Monthly Archives: December 2022

Qatar 2022:  One trophy, three continents, who wins?

By Sarafina Napoleon

Sarafina Napoleon is from Nigeria and is a first-year graduate student in Sport Administration at BGSU. As a journalist for 9 years, she brings a wealth of experience and insight to the Maxwell Media Watch.

We’re getting close to the climax of the 2022 FIFA World Cup which has already seen 158 goals scored, a record-breaking 88,966 spectators (at one game between Argentina and Mexico), 20+ yellow cards, and 5 red cards throughout 60 matches. There have been shocks, records broken, history made, heartbreaks, and ecstasies, and now there are only four teams left. Three continents, Africa, Europe, and South America, compete for the most coveted soccer trophy in the world.

One more victory would guarantee the four semifinalists a shot at immortality. To advance to the 2022 World Cup final, Morocco, who represents Africa, Argentina from South America, France, and Croatia from Europe, must defeat their opponents when they take the field on Tuesday and Wednesday. Every soccer fan is waiting with bated breath and high anticipation for the semifinal matches, which will see Argentina take on Croatia and France play Morocco.

France

Before the tournament, the French national team was hit with injuries that limited their chances of defending the title. Players like Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante, and Presnel Kimpembe were all ruled out. To make matters worse, Christopher Nkunku, who was in the form of his life, and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema picked up injuries. The defending champions were drawn alongside Denmark, Tunisia, and Australia and were the first team to qualify for the round of 16 after two games. After qualification, the les blues were expected to get past Poland in the round of 16 which they did. Then came the next test against the Three Lions of England at the quarterfinal stage, and the defending champions rose to the occasion and sent England packing. The team is now one game away from retaining the title. On paper, the les blues shouldn’t have any problems dispatching their next opponent Morocco on Wednesday but considering what we have been served at the ongoing World Cup, an upset shouldn’t be ruled out. The team has relied on their attacking prowess since the start of the tournament with four different goal scorers. The tournament’s top scorer Kylian Mbappé with five goals and two assists, and Olivier Giroud, with four goals, have been the team’s saving grace. Also, France has never lost a World Cup match that Kylian Mbappé has started. Should the team defend the title, these two players must deliver another masterclass performance against Morocco.

Kylian Mbappé (right) celebrates with Olivier Giroud.

One advantage the les blues have heading into the semifinal clash is the experience of their manager Didier Deschamps. Four years ago, he became only the third man to win the sport’s most cherished title as a player and a coach. Deschamps has won 13 games at the World Cup, putting him in third place all-time behind only Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari with 14 wins and West German Helmut Schon with 16 wins. One apparent weakness in the French team is the lack of discipline, which was evident in the game against England, giving away two cheap penalties. The team’s inability to kill off games and defensive frailties are other loopholes that could be detrimental to their quest. Can France become the first team in 60 years to win two consecutive World Cups?

Morocco

It took Morocco years of careful planning and focused effort to accomplish victory. An effort was made to raise the quality of the local league. Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco, who play in the Moroccan league, are the reigning Caf Champions League champions. In 2022, Morocco hosted and advanced to the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations finals, where they defeated perennial powerhouse Nigeria in the process. Some current squad members are mainstays at some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs. While the Atlas Lions may lack the jaw-dropping individual talents of the les blues, they make up for it with a strong sense of teamwork and know-how. The North African club must avoid falling victim to schoolboy errors if they hope to defeat the current champions.

Argentina

After a devastating opening-round loss to Saudi Arabia, Argentina’s status as one of the favorites to win the 2022 World Cup plummeted. The team eventually made it out of the group and had to overcome the United States and the Netherlands to secure a semifinal place against Croatia. Argentina will be seeking retribution after being humiliated by Croatia in their previous match in 2018 by a 3-0 scoreline. Argentina has never lost in the World Cup semifinals and has advanced to the final each time they have reached this stage. Their most recent appearance was in 2014, when they lost in the final to Germany.

Team captain Messi has been in scintillating form for the La Albiceleste with four goals and two assists, equaling the record of Gabriel Batistuta for most goals at the World Cup. Messi looks pumped to win the World Cup, but they must get past a dogged opposition in Croatia. After Antoine Griezmann’s 17, Lionel Messi has created 16 scoring opportunities in the 2022 World Cup. For Messi to clinch the holy grail, his teammates must avoid profligacy against Croatia.

Croatia

The 2018 finalists are on the verge of making it to two consecutive World Cup finals, joining the likes of Italy, Netherlands, and Germany. Still, they face stiffer opposition from Messi-led Argentina. Luka Modric and his teammates will be looking to become the first team to play in consecutive finals for the first time in twenty years. The Vatreni ensured the elimination of the samba boys setting up a date with another South American team. Croatia had to rely on penalty shootouts to get past the round of 16 and quarterfinal stages.

A group of men in sports uniforms

Description automatically generated with low confidence

Croatia has just one win in regulation time after five games played at the 2022 World Cup with a 100% penalty shootout record against Japan and Brazil. They have successfully reached extra time in five of their last six World Cup knockout matches. The Croatians might not be a free-scoring side, but they do know how to frustrate the opposition with their defensive formation as they did against Brazil.

Fine margins will determine the semifinal fixtures, and only the team with the mental capacity and concentration will make it to the final.

Qatar 2022: Atlas Lions roar into historic semifinal

By Sarafina Napoleon

Sarafina Napoleon is from Nigeria and is a first-year graduate student in Sport Administration at BGSU. As a journalist for 9 years, she brings a wealth of experience and insight to the Maxwell Media Watch.

December 10, 2022

The 10th of December 2022 will go down in history as the day an African team advanced to the FIFA World Cup semifinals for the first time in the tournament’s history. The final whistle sounded, and to the surprise of the footballing world, Morocco had won, ending Ronaldo’s bid to win the one trophy that had eluded him thus far.

The Atlas Lions knew they would have their hands full in their quarterfinal match-up against Portugal and would have to play at a world-class level if they wanted to make history and advance to the semifinals. Portugal entered the game as the odds-on favorite, but Morocco had other ideas. African teams are never considered serious title contenders going into the World Cup because of their poor track record at the tournament’s finals. The Qatar 2022 World Cup was no exception. Nobody anticipated that Africa would change the course of history. Morocco, a North African team that failed to advance past the quarterfinals of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, was never expected to reach the FIFA World Cup semifinals the following year.

Since the early stages of the group stage, the Atlas Lions have been challenging the tournament’s top teams. Drawn in a group with heavy favorites like Belgium and Croatia, Morocco upset the odds by finishing first after beating Canada and Belgium and drawing with Croatia.

After making it into the tournament proper, they faced the challenge of eliminating the defending champions, Spain, in the round of 16. Yet again, they overcame overwhelming odds to send Spain packing. Considering how Portugal easily eliminated their opponents in the round of 16, scoring six goals in the process, the quarterfinal matchup against Portugal was widely predicted to be the match that would finally break the team’s resilience.

Portugal dominated the game but couldn’t find a way back after Youssef En-Nesyri scored the winning goal in the first half, creating a frenzy at Al Thumama Stadium. The win over Portugal left Cristiano Ronaldo in tears and heartbroken, considering that was his last realistic shot at winning a world cup trophy.

A person in a sports uniform

Description automatically generated with low confidence

For a team that got a new manager in September 2022, a few months before the tournament, one can’t help but admire the tactical and technical abilities of the Moroccans. The Atlas Lions have conceded just one goal in five games at the ongoing tournament and can now dream of lifting the trophy. Still, they must first get past defending champions France who defeated England to clinch a semifinal spot. The question now is: Can the Atlas Lions roar into the finals? 90 minutes will tell, come Wednesday 14th December 2022.

Unpredictability, Nail-biting Moments amid controversies prove Qatar 2022 is one of the best World Cups ever.

By Sarafina Napoleon

Sarafina Napoleon is from Nigeria and is a first-year graduate student in Sport Administration at BGSU. As a journalist for 9 years, she brings a wealth of experience and insight to the Maxwell Media Watch.

December 4, 2022

When the World Cup took center stage on November 20, 2022, no one predicted the quality of entertainment and outcomes the tournament would produce, especially given FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s hypocritical speech comment on the eve of the tournament. Infantino called out Europeans for their hypocrisy in criticizing Qatar and FIFA’s choice to hold the World Cup there. Infantino remarked that Europeans “should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years for what we Europeans have been doing in the last 3,000 years around the world” before offering moral lessons. The comments were met with various critical responses and persisted even after tournament host Qatar got things rolling.

After 48 group-stage matches, it is evident that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has proven to be one of the best FIFA World Cups in history against all odds. The group stage produced historical results, intense drama, nail-biting and nerve-racking moments for soccer fans across all continents. Let’s examine some of the most impressive moments from the group stage.

Saudi Arabia stuns title favorites Argentina.

When the draws were made, and Saudi Arabia was grouped alongside Argentina, Poland, and Mexico in Group C, it was inevitable the Asian team would be the group’s whipping boys. On paper, it was glaring that topping the group would be a walk in the park for Argentina, but no one foresaw history being written in favor of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina 2-1 at the Lusail Stadium, writing themselves into World Cup annals with one of the most significant upset victories in the tournament’s 92-year history.

