The 2022 edition of the Fifa World Cup has been a shocker for many reasons. Firstly, it was the hosting rights fiasco and bribery allegations on football’s governing body, FIFA. The news of the human rights exploitation of workers who built the World Cup stadiums in Qatar was also highlighted. But all of that was not going to withstand the craze that football brings with itself.
The focus shifted to the main event, and as it began, there was a shock in store on the third day as Saudi Arabia defeated footballing giants Argentina. It, however, wasn’t a one-off event, and what has followed since then has made this one a world cup of upsets.
Saudis asking, “Where is Messi?”
A video went viral on the internet where Suadi Arabia fans were seen disturbing a Japanese broadcaster after their team’s shocking 2-1 win over Argentina and asking, “Where’s Messi?” It was one of the tournament’s biggest shocks, and it seemed Argentina’s and Messi’s dreams of holding the World Cup might be dashed. However, that did not happen, as Argentina only improved from that moment onward.
Tunisia shocked Denmark and France
Tunisian coach Jalel Kadri had announced that he would quit his post if his team couldn’t make the World Cup knockouts. Though the Carthage Eagles couldn’t reach the last 16, they played an exciting 0-0 draw against a fancied Denmark side with stars like Christian Eriksen and Kasper Dolberg. They lost narrowly, 0-1, to Australia courtesy of a great Mitchell Duke goal in the 23rd minute.
However, that did not stop them from creating history and beating the defending champions, France, 1-0. But even that victory could not take them through as Australia beat Denmark, had six points to their name, and marched through.
Socceroos through to the Round of 16
It was the equal-best appearance for the Socceroos from down under as they reached the round of 16 for the second time in their history of World Cup appearances. They achieved the same feat in 2006. After getting hammered by France 1-4 in their first game, the men in gold and green fought tooth and nail first to beat Tunisia 1-0 and then hold on to a 1-0 lead against Denmark in a highly competitive game. Had Australia drawn their last match, they would have been out.
Blue Samurais shock Germany and Spain
It was one of the best outings for Asian teams in this World Cup, and Japan led the charge from the front. The Blue Samurais came from 0-1 behind against Germany and hit two goals late in the second half to earn a famous 2-1 win.
After Japan’s dramatic 0-1 loss to Costa Rica and Germany’s draw against Spain, the third-round games in the group of death became exciting. Japan needed a win at any cost against Spain because Germany would have won against Costa Rica, no doubt.
When the game started, the Japanese were once again down with an early goal from Alvaro Morata. But their spirit got them back as they scored twice in the second half and beat Spain to top the group with 6 points.
In their quarterfinal tie, the Japanese team fought toe to toe with the last edition’s runners-up Croatia, eventually going down in the Penalty Shoot-Out.
South Korea beat Portugal to knock out Uruguay
The South Korean team led by Son Heung-Min drew its first game against Uruguay, not letting the South American powerhouse score even a single goal. Ghana beat them 3-2 with a dramatic red card shown to the Korean coach Paulo Bento. The Koreans didn’t lose hope and beat star-studded Portugal in their last group game. Even while being tied on goal difference to Uruguay, they went to the round of 16 courtesy of more goals scored.
Vincent Aboubakar’s historic goal against Brazil
Cameroon was competitive throughout the competition. Had it not been for Switzerland’s Breel Embolo’s goal against them in the first game, the African nation might have found themselves in the round of 16 too. They drew 3-3 with Serbia and then, courtesy of a fantastic goal from Vincent Aboubakar, became the first African team in history to defeat Brazil in the World Cup. They beat the men in yellow and green 1-0 to finish their campaign on a high.
Croatia’s resistance to fore
It would be very harsh to call Croatia, the runners-up in Fifa World Cup 2018, an underdog. But they have definitely punched above their weight.
Having drawn to Morocco 0-0 in their first game, the East Europeans came back strong and beat Canada 4-1 after being 0-1 down in the second minute. They hung on to a 0-0 draw against world number two Belgium to make their way to the round of 16. Against Japan, a defining header from Ivan Perisic made his team come back to draw the game 1-1 in regulation time before eventually winning it on penalties.
However, the biggest test was in the quarterfinal, as a telling blow from Neymar had Brazil ahead in the first half of extra time after the match ended 0-0 in regulation time. Croatia didn’t give up and scored through Bruno Petkovic to draw level and stretch the game to the penalties, where they won 4-2 to move to the semi-final.
Morocco’s mighty leap of faith
If there is one team that has truly upset the calculations of pundits, bookmakers and fans alike, it is Morocco. As if beating Belgium 2-0 and drawing with Croatia 0-0 was not enough, they went on to beat Spain on penalties in the round of 16 and then shocked Portugal 1-0 in the quarterfinal to become the first African nation to make it to the semi-final of a Fifa World Cup.
The Atlas Lions have scored only five times but conceded just once in this World Cup. Now into the semi-final, they would look to beat France as well and get into the final to create the biggest upset in the football world.