
Instead, the Netherlands, who needed a goal to take the game to extra time, executed a beautifully worked short free-kick to allow Wout Weghorst to bundle home his second of the game, and level the score with Argentina.
Though they ultimately fell just short, losing out on penalties to Lionel Messi and co., it was a moment that sent them into ecstasy, and handed a whole nation renewed hope of victory.
4. Saudi Arabia stun Argentina
In one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, Argentina nearly saw their tournament end before it began. Up against a spirited Saudi Arabia side in their group stage opener, Lionel Messi handed the Albiceleste the lead before they saw a further three goals ruled out for offside.
It set the scene for a remarkable comeback, capped by a stunning striker from Salem Al-Dawsari and seeing the tournament explode into life.
Though it all proved in vein in the end, with Argentina winning the World Cup and Saudi Arabia finishing bottom of their group, it was a match that will live long in the memories of fans worldwide and was proof that the often disregarded Arab sides can compete at the top level.
3. Morocco make history
Everyone’s dark horses in 2018, Morocco didn’t even make it out of the group stages four years ago, but found a place into plenty of hearts in Qatar. The proverbial underdogs in just about every game that they played, they became the first African side to reach a semi-final at the World Cup after knocking out Spain and Portugal in successive rounds.
An old-school side built on a brilliant defence and containing plenty of pre-tournament unknowns coached by a manager who only took charge earlier in 2022, there were plenty of reasons to root for the Atlas Lions, and they will be expected to be a threat in 2026 too.
2. Mbappe’s moment
Two greats of the game served up the best World Cup final in living memory as Argentina and France went head to head in the tournament showpiece.
Though he was ultimately on the losing side, 23-year-old superstar Kylian Mbappe netted the first hat-trick in a final since 1966 to hand Les Blues a fighting chance when it seemed though they were dead and buried.
His heroics served up a thrilling final that, at half time, looked to be settled without much fight from the reigning champions, and though he ended up on the losing side, he claimed the golden boot and is now just four goals away from being the competition’s all-time top goalscorer. Not bad for 23 years old.
1. Majestic Messi’s Crowning Moment
In a tournament shrouded in controversy, it will nonetheless be remembered as the crowning moment for one of the game’s all-time greats.
Lionel Messi came into the tournament claiming that it was his last, and having been a beaten finalist in 2014, it really did feel like a final dance for the PSG man, who was missing just the World Cup trophy from his bulging cabinet.
Seven goals and three assists later, he has filled that gap in brilliant fashion, becoming the first player in history to net in the group stages and every knockout round to the final.
His legacy was already insurmountable to many, but the Jules Rimet crowns what has been a majestic career for the Rosario-born star.