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.