WAS it the greatest World Cup final? Probably.
Was it the greatest World Cup final history? Definitive.
But was Qatar 2022 the greatest World Cup ever? Certainly not.
During the build-up to Sunday’s epic, it felt cartoonish and celebrity-obsessed to refer to a team game as “Lionel Messi vs. Kylian Mbappe”.
But then, in what appeared to be a Disney-scripted endgame, it turned out to actually be Messi versus Mbappe, with the two Galacticos scoring five of the six goals.
Messi eventually won the World Cup at 35 and had an impact on Argentina’s campaign as significant as that of the late Diego Maradona in 1986.
And Mbappe became just the second player in history to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final, snatching Messi’s golden boot and still end up a loser.
The 24-year-old Frenchman should have been man of the match as his battered side, struggling with the effects of a virus, came on for barely 80 minutes before his dramatic two-goal intervention forced extra time.
There was a concerted effort by Fifa’s clown overlord Gianni Infantino and Qatari henchmen to portray this tournament as the best ever – and a great final played into their hands.
But just in case we’re inclined to forget the corruption, human rights abuses and sheer nonsense of holding a World Cup in a tiny nation with no footballing culture, an absurd trophy presentation reminded us that the last month had been deeply flawed.
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In a final piece of ‘sports lingerie’, Messi was donned in a traditional Arabic bisht robe, clouding images of the trophy lift that crowned a great career.
But then Messi is paid by the Qataris who own Paris Saint-Germain and is also the ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
As handsome as he is as a footballer and as romantic as the story of his World Cup triumph may seem, this guy rakes in tens of millions from unscrupulous people.
And then there was Infantino trying to steal the spotlight and derail Argentina’s celebrations.
The man is a valued jerk, a deranged attention-seeker at the ankle of oppressive dictators, a hand puppet for Vladimir Putin, the Emir of Qatar and the Saudis he would like to host the 2030 World Cup.
In terms of football, it was one of the better World Cups.
But anyone who has traveled to Qatar will tell you that the entire tournament experience was a sham.
This was immediately evident in the opening game, when hapless Qatar – by far the worst host team in World Cup history – were clearly beaten by Ecuador in a largely silent stadium that was half-empty just after half-time as the locals surrendered and left At home.
Only the South American and North African nations brought significant support and so the atmosphere at most games was thoroughly comical – stadiums dominated by neutral tourists and Mexican waves and Icelandic thunderbolts.
When Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped and Portugal beat Switzerland 6-1, Ronaldo still received the night’s shrillest cheers when he arrived as a late substitute – a far more enthusiastic ovation than his substitute Goncalo Ramos, who scored a brilliant hat-trick.
And some of the best pieces from the World Cup are now under threat from Fifa. Expanding the event to 48 teams from 2026 will make it bloated and one-sided.
Some of the biggest drama of this tournament happened with the final group stage games, when two games were played at the same time and the lucky numbers fluctuated wildly.
Germany were eliminated by a controversial Japanese winner against Spain and Uruguay’s villains were eliminated by South Korea’s mastermind in added time against Portugal.
But at the next World Cup we have 12 groups of four, which would allow some third-placed teams to progress and others not, which also affects the highlights of the group stage.
England had a good tournament and many of us initially felt that if Harry Kane had taken his second penalty instead of overdoing it, Gareth Southgate’s men might have won the World Cup.
Although England have some very good footballers including some up and coming young players, they don’t have a breakthrough match winner like Mbappe or Messi.
Mbappe would probably have conjured up a brilliant moment to beat England in extra time. If not, Messi probably would have done it in the final.
And that means ignoring Morocco, Africa’s first semi-finalists at the World Cup – a tremendous achievement from a tenacious team fueled by fanatical support.
There were nuances of 1982 via Brazil that made for outstanding individual brilliance.
Tottenham’s Richarlison was a star but his team ultimately underperformed in losing a quarter-final shootout to Croatia – and what an amazing feat for this small nation to finish second and third in back-to-back World Cups.
Argentina’s quarter-final win over Holland was wild and wonderfully bad-tempered.
While most of us wanted Argentina to win the final, for Messi’s sake let’s not forget their antics when they mocked the fallen Dutchmen after their penalty shootout win.
Refereeing in Qatar was mostly excellent and unfussy – especially final referee Szymon Marciniak – and VAR worked unusually well.
But let’s not let Infantino bask in the glory of a great final and try to normalize the Middle East Winter World Cups.
Also, don’t let anyone tell you that giving up alcohol helped.
There hasn’t been a mass violence worth mentioning at a World Cup since 1998.
Infantino will be desperate to bring the 2030 event to Saudi Arabia – another disruptive mid-season tournament in an arid country under a barbaric regime.
If it happens, with the Saudis as direct hosts or in a strange joint bid with Egypt and Greece, Messi will surely be in Riyadh as a well-paid scapegoat.
He is a wonderful soccer player and lit a wonderful soccer game on Sunday.
But let’s not pretend Messi is a saint and let’s not pretend that Qatar 2022 was even a proper World Cup, let alone the biggest.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6951127/lionel-messi-world-cup-really-qatar/ Don’t buy the hype. Lionel Messi, clad in an Arabian robe, reminded us how flawed the World Cup in Qatar really was