It was widely anticipated that the third-ranked team from South America, and title contenders, would easily crush its opponent ranked 48 spots lower in the FIFA world rankings. Argentina’s undefeated streak of 36 games ended as a consequence of the outcome, dating back to a loss to Brazil three years ago. This prevented them from reaching the previous international record of 37 games played without registering a loss, which Italy held. The result made Saudi Arabia the first Asian side to defeat Argentina in the history of the World Cup and the first non-European team to do it since Cameroon in 1990.

Teranga Lions and Atlas Lions make history for Africa.

After advancing to the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the Teranga Lions of Senegal and champions of Africa have seemingly picked up just where they left off. Having won the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, the 13th-placed ranked team in the World was the only realistic possibility of an African side making it through the group stage in Qatar. In a group including hosts Qatar, Ecuador, and the Netherlands, Senegal narrowly lost their first match to the Netherlands. The African Champions went on to defeat the host nation Qatar. Kalidou Koulibaly, captain of the African champions, scored his first international goal with his right foot in the 70th minute to seal three points against Ecuador.

After the Netherlands, the West Africans finished second and would play the Three Lions of England on Sunday. This was a much-needed triumph for Senegal, considering that they were denied a place in the last 16 four years ago when they were eliminated at the group stage based on a fair play rule because they received two more yellow cards than the Japanese.

Senegal advanced for the second time in history and for the first time since 2002, when the squad competed in the quarterfinals under current coach Aliou Cissé. Given that no African side has ever advanced past the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup, the team now has a chance to make history if they do.

The Atlas Lions of Morocco will be in the knockout rounds of the FIFA World Cup 36 years after their first qualification for the last-16. The North African team, ranked 22 in the World, defied all odds to finish first in Group C, ahead of 2018 runners-up Croatia and Belgium, the World’s second-ranked team. In their first encounter, the Atlas Lions drew 0-0 with Croatia before overcoming Belgium’s golden generation with two second-half goals and a clean sheet. The frosting on the cake was a 2-1 victory over Canada, who finished at the bottom of the group with zero points.

Morocco progressed as group leaders, with Croatia coming second, and Belgium and Canada were eliminated after coming third and fourth, respectively. After his team’s awful display, Roberto Martinez, the coach of Belgium, announced his resignation, admitting that his contract would not be renewed.

Japan’s Controversial goal stuns Spain, Germany sent packing.

On the penultimate day of Group F’s final group games, the favorites to finish first and second had to struggle to avoid elimination. Going into the last games of Group F, it was clear that elimination was a real possibility for any of the four clubs. Spain was expected to cruise through the group and finish first, but everything was wide open after drawing with Germany in their second game.

The first half of Spain’s last group game against Japan went according to the script, with the Spanish side dominating possession and scoring a goal. The 48th-minute equalizer marked the beginning of Japan’s comeback. A few minutes later, in the 51st minute, Japan scored a controversial goal that ultimately proved decisive. With this historic victory, Japan topped its group for the first time since 2002 and qualified for the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time in consecutive tournaments. Spain comes in second with four points, ahead of Germany on goal difference, and will file out against Group F winners Morocco on Tuesday for a place in the quarterfinals.

It was Germany’s second straight World Cup elimination in the group stage, the first time since the tournament’s inception. The German Machines entered their last group game against Costa Rica with just one point from a potential six points after two games and were on the brink of elimination. One thing that was certain for the Germans heading into the game was that their qualification destiny wasn’t in their hands. To progress, they had to win along with either a Spain victory or a tie between Spain and Japan, plus the tiebreaker based on goal differential. Sadly, one controversial goal by Japan proved to be the deciding factor.

The four-time champions dispatched Costa Rica in a thrilling six-goal match with three goals in the game’s closing 17 minutes, but a controversial victory for Japan sealed their elimination. While Germany and Spain finished with the same points, Germany was eliminated due to a lower goal differential.

Stéphanie Frappart becomes first female referee in Men’s World Cup history.

The Qatar 2022 World Cup went into the history books on Thursday when Stéphanie Frappart became the first woman to officiate at the FIFA Men’s World Cup after taking charge of proceedings in the Costa Rica Vs. Germany clash. The European soccer governing organization UEFA and the French government both promoted the 38-year-old to officiate men’s games, and she has since officiated World Cup qualifying and Champions League matches. She also officiated the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.   

The Frenchwoman was in charge of an all-female on-field crew, including assistants from Brazil’s Neuza Back and Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina. The 2022 World Cup has featured six women in officiating roles, including referees Frappart, Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga, and Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita, as well as assistant referees Back, Diaz, and the United States’ own Kathryn Nesbitt.