The 2022 World Cup is now over, and what a spectacle it turned out to be. Lionel Messi is finally a world champion, and he can ride off into the footballing sunset as both a World Cup winner and a Copa America winner.
It’s unthinkable that just a couple of years ago, Messi was looking likely to end his international career without a major honour for his nation. And if we go back to the start of the competition, after his Argentina side was defeated 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in their opening match, winning the World Cup for the little magician was again starting to look like a distant dream.
Plenty of World Cup shocks to choose from
Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Argentina was one of the biggest shocks. But it didn’t end there. Germany going out in the group stages for the second competition in succession was another event that shocked the globe. Similarly unexpected was Belgium’s loss to Morocco, and the numerous missed chances to go through in their final match against Croatia.
We also saw Japan defeat Spain 2-1, and South Korea beating Portugal by the same margin, and this was just in the group stages.
As well as the shock results, there were also some near misses for other nations. Canada, in only their second World Cup appearance, scored their first ever goal in the match against Croatia, and pushed Morocco all the way in their final group stage match. Unfortunately for them, they went out in the group stages, and they now need to look forward to their CONCACAF Nations League matches in March. Unlike in the World Cup, this time the main Canadian betting sites such as Betano in Ontario have them as favourites to defeat Curaçao and Honduras.
We’ve now narrowed the shocks down to three matches, and this doesn’t include dead rubber group matches like the aforementioned Tunisia win over France, or Cameroon defeating Brazil 1-0.
Morocco 1-0 Portugal
Where do you even start with Morocco? They beat Belgium 2-0 in the group stages, and then knocked Spain out in the quarter-final on penalties, they could cover all the biggest World Cup shocks on their own. But even by their extraordinary World Cup standards, the drama of knocking out Portugal in the last eight was something else.
This World Cup was billed as being Ronaldo versus Messi. Who would be victorious, and confirm themselves as the greatest ever player?
The smarter money would always have been on Argentina, as they had more World Cup pedigree than Portugal. However, even in this case, most fans did not expect to see Portugal being knocked out in the quarter-finals by Morocco.
The Moroccans had won their final when they defeated Spain on penalties, or so we thought. So it makes sense that not many gave them a chance against the Portuguese, who had just thrashed Switzerland 6-1 in the round of 16.
This match had it all. Drama, blind panic, and controversy. It can surely be called one of the biggest shocks of the 2022 World Cup.
Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia
Argentina arrived at the World Cup on an unbeaten run of 36 games. They were one of the betting favourites with sportsbooks all over the world to win the competition, just behind South American rivals Brazil. This was supposed to be a routine win, and when Argentina went 1-0 up after ten minutes, through Messi – who else, that’s what everyone expected would happen.
So to see Saudi Arabia come back and win 2-1 with two-second quick-fire goals wasn’t in the script at all. Was Argentina really that good? That was the immediate question being asked. But more importantly, it left Messi and co on the brink of elimination from there on in.
Ultimately, they did recover, and the rest is history.
Croatia 1-1 Brazil (Pens 4-2)
To call this a shock could be a bit insulting to Croatia. They got to the World Cup final in 2018, and the semi-final (eventually finishing third) in 2022. So why should it be classed as a shocking event for them to defeat Brazil?
To the viewing public around the world, however, it was indeed a huge shock. Plenty of fans expected Brazil to win the 2022 World Cup. They had talent throughout the whole squad, players who couldn’t get in their starting XI would have been good enough to play for most other nations. And after 20 years without a World Cup win, this was supposed to be Brazil’s time.
So when Croatia took Brazil to extra time in the quarter-final, it looked more like they were making life a bit awkward for the Brazilians, than genuinely being a risk to knocking them out. Then on cue, came the Neymar goal, and at half-time in extra-time, we were back on track and Brazil was going to win.
Not a bit of it. Bruno Petkovic equalised in the 117th minute, and the match went to penalties. This wasn’t in the script, and the Brazilians didn’t look ready for it. In the end, the underestimated Croatians won 4-2 on penalties, and Brazil’s dream was over.
What was the biggest shock match of the World Cup? It’s hard to say. Opinions will differ, but there is no doubting all three of these matches were eye-opening spectacles of the 2022 competition, and all three, either directly, or indirectly, had an impact on the eventual outcome of the competition.