Qatar 2022, The week after, and the next World Cup
It has been one week since the end of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
World Cup finals have usually been drab. The fear of losing the final match makes coaches to be too tactical, and the players under the pressure of failure. Final matches are, therefore, hardly ever spectacular.
Only the 1970 finals are an exception, the difference being the avalanche of beautiful late goals by Brazil against Italy. Otherwise, most finals do not elicit much drama.
The final match in Qatar was different, unique and spectacular.
One week after, the talk around the world of football is still about the drama of the last 45 minutes of a 120-minutes (including the 30-minutes of extra-time) exhilarating final match.
The world continues to celebrate a true feast of the best of ‘the beautiful game’.
To many, the drama and nail-biting finish of the final match were divine affirmation of the Championship’s unique place in the annals of football.
The final match, as in the opening match and most of the matches till the end, was full of shocks and surprises, the good, the bad and the ugly of football, as in a well-scripted drama.
Before it even got underway, Qatar 2022 was laden with apprehension from several quarters – the hostile weather, the small size of the country, claims of human rights abuses, the strict Muslim culture, the ban on alcohol and the country’s stance on ‘same-sex’ relations. There were even calls for, and threats of boycotts.
There were other fears: congestion in the trains and on the roads in a country so small all the 8 stadia to be used are located within a 34-kilometres radius; how the country’s transport facilities will handle the movements of hundreds of thousands of fans at a time to the stadia each with a minimum capacity of 45,000 spectators; how the country’s infrastructure will cope with an influx of over a million people during the one-month period?
The media space was also awash with ‘refreshed’ revelations of the magnitude of sleaze that went into granting Qatar the hosting rights. Even the man that superintended over the bid process, former President of FIFA, Mr. Sepp Blatter, admitted on the eve of the championship that to have granted Qatar the right to host the 2022 Championship was a mistake.
As we look back and do a forensic audit now, it is abundantly clear that these apprehensions became a challenge to the Qataris. Their response became to put up an almost flawless show, reflected everywhere, in all Qataris, and during every single match at the championship. As soon as the whistle was blown for the first match and the drama of great and most unpredictable football matches began, all fears and apprehensions evaporated, and unprecedented frills and thrills took over.
The word that best sums up the general opinion of the football faithful around the world after the championship, is ‘spectacular’. Qatar 2022 was, indeed, a spectacle, every inch of it, with a final match that was scripted in heaven and befitting of only the gods.
The final match was a showdown between the two greatest players in the world at this period (Messi and Mbappe), playing in opposing teams, with their contributions transforming what was going to be another drab final match (as is wont of most final matches in the history of the World Cup) into, probably, the best and most entertaining World Cup final match in history.
The final match had everything – boredom and exhilaration, nail-biting suspense and dramatic finish, plenty of great goals, and Champagne football. Only heaven could have scripted this climax to an exceptional championship.
The streets of the capital cities of the four countries that got to the semi-finals have been filled for days with fans (in millions), welcoming back their football heroes to the countries in celebration of their gallant performances.
Qatar 2022 was a huge success for the small country as well as for the entire Arab region. It has succeeded in painting the Arab world in a different light, far from the often-held, hostile environment that is painted by some Western media.
The success of Qatar 2022 will surely impact future World Cups, opening up new considerations for future hosts of the greatest single event in human history.
The preparations for what would be a completely different experience in World Cup history, a continental World Cup in 2026, have begun already.
Team of the championship?
Morocco. Yet, they were not even the best team out of Africa going to the World Cup. They demonstrated the emerging strength of African teams as possible candidates to win the trophy in the near future.
Most improved team?
Japan. They were technically and tactically very sound, making very few mistakes in organisation and discipline, playing compactly as a team, and difficult to break down. A tough nut to crack throughout.
Most exciting team?
Brazil. At a crucial moment during their last match, they took their feet off the pedal against Croatia and paid the prize for momentary lapse. Otherwise, they were a delight to watch until they fell!
Most exciting Player?
Mbappe. Every time he got the ball, there was expectation of something spectacular to come from his shuffles, amazing burst of speed and shooting prowess even from a standing position.
Lionel Messi. Deadliest player with the ball at his feet, but must have covered the least distance of all the players in the finals. He strolled through most matches, only turning on his magic when they ball arrives at his lethal feet. His brilliance and touches were more than enough ‘compensation’ for his ‘laziness’. If he was not ‘Messi’, the god, no coach under the sun would tolerate his attitude during a match.
Did the best team win?
Arguably. Argentina started to play well after their loss to Saudi Arabia. It was their wake-up call. They never looked back after that.
Argentina’s victory confirms once again, that there is a mastery and an art to winning the World Cup. That’s why only eight countries in history have ever won the Cup.
Following the performance of Morocco, can an African country win the World Cup soon?
Yes, the psychological barrier that holds back African teams may have been finally broken by the Moroccans. That African players have the capacity to win it has never been in doubt. They won it for France in 2018. But for a team coming out of Africa is a different thing.
By 2034, an African country shall be in the finals and may possibly win it. Mark my words!
My take-away from Qatar 2022?
I was not in Qatar. I watched the matches on television, but listened to match commentaries on radio by local commentators at The Sports Lounge in Abeokuta, running live commentaries and analysis of the matches to a Live audience of spectators in the lounge.
It was truly a delight to watch these young commentators give extra life to many a match with their excellent delivery, and in-depth knowledge of the game, of players, teams, and statistics.
It was the next best experience to being in the terraces in Qatar. Reviving the tradition of excellent radio commentaries of football matches is a big welcome.
Well done, Precious, Jeremy, Adefemi and Kayode of Eagle7 Sports Radio, Abeokuta.