A modest, almost bashful smile came over Enzo Fernandez’s face as he climbed the podium to receive the Qatar 2022 FIFA Young Player award.Collecting the prize meant the dynamic midfielder was momentarily separated from his jubilant teammates, celebrating wildly at the side of the presentation stage following the greatest World Cup final of them all.As the scene unfolded, Fernandez could be forgiven for having a look of slight disbelief in his eyes. The 21-year-old’s story is among the most remarkable from this unforgettable World Cup.Fernandez only made his senior international debut in September, coming on as a second-half substitute in a 3-0 friendly win over Honduras. The occasion saw Fernandez fulfil a lifelong ambition to play alongside his idol, Lionel Messi. “To play with Leo brings me enormous joy,” said Fernandez, in the aftermath of that game. “It’s a dream come true.”Less than three months later and Messi would be describing Fernandez as a “spectacular kid”, with the pair instrumental figures in Argentina’s world-champion side.Fernandez secured his place in Lionel Scaloni’s Qatar 2022 squad following further mature displays in two pre-tournament friendlies – and having continued to excel for club side Benfica.His rare combination of boundless energy, immaculate technique and tactical intelligence has seen him swiftly acclimatise to European football following his move from boyhood club River Plate this summer.He has been a near ever-present for a Benfica side which has swept all before them at home and abroad this season. The team remain unbeaten across 28 matches in all competitions and finished top of a UEFA Champions League group featuring Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain. At just 21, Fernandez’s capacity to dictate the tempo of the game marks him out as a special talent. The youngster’s passing is crisp, incisive and precise – his accuracy rate is 90 per cent in league matches this term and was 88 per cent during the World Cup. His ability to contribute in the final third, meanwhile, is underlined by the five assists and three goals he has already racked up for Benfica.Fernandez’s ball-striking ability, of course, was memorably displayed in Argentina’s do-or-die group-stage win over Mexico, when he expertly curled a shot into the top corner of Guillermo Ochoa’s net to seal a 2-0 victory. He had come on as a substitute in that game but would start every remaining match of Argentina’s triumphant World Cup campaign.His introduction into coach Scaloni’s line-up coincided with Argentina steadily growing in stature and belief. Dovetailing impressively with midfield colleagues Alexis Mac Allister and Rodrigo De Paul, Fernandez’s tigerish tackling and competitive spirit added intensity to La Albiceleste’s performances. Indeed, his total of 22 successful tackles was surpassed by only two players across the World Cup (Mateo Kovacic and Achraf Hakimi).Fernandez was at his all-action best in the showpiece final as Argentina overwhelmed France in the opening 70 minutes of the contest. Kylian Mbappe would then turn the game on its head as the match developed into an all-time classic, but Fernandez’s Argentina dug deep into their reserves of resilience and determination to eventually triumph in the most dramatic circumstances.The midfielder’s significant influence on this Argentina team is highlighted by the fact he was one of only five members of Scaloni’s side to play the full 120 minutes of the final. Moments after receiving his richly deserved FIFA Young Player award, Fernandez’s sheepish smile transformed into one of unbridled joy as he re-joined his team-mates for the World Cup presentation.Six years previously, Fernandez penned an open letter on Facebook to the man about to hoist that trophy high into the sky, urging his hero to reconsider retirement from international football. “Please don’t go, Leo,” he wrote. “Seeing you play with the light blue and white is the greatest pride in the world. Stay and have fun.”Thankfully, for Enzo – for every football lover – Lionel Messi did just that, going on to win the greatest prize of all. And with the help of a young midfielder with the world at his feet.
The dust is settling on an exceptional FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and Asia can look back at the tournament with much pride as teams from the continent produced some of the most stunning results in their history. Four years ago at Russia 2018, Asia recorded its highest points tally in a FIFA World Cup and that feat was topped in Qatar as, for the very first time, three teams representing the Asian Football Confederation made it to the knockout stages.Australia, Japan and South Korea were the nations who scripted history with their Round of 16 appearances, but Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who hosted a truly superb FIFA World Cup, all had tournaments which they can look back on with fond memories.The-AFC.com looks back at some of Asia’s best moments from Qatar 2022 as the FIFA World Cup.Green Falcons stun Messi and ArgentinaSaudi Arabia arrived at the FIFA World Cup as one of its lowest-ranked sides and they had the unenviable task of facing one of the favourites, Argentina, in their Group C opener. The South American champions boasted arguably the greatest ever footballer in Lionel Messi, who was determined to crown his illustrious career by winning the biggest prize of them all.There was no surprise as the 35-year-old scored from the spot to give Argentina the lead only 10 minutes in and set them on course to stretch their unbeaten run to 37 games. But, in front of tens of thousands of their own fans at Lusail Stadium, the Green Falcons had other plans. Herve Renard’s players brilliantly executed a high defensive line, stifling Argentine attackers, while goalkeeper Mohammed al-Owais was at the top of his game to avoid further damage before the interval.Then, the Green Falcons turned the screw. Al Hilal SFC striker Saleh al-Shehri stunned Argentina by levelling the score three minutes into the second half. A fabulous winner came six minutes later. Salem al-Dawsari wiggled past three Argentine defenders at the edge of the box before firing into the top corner to give Saudi Arabia their fourth and by far their biggest win in FIFA World Cup history – an achievement made all the greater after the Albiceleste went on to be crowned champions of the world.Germany rattled by East Asian opposition againAfter getting knocked out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup following a 2-0 defeat at the hands of South Korea, Germany would have been wary as they faced another East Asian side in the form of Japan in the Group E opener. But despite Ilkay Gundogan breaking the deadlock from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute, they had no answer to a spirited fightback from the Samurai Blue in the second half.It was two of Hajime Moriyasu’s inspired substitutes, both plying their trade in Bundesliga, that downed Germany in Al Rayyan. SC Freiburg’s Ritsu Doan was the first to inflict damage on the Germans as he turned in the rebound from a Manuel Neuer save, moments after missing an identical chance, to make it 1-1 in the 75th minute. Former Arsenal star Takuma Asano then stole the headlines, bringing down a lofted ball played forward by Ko Itakura before battling Nico Schlotterbeck as he made his way into the box to fire past Neuer. The three points gave Japan the perfect start in what many considered a near-impossible group for the Samurai Blue, ahead of their games against Costa Rica and Spain.Team Melli’s late flourish has Wales in despairIran are no strangers to difficult FIFA World Cup groups. After getting the likes of Argentina, Spain and Portugal as group stage opponents in the two previous editions, Carlos Queiroz’s Team Melli were drawn with England, the United States and Wales for Qatar 2022. And after a 6-2 loss to England in their opener, they needed a response against the Welsh.But for the lion’s share of the match at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, it looked as if it was not to be for the Iranians despite their best efforts. Ali Gholizadeh and Sardar Azmoun had seen their shots rattle the woodwork as the clock ticked down. However, the turning point came four minutes from time as Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off for a foul on Mehdi Taremi outside the area.Queiroz’s men still had plenty of work to do. Rouzbeh Cheshmi provided the moment of magic in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time with a thunderous strike from distance that flew into the far corner. There was still time for Sepahan right-back Ramin Rezaeian to make it 2-0 on a counter as Iran recorded a famous FIFA World Cup victory over Gareth Bale’s Wales to keep their qualification hopes intact going into their final match against the United States.Duke header keeps Socceroos’ dreams aliveAfter a 4-1 defeat to reigning champions France in their opening game, Australia needed a win against Tunisia to keep them alive in the competition. The setting was Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakra where the majority of the 41,000 plus crowd were in Tunisian colours, but the Socceroos showed grit to earn their first FIFA World Cup win in 12 years.With France and Denmark clear favourites to progress from Group D, Australia and Tunisia were both looking for a win that would maintain their chances of knockout round qualification on the final matchday. Adelaide United’s Craig Goodwin found Mitchell Duke, via a deflected cross, and the striker, who plays for Fagiano Okayama in the Japanese second division, expertly flicked his header over Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen. That goal in the 23rd minute proved to be decisive as Australia weathered the Tunisian storm and held on for the three points to move up to second in the standings.Australia sink Denmark to book last 16 berthIn five previous FIFA World Cup appearances, Australia had made it out of the group stage only once. Standing between them and a first knockout round ticket in 16 years was a formidable opponent in Denmark – a task that proved all the more difficult by Tunisia’s surprising win over France in the simultaneous fixture which meant Graham Arnold’s men had to beat the Danes to progress. The Socceroos had a quiet start at Al Janoub Stadium, but managed to keep the UEFA Euro 2020 semi-finalists at bay before the second half saw a revitalised Australia take to the field. Tunisia had already scored against France and Arnold’s men responded almost immediately against Christian Eriksen and company to produce another upset at Qatar 2022.On the hour mark, Riley McGree initiated a counter, rolling the ball into Mathew Leckie’s path from the halfway line. The forward then did the rest as he dribbled past Joakim Mæhle and produced a finish past Kasper Schmeichel to spark wild celebrations in the Australian dugout and, after holding on to see the win out, book a Round of 16 clash against Argentina.Another world champion downed by JapanAfter an impressive win against Germany in their opener, Japan’s World Cup hopes had taken a major hit due to a narrow defeat to Costa Rica. Up against group leaders and 2010 champions Spain, Japan pulled off another fightback to not only progress as winners of Group E, but also knock out four-time champions Germany.Alvaro Morata put Luis Enrique’s side but, as was the case against the Germans, Moriyasu’s substitutions were spot on. Doan was once again the game changer off the bench, scoring in the 48th minute with a shot from distance that was too hot to handle for goalkeeper Unai Simon.Doan was behind the winning goal too as his low cross was cut back by Kaoru Mitoma for Ao Tanaka to bundle in and pull off another famous win for the Samurai Blue that also confirmed a meeting with 2018 finalists Croatia in their third Round of 16 appearance in the last four FIFA World Cups.Taeguk Warriors leave it late against PortugalSouth Korea round were over after a narrow 3-2 defeat to Ghana in their previous outing. But Son Heung-min and his teammates were not ones to back down as they produced a last-gasp win over Portugal to dramatically seal a place in the last 16.The Taeguk Warriors got off to a worst start as they fell behind to a Ricardo Horta goal inside five minutes, but they fought back to restore parity as a Lee Kang-in corner fell to Kim Young-gwon, off the back of Cristiano Ronaldo, and the defender pulled the trigger to level. Then, just when it looked as if the Koreans were headed for the exit doors, Son stepped up in the dying embers of the game.The Tottenham Hotspur man set off on a run from deep inside his own half before feeding Hwang Hee-chan with an inch-perfect through ball and the Wolverhampton Wanderers forward finished past Diogo Costa to spark joyous celebrations on the pitch and in the stands. But they still had to wait for seven agonising minutes after the final whistle to ensure their progress as Uruguay ultimately went out on goal difference despite a 2-0 win over Ghana.
A considerable number of fans who took part in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 have expressed their thanks and appreciation to Qatar for the magnificent organisation of the mega sporting event.Speaking to local Arabic daily Arrayah, they stressed that Qatar has organised one of the most amazing tournaments ever in the history of FIFA World Cup, in a perfectly secured, safe and welcoming environment. In particular, they praised the welcoming attitude of the country, its people and the overall generosity as hosts.Davor from Croatia said he spent a great time in Qatar. "I will remember my stay in Qatar as the best ever experience in my life. Everything in the tournament was highly organised and was done with professionalism."Han of Vietnam thanked Qatar for everything done during the event. "It was clear that great efforts have been exerted in the organisation process of the event. My stay in Qatar went well. Qatar has been extra clean and well-organised with various tourist destinations to enjoy a good time."Julio of Argentina said that he will leave Qatar with great and happy memories as he has spent the most magnificent time at the tournament. "I thank Qatar for the good reception I enjoyed and the immense generosity of the people".Willy from Spain described Qatar as an amazing country with kind and generous people who welcome all. "I felt the good atmosphere of the country from the moment I landed at the airport, and I preferred to stay on in the country even after the exit of the Spanish national team from the tournament. Everybody was willing to support and offer assistance making visitors feel at home."He also stressed that the public services and utilities in Qatar are excellent and transportation options were more than convenient and suitable for all, making stadiums and fan zones easily accessible.Tamari from Argentina also commended the excellent organisation and amazing tournament held in Qatar. "My experience in Qatar is unforgettable," she said while thanking Qatar for all that has been offered to the fans and visitors during the event, giving them joy and happiness.
Former English star Geoff Hurst expressed his happiness at the success of French striker Kylian Mbappe for becoming the second player to score three goals (hat-trick) in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 final.The final match took place at Lusail Stadium on Sunday, when Argentina beat France in a penalty shootout (4-2) after the two teams drew (2-2) in normal time and (3-3) in extra time.Hurst scored the only hat-trick in World Cup history 56 years ago, when England beat Germany (4-2) after extra time at Wembley Stadium, in the 1966 World Cup final. Mbappe managed to score a hat-trick of his own during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 final to help his country equalise after being (0-2) down, and again then at (2-3), and force a penalty shootout, in which Argentina won.
Moroccan national team star Achraf Hakimi described his participation in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 as unique.The World Cup concluded on Sunday with the Argentine national team crowned as champions, after beating France 4-2 on penalties.Hakimi tweeted that the Moroccan squad gave the best Arab and African performance in the history of the tournament.The Moroccan footballer expressed his pride in his country's accomplishment in the World Cup, coming in fourth place, among the World's best teams, noting that this success occurred with the help and support of its Moroccan, African, and International fans. The Paris Saint-Germain's right-back said that his team will return stronger in the upcoming competitions, promising fans an exciting performance.Morocco lost to Croatia 1-2, to just miss out on the bronze medal. The Moroccan defense was the strongest in the competition, conceding only five goals throughout, four of which during the last two matches.
Immediately after winning the bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, Qatar made a pledge to deliver an amazing edition of the global football tournament (Deliver Amazing). As the referee sounded the final whistle to signal the end of the final match at the iconic Lusail Stadium, the whole world said in unison- Qatar delivered the best ever World Cup in the tournament's history.Amir: "We have fulfilled our promise to organize an exceptional championship from the Arab countries, which provided an opportunity for the peoples of the world to learn about the richness of our culture and the authenticity of our values"The FIFA World Cup may be over along with the celebrations, festivities and excitement surrounding it, but it will be remembered for ever as a shining example of Qatar's ability to host a stunning event that won the hearts of billions around the world. From the planning stage to preparation and final implementation, the hosts ensured that every minute detail was taken care of to provide participants and fans with an impeccably mounted event - one that can be described as the best ever World Cup.In doing so, Qatar successfully overcame the campaigns carried out by cynics, naysayers and critics, eventually winning over many of them and showing the world the true picture. The testimonials of foreigners, as captured by both the local and international media, emphatically proved the critics wrong and showed how the fans loved every aspect of the tournament - from the state-of-the-art stadiums, the remarkable transportation arrangements and the safety and security to the carnival-like atmosphere, the warmth and hospitality of the locals, and the world-class events and activities lined up by the organisers, among others.Aptly, and as an icing on the cake, the final between Argentina and France turned out to be an absolute thriller, and arguably the greatest final in the history of the tournament.As His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said in a tweet, "Qatar has fulfilled its promise of delivering an exceptional tournament from the land of Arabs, providing the chance for peoples of the world to learn about the enriched and authentic Arab culture and values".From the state-of-the-art stadiums, the remarkable transportation arrangements and the safety and security to the carnival-like atmosphere, the warmth and hospitality of the locals, and the world-class events and activities lined up by the organisers enthralled the fansThe FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 recorded an impressive attendance figure of 3,404,252 fans over 29 days - from November 20 to December 18, QNA reported.The final on Sunday at Lusail Stadium, which saw Argentina defeat France 4-2 on penalties to lift the trophy, was attended by 88,966 spectators."Attendance for the final match pushed the cumulative total for this FIFA World Cup over 3.4mn spectators, with an average attendance capacity of 96.3%," FIFA said in a statement.The World Cup in Qatar ranks third in terms of attendance in the history of the tournament. USA in 1994 tops the list with 3,587,538 fans, while Brazil in 2014 is second with an attendance tally of 3,429,873.Fan attendance at the end of the group stage of Qatar 2022 amounted to 2,457,059, while the Round of 16 of witnessed the presence of 411,609 fans in eight matches.In the quarter-finals, 245,221 fans were recorded in the stands - 43,893 fans in the Croatia-Brazil match at Education City Stadium, 44,198 in the Morocco-Portugal showdown at Al Thumama Stadium, 88,235 fans in the Netherlands-Argentina tie at Lusail Stadium, and 68,895 in the France-England match at Al Bayt Stadium.A total of 157,260 fans attended the semi-finals at Lusail and Al Bayt stadiums. The Argentina-Croatia clash saw an attendance of 88,966 fans, while Morocco against France at Al Bayt Stadium witnessed the presence of 68,294 fans.The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 recorded an impressive attendance figure of 3,404,252 fans over 29 days - from November 20 to December 18The third-place play-off match, which was held between Morocco and Croatia at Khalifa International Stadium and ended with a 2-1 victory for Croatia, witnessed the attendance of 44,137 fans.More than 1.4mn fans from across the globe visited Qatar for the World Cup, the tournament organisers said.Qatar 2022 also engaged TV audiences around the world with record-breaking numbers across multiple markets. For instance, reports said the World Cup final set a new all-time record for viewership in France with an average of 24.1mn watching the game. Earlier, in Japan, the group game between Japan and Costa Rica on November 27 drew an average audience of 36.37m viewers. This surpassed the audience of their incredible comeback against Germany in their tournament opener by over 10mn and was 74% higher than the average domestic group stage audience during the FIFA World Cup in 2018.More details are expected in the coming days.Fans in Qatar revelled in the compact nature of the event with many thousands attending more than one match per day – the first time this has been possible in the modern history of the tournament.FIFA said the top visiting nations were Saudi Arabia, India, the United States, Britain and Mexico.If not watching matches, fans enthusiastically attended a host of entertainment events, including the FIFA Fan Festival, Corniche Activation and many others. More than 530,000 people attended the entertainment events daily throughout the tournament, according to the organisers.The FIFA Fan Festival at Al Bidda Park, the centrepiece of the celebrations, saw more than 1.8mn fans enjoy the live broadcasts of games and the vibrant entertainment on offer at the venue. Opening on November 19, the FIFA Fan Festival was the hub for both international and local fans during the tournament, showing every FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 game on an iconic 1,800sq m screen and providing free entertainment with some of the most famous names from music scenes around the world.The 145,000sq m and 40,000-capacity venue welcomed an average of 70,000 visitors per day.Beyond the FIFA Fan Festival, large crowds were seen throughout the tournament at various other venues hosting events and activations. These included the Doha Corniche, Souq Waqif, Hayya Fan Zone, Lusail Boulevard, Katara Cultural Village, Msheireb Downtown Doha, MDLBEAST Presents: Aravia, Arcadia Music Festival, Daydream Festival, QetaiFAN Beach Fest, The Pearl Island, 900 Park and others - offering something for everybody.Qatar consistently ranks at the top of global safety lists. So, it's hardly surprising that the World Cup in Qatar will be remembered as a remarkably safe and secure event. As an official recently said, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has turned out to be the safest event of its kind with zero major crime.The efforts of the Tournament Security Force and Ministry of Interior, along with the co-operation of fans, helped deliver the safest ever FIFA World Cup, in accordance with the best standards at competitive and non-competitive facilities.This was echoed by visitors from around the world, who felt extremely safe walking around the streets of Doha or at stadiums and in other places. It also vindicated Qatar's stand on banning alcoholic beverages at stadiums. In particular, female fans from various places said they never felt this secure at any such event elsewhere.The transportation arrangements were at the heart of the event, with the Doha Metro, Lusail Tram, Mowasalat (Karwa) buses, various taxi services, and the Education City and Msheireb trams safely and effectively transporting millions of people.The Doha Metro and Lusail Tram transported a staggering 19.2mn people during the tournament, the number of passengers carried by the Education City and Msheireb trams was 177,838.Well-laid out plans along with precise implementation ensured the operations went off smoothly. There were massive crowds on some occasions, but the issues were duly addressed by the authorities and staff concerned.The Hayya card enabled people to use public transport for free, something the fans highly appreciated.The experience at Hamad International Airport and Doha International Airport was also exceptional as detailed measures had been taken to ensure smooth operations.The volunteers, security teams, medical workers, and other personnel involved in the operations ensured that the entire process worked like a well-oiled machine. And they did so with a smile and brought cheer to fans from around the world. The now-famous 'Metro Man' is just one example of how something as mundane as going from one place to another became a joyful experience.Also bringing joy were the locals and residents with their hospitality and warmth, helping visitors understand and appreciate the local culture while making their 'trek' to and from stadiums pleasant by offering refreshments.And finally, the experience at the stadiums themselves was truly exceptional. Happy, cheerful, disciplined crowds were seen everywhere, as millions caught the action on the pitch.There were many other highlights of the tournament, including accessibility and sustainability, to name a few.Qatar has delivered, leaving a lasting legacy.
France's football players are expected to greet fans in Paris on Monday after their defeat to Argentina in an extraordinary World Cup final that has sparked widespread pride in the team.Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said the players planned to go to the Place de la Concorde in the French capital after their plane touches down at 6 pm (1700 GMT) at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport."They want to go to thank their supporters, to spend some time on Place de la Concorde which they have chosen in theory with the French Football Federation," she told France Inter radio.She noted however that the idea had not yet been confirmed.France lost on penalties on Sunday after a pulsating game that finished 3-3, enabling Argentinian captain Lionel Messi to lift the World Cup in what is expected to be his last appearance at the competition."Invited to the coronation of Lionel Messi, Les Bleus were heroic," said L'Equipe sports newspaper, taking a magnanimous tone that was mirrored elsewhere in France.Most commentators hailed the drama-filled game that was dominated by Argentina for the first 80 minutes before a quickfire double by Kylian Mbappe ignited France."Proud of our Bleus," read a headline on the front page of Le Parisien newspaper with a picture of the team standing together during the penalty shootout."Football is often more than a sport. In the run up to Christmas, this World Cup has been a magnificent present," the right-wing newspaper Le Figaro said in an editorial.A total of 24.08 million people watched the match on Sunday on TF1 television, an all-time record audience for a French network, the channel said.
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 recorded a high fan attendance of 3,404,252 fans over the tournament period from Nov. 20 till Dec. 18.The final match on Sunday at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, that saw Argentina defeating France 4-2 on penalty shootout, recorded the groundbreaking attendance of 88,966 spectators.The fan attendance at the end of the group stage of the tournament amounted to 2,457,059 fans, while the round of 16 of witnessed the presence of 411,609 fans in eight matches.In the quarter-finals, 245,221 fans were recorded in the stands - 43,893 fans in the Croatia-Brazil match at the Education City Stadium, 44,198 fans in the Morocco-Portugal showdown at Al Thumama Stadium, and 88,235 fans in the Netherlands-Argentina clash at Lusail Stadium, and 68,895 in the France-England match at Al-Bayt Stadium.A total of 157,260 fans attended the semi finals at stadiums of Lusail and Al Bayt. The Argentine-Croatia clash saw an attendance of 88,966 fans, while Morocco against France at Al-Bayt Stadium witnessed the presence of 68,294 fans.The third-place play-off match, which was held yesterday between Morocco and Croatia at Khalifa International Stadium, and ended with a 2-1 victory for Croatia, witnessed the attendance of 44,137 fans.The World Cup in Qatar ranked third in the fan attendance in the history of the championship (3,404,252 fans), while the World Cup in America 1994 topped the list with 3,587,538 fans, and the Brazil 2014 came second with an attendance of 3,429,873 fans.
Watching football icon Lionel Messi inspire Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar yesterday made the economic suffering engulfing the country “worth it”, according to ecstatic fans.Fireworks cracked, car horns sounded and fans draped in the national blue and white colours sang, danced and waved flags.Messi scored two goals against France as the game ended 3-3 after extra-time, with Kylian Mbappe bagging a hat-trick for the reigning champions.Messi also netted in the shoot-out but goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was the hero saving one penalty before Gonzalo Montiel banged in the winning spot-kick to send Argentine players and fans into raptures.“I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it,” repeated Joel Ciarallo, 31, over and again before the final had finished.It was their “destiny to suffer. It’s a condition of being Argentine,” he added from a cafe in central Buenos Aires.“Epic, this is epic, all of Argentine history is suffering like this,” added a fan watching the game on a giant screen in the Centenario park in the capital.Watching the World Cup final and dreaming about winning it has been a much needed exercise in escapism for citizens of a country that has suffered years of economic turmoil due to spiralling inflation.Some 40% of the 45mn population lives in poverty and currency devaluation has caused havoc with disposal income.“Argentina is a country that is suffering, that is going through an economic rollercoaster where it’s always hard to make ends meet at the end of the month,” said Agustin Acevedo, 25, a construction worker from Temperley, who came to Buenos Aires to watch the final.But “it’s perfect, everything we’ve suffered has been worth it for this.” “Let’s be clear, Argentina is in trouble, economically, socially, it’s bad. So this distraction is richly deserved,” he said.Locksmith Gabriel Escalante paid tribute to Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni for the victory. “They are playing as if in the field but with pressure, despite their luxuries. It’s a wonderful job by this coach,” said Escalante from the Cenetenario park.“They deserve to win,” added Sergio Loreto, 32.‘PERFECT, WORTH THE SUFFERING’From early yesterday morning, before the match even began, the square around the iconic Obelisk in central Buenos Aires began filling with people.It is the traditional site for Argentines to celebrate sporting victories in the capital.Dozens of fans jumped up and down singing songs as passing drivers honked their car horns with a sense of destiny brewing that Messi, 35 and in the twilight of his incredible career, would add the one major international honour missing from his collection. Many eager Argentine fans — almost all wearing the national team’s blue and white striped jersey — had started queueing up at restaurants before they opened to get the best seats to watch the highly-anticipated match-up on large television screens hours later.From Jujuy in the north to Chubut some 2,800 kilometres to the south, from Mendoza at the foot of the Andes mountain range in the west to Mar del Plata on the Atlantic coast, the country was preparing to rejoice at a much sought after third world title.Even the day before the final, the Argentine capital was a sea of blue and white jerseys, flags, painted faces, hats and other memorabilia. Vendors cashed in, with Raul Machuca, 22, saying face paint and flags sold like hot cakes at the Melu store in central Buenos Aires where he works.With Christmas around the corner, he said it was a double boon for the shop.In some major avenues, the city council had painted pedestrian crossings in the national team’s blue and white stripes.At the Obelisk, some vendors were already selling “world champions” T-shirts including a third star from yesterday morning.
Argentina were made to suffer before landing their first World Cup title in 36 years, having twice squandered a lead, including in extra-time before edging past defending champions France 4-2 on penalties in the final yesterday.“It was a game where we suffered,” said Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, who saved one penalty in the shootout yesterday but had also saved two more spot kicks in their quarter-final against Netherlands.On a night of high drama and fluctuating fortunes, Argentina squandered a 2-0 lead in regular time before going back in front in extra-time with Lionel Messi’s second goal.But then Kylian Mbappe completed his hat-trick to level 3-3 in the 118th minute with France’s second penalty that forced the shootout.“Two crappy shots and they (France) levelled. They give them another penalty, they scored. Thank God later I did my thing, what I dreamed of,” Martinez said.“There could not have been a World Cup that I have dreamed of like this. I was calm during the penalties.”For Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni it was a nail-biting finish to a turbulent tournament and he could not hold back his tears following the final whistle.“I cannot believe that we have suffered so much in a perfect game. Unbelievable, but this team responds to everything,” Scaloni said.“I am proud of the work they did. It is an exciting group. With the blows we received today, with the draws, this makes you emotional. I want to tell people to enjoy, it’s a historic moment for our country.“We who live for this and who have been through the good and the bad are used to these things... Above all it is an incredible enjoyment. Being at the top as we are now is something unique.”It was the third world title for Argentina and the first since the late Diego Maradona won the trophy almost single-handedly in 1986.For Argentina players and captain Messi, who netted twice in the 120 minutes before also scoring in the shootout, it was the biggest title of their careers.“It is a moment that I will never erase in my life,” Enzo Fernandez, who won the Young Player award, said.“Having the chance to win the World Cup with my country is priceless. Let’s take the Cup and celebrate together.”Messi’s Argentine team had made the final as recently as 2014 but on that occasion they finished second best to Germany.“I’ll never forget it. We had to suffer but we deserved to win” said Argentina defender Rodrigo De Paul.“We’ve beaten the last champions, it’s a joy I cannot put into words.“I’m proud of being born in Argentina and today we are on top of the world.”
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani stressed that Qatar fulfilled its promise in organising an exceptional tournament from the land of Arabs with the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.In a tweet on his official Twitter account, the Amir said that he congratulates Argentina for winning the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 trophy and France for the runner-up position.أبارك لمنتخب الأرجنتين فوزهم بكأس العالم قطر 2022، وللمنتخب الفرنسي وصافة البطولة، وأشكر كل المنتخبات على لعبهم الرائع، والجماهير التي شجعتهم بحماس. ومع الختام نكون أوفينا بوعدنا بتنظيم بطولة استثنائية من بلاد العرب، أتاحت الفرصة لشعوب العالم لتتعرف على ثراء ثقافتنا وأصالة قيمنا.— تميم بن حمد (@TamimBinHamad) December 18, 2022 His Highness the Amir also thanked all the participating teams for their wonderful performance and the fans who cheered for them enthusiastically.He added that with the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Qatar has fulfilled its promise of delivering an exceptional tournament from the land of Arabs, providing the chance for peoples of the world to learn about the enriched and authentic Arab culture and values.
* Mbappe hat-trick, Messi brace highlights of incredible finalHis Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani crowned Argentina the champions of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 as the South Americans won their third World Cup in extraordinary style at Lusail Stadium Sunday, beating France 4-2 in a penalty shootout.Earlier, Lionel Messi scored twice in a 3-3 draw that featured a hat-trick for Kylian Mbappe as the holders recovered from 2-0 down after 80 minutes.It was an incredible night of drama and fluctuating fortunes, delivering one of the all-time great finals to cap a wonderful tournament.Argentina had looked to be cruising to a one-sided victory after Messi's penalty and a brilliant goal by Angel Di Maria in the first half put them in total control but Mbappe converted an 80th-minute penalty and volleyed in an equaliser a minute later to take the game to extra time.Messi put Argentina ahead again but Mbappe levelled with another penalty, becoming the second man to score a World Cup final hat-trick after Geoff Hurst for England 1966.That took the game to a shootout where Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez saved Kingsley Coman's penalty and Aurelien Tchouameni fired wide to give Gonzalo Montiel to chance to win it, which he gleefully took.His Highness the Amir and FIFA President Gianni Infantino handed over the gold medals to the players of the Argentina national team. Also, His Highness the Amir, French President Emmanuel Macron and Infantino handed over silver medals to the players of the French national team, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.Besides, His Highness gave the Golden Ball award to Messi for being the best player of the tournament.The final and the prize-distribution ceremony were attended by His Highness Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, Personal Representative of His Highness the Amir.It was also attended by a number of heads of State and heads of delegations of sisterly and friendly states, sheikhs, ministers, heads of Olympic committees and federations, heads of diplomatic missions and senior sports officials.Earlier in the evening, His Highness the Amir attended the closing ceremony of the World Cup at Lusail Stadium along with a host of other dignitaries and officials, QNA added.
