DOHA, Qatar (AP) — After 64 matches, 172 goals and one of the best finals in history, the 2022 World Cup is over.
Argentina is the champion for the third time after beating France in a penalty shootout. Lionel Messi finally has his hands on the golden trophy that had long eluded him.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights of the tournament — and the low points:
Lionel Messi won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. He has never played better at a World Cup, scoring seven goals, providing three assists and being Argentina’s star player in all seven of its matches. He has also made a record 26 appearances at the World Cup to break Lothar Matthaus’ record. Messi definitively joins Pelé and Diego Maradona in the pantheon of soccer’s greatest players.
Considering his name and profile, and the drama he had created by an explosive pre-tournament interview, Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo could hardly have had a worse tournament. OK, he converted a penalty against Ghana to become the first man to score at five different World Cups, but nothing else went right for the player currently without a club. He tried — and failed — to claim a headed goal against Uruguay, showed a bad attitude after being substituted against South Korea to the annoyance of his coach, then was benched against Switzerland and Morocco in the knockout stage. He wept after Portugal’s 1-0 loss to Morocco that ended his World Cup career, and finished the tournament with only the one goal.
Brazil striker Richarlison had his back to the goal when he used one touch to flick the ball up in the air near the penalty spot, then spun around and leapt off the ground to deliver a spectacular acrobatic kick into the net. It sealed a 2-0 win over Serbia in the group stage and made Brazilians, briefly, forget about the injured Neymar.
There were 20 seconds remaining of stoppage time in extra time in the final when France striker Randal Kolo Muani went clean through on Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez. The win, the title, was there for France but Martinez stuck out his left leg to keep the ball out. It was a save as important as all of Messi’s goals.
Argentina was involved in the best two. First, the team’s quarterfinal match against the Netherlands had it all — goals, gamesmanship, late drama through a goal in the 11th minute of stoppage time to make it 2-2, a penalty shootout, a World Cup-record 17 yellow cards and a red card after the whistle. There was even the sight of Lionel Messi breaking off from his post-match on-field interview to shout abuse at a Netherlands player: “What are you looking at, stupid?” Then came the final at the same Lusail Stadium, which might have just topped it.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM
Belgium arrived as the second-ranked team and with some of the most famous players in the world. They scored one goal, didn’t get out of their group and coach Roberto Martinez left his role. Germany exiting from the group stage for the second straight World Cup is a close second.
It’s a crowded field in a World Cup featuring so many upsets but nothing quite matches the moment the Netherlands blindsided Argentina with an audacious free kick in the 11th minute of second-half stoppage time of their wild quarterfinal game to take it to extra time. Instead of taking a shot from the edge of the area with virtually the last passage of play in the match, Teun Koopmeiners played a short pass into the middle of the area, Wout Weghorst took a touch and held off his marker before slotting home a finish on the stretch.
Morocco’s for the noise, Argentina’s for the pure passion, and Japan’s for the way they tidy up after themselves.
At 31, Antoine Griezmann reinvented himself as a midfield playmaker for France, having played as a forward for his entire career. He was one of the players of the tournament.
“I had the feeling that this was the one.” — Lionel Messi after winning the World Cup for the first time.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports