Stars young and old shine at Qatar World Cup

Samantha Nadler, Editor in Chief

February Edition 2023

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar had a series of controversies tied to it leading up to the year’s greatest soccer tournament. Thousands of migrant workers died or were injured during the construction of the stadiums, hotels, and transportation for the soccer teams, fans were not allowed to consume alcohol in any area designated for the World Cup, and homosexuality was rejected by Qatari officials. Yet, the 2022 iteration of the World Cup is seen by many soccer fans as one of the greatest recent installments of the quadrennial tournament.


The first time it occurred in the Arab and Muslim world, the 2022 Qatar World Cup featured 32 national teams from five confederations, competing for the gold in eight modern stadiums in five cities in Qatar. The host city of Qatar was scheduled to play the first game of the 2022 World Cup on November 20 against Ecuador but were defeated 0-2, causing two-thirds of Qatari fans to leave the game early out of frustration, ESPN reports. Qatar ultimately became the first country eliminated from the tournament after losing their first two games in the same group as the Dutch and Senegalese powerhouses.


Despite the annoyance of Qatari fans seeing their home country eliminated first, there were still many standout performances from the group stage, exciting soccer fans from around the globe. The English national team breezed past the Iranian team in their first World Cup game on November 21, with Arsenal midfielder Bukayo Saka scoring twice for England in their tournament opener. The Spanish national team easily shut out the Costa Rican team 7-0 in their first game of the World Cup on November 23. In their final match of the group stage, the United States national team was able to advance to the Round of 16 after Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic heroically scored a goal against Iran, then exited the game with a pelvic contusion after crashing into the Iranian goalie.

Sixteen teams made their way past the group stage to compete in the Round of 16, including the Korean national team, who got emotional after defeating Christiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese team via forward Hwang Hee-Chan’s goal in the 91st minute. However, the Korean team was defeated by the Neymar-led Brazilian team 4-1. Additionally, the U.S. team fell short to the Dutch national team.

Just four teams were left by the Semifinals: Argentina, captained by veteran World Cup participant Lionel Messi; France, led by Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappé; and the Moroccan and Croatian teams. Both Argentina and France were able to shut out Croatia and Morocco, the latter two teams playing in a third-place game the day before the championship game. Croatia defeated Morocco 2-1, with the Moroccan team having the best World Cup run of any African or Arab-based team.

All eyes were set on the championship match between Messi’s Argentina squad and Mbappe’s French team on December 18 at 10:00 Eastern time. Messi scored in the 23rd minute, which was followed by a goal from Ángel Di Maria in the 36th minute, to give Argentina the lead 2-0. It wasn’t until the 80th minute for Mbappe to strike for the French team, scoring a penalty shot and making another goal just under two minutes later. With the game tied at regulation time, the game went into overtime, seeing Messi and Mbappé both score ten minutes from each other. Mbappé’s third goal in extra time made him the first player to earn a hat trick in the World Cup since 1966.

The game was still tied after extra time, which initiated a shootout for Argentina and France. Messi made the first goal and was followed by Mbappe scoring a goal for France. Paulo Dybala was up next for the Argentines, scoring his goal, but was followed by Kingsley Coman of France missing his shot. Leandro Paredes easily scored as the third Argentine in the shootout, and the French still had an opportunity to win the match, but Aurélien Tchouaméni missed his goal. Argentina had one chance to prevent France from winning the World Cup as Gonzalo Montiel landed the ball into the goal, securing Argentina’s victory over France as the 2022 World Cup champions.

Messi was definitely the star in Qatar. Despite being significantly older than most of the players in the World Cup, he proved to show signs of success and resilience as Argentina won their third World Cup and their first since 1986, a year before Messi was born. As captain of the Argentine national team, he is a clear leader for the young and upcoming players on the squad, including Enzo Fernández, who won the FIFA Young Player Award at just 21 years old.

When asked by The Athletic if he will retire from soccer and no longer lead his team, Messi replied, “I want to continue playing as a champion.”