Messi scores two and nets in shootoutMbappe scores hat-trick as France come from 2-0 downSecond World Cup final penalties defeat for France after 2006Argentina won their third World Cup in an extraordinary final on Sunday as they beat France 4-2 on penalties after Lionel Messi scored twice in a 3-3 draw that featured a hat-trick for Kylian Mbappe as the holders recovered from 2-0 down.It was an extraordinary night of drama, high emotion and fluctuating fortunes, delivering one of the all-time great finals to cap a wonderful tournament as its two star players delivered command performances on the biggest stage of all.Argentina had looked to be cruising to a one-sided victory after Messi's penalty and a brilliant goal by Angel Di Maria in the first half put them in total control but Mbappe converted an 80th-minute penalty and volleyed in an equaliser a minute later to take the game to extra time.Messi put Argentina ahead again but Mbappe levelled with another penalty, becoming the second man to score a World Cup final hat-trick after England's Geoff Hurst in 1966.That took the game to a shootout where Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez saved Kingsley Coman's effort and Aurelien Tchouameni fired wide to give Gonzalo Montiel to chance to win it, which he gleefully took.Argentina have now won six of their seven World Cup shootouts, including the quarter-final against the Netherlands a week ago when they also blew a 2-0 lead, while France have lost three of five, but with two of those defeats coming in finals.It meant that after his record 26th World Cup match, at the fifth and final time of asking, the 35-year-old Messi claimed the trophy he demanded, lifting him up alongside Diego Maradona, the country’s first football God who carried them to their emotional second triumph in 1986 following their first in 1978.It seems all the more incredible coming a month after his team began the tournament by suffering statistically the biggest upset in World Cup history when they were beaten by Saudi Arabia."I cannot believe that we have suffered so much in a perfect game. Unbelievable, but this team responds to everything," Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said."I am proud of the work they did. With the blows we received today, this makes you emotional. I want to tell people to enjoy, it's a historic moment for our country."There seemed little hint of the drama to come as Argentina dominated the first hour, outrunning and outfighting a flat French team seeking to be the first to retain the title since Brazil 60 years ago.They went ahead when the recalled Di Maria beat Ousmane Dembele and was tripped for a penalty that Messi slotted in after 23 minutes.There then came one of the best goals to grace a final after 36 minutes when instinctive passing by Nahuel Molina, Messi, Julian Alvarez and Alexis Mac Allister set up Di Maris to slide in the second.France barely fired a shot in anger until the 80th minute when Nicolas Otamendi tripped Randal Kolo Muani and Mbappe, previously anonymous, expertly converted the resulting penalty.A minute later he swept in a brilliant equalising volley after combining cleverly with Marcus Thuram, stunning the massed Argentine fans watching their team concede two quick-fire goals for the third time in the tournament.Argentina regained the lead after a counter-attack when the tireless Lautaro Martinez smashed a shot at Hugo Lloris and Messi pounced on the rebound with a rare right-footed finish, technology confirming the ball had crossed the line. The drama was not over, however, as Mbappe hammered a shot against the arm of Montiel to win another penalty in the 117th minute, which he calmly dispatched for an amazing hat-trick and a tournament-topping eighth goal.He and Messi both converted the opening spot-kicks of the shootout but then had to stand back and let their team mates decide their destiny.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attended on Sunday evening the closing ceremony of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Lusail Stadium.The ceremony was attended by His Highness the Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, His Highness the Personal Representative of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al-Thani, HE Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani, HE Speaker of the Shura Council Hassan bin Abdullah Al Ghanim and a host of Their Excellences Sheikhs and ministers.The ceremony was also attended by the King of Malaysia Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, the President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, the President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame, the President of the Republic of Namibia Hage Geingob, the President of the Togolese Republic Faure Gnassingbe, the President of the Republic of Kenya William Ruto, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Japarov, the President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov, First Lady of the Republic of Madagascar Mialy Razakandisa Rajoelina, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban, the President of Kurdistan Region in Iraq Nechirvan Barzani, the Minister of Transport and Representative of Canada's Prime Minister Omar Alghabra, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, along with the heads of Olympic committees and federations, heads of diplomatic missions accredited to the country, senior sports officials, and a large masses of fans.
David Beckham has hailed the quality of the fan experience at Qatar 2022 and praised the tournament for uniting fans from across the globe.The former England captain, who appeared in three FIFA World Cups for the Three Lions, discussed the highlights of the tournament – in particular the compact nature, fan experience and quality of play.“Seeing the fans come together and the level of football – it’s been amazing. It’s been a privilege to see the excitement and the fun the fans are having,” said Beckham, who twice reached the World Cup quarter-finals with England.Qatar has hosted the most compact edition of the FIFA World Cup in modern history – with all eight stadiums within an hour’s journey time of central Doha. It has meant fans enjoying the opportunity to attend more than one match a day.Beckham said the timing of the tournament – in the middle of the season for many leagues around the world – had boosted the level of play on the field.“The level of football has been incredible. I was always a supporter of playing the World Cup in the middle of the season because I knew the players would be fresh and the fitness and energy levels would be higher.”Beckham said Argentina’s victory over the Netherlands was his favourite game of Qatar 2022 and picked out two goals as his favourites of the tournament: Richarlison’s scissor-kick for Brazil against Serbia and Luis Chavez’s free-kick for Mexico against Saudi Arabia. He went on to discuss his stars of the tournament.“I have loved Morocco’s midfield – their elegance and the way they play the game. Jude Bellingham had a great tournament for England, and Bukayo Saka,” said Beckham.He added, “Kylian Mbappe has had a great tournament – whenever he gets the ball at his feet, you can feel the energy in the stadium lift. And Lionel Messi – what can you say? He’s a special individual on and off the field. It feels different watching him play in this World Cup. He’s got great teammates around him but he has been the leader – and you can feel it in every single game. It’s special to see.”As for England’s performance, Beckham said head coach Gareth Southgate and his players should be proud of their display against France, which ended in a narrow 2-1 defeat at Al Bayt Stadium.“We have real quality and the England players will take this experience to the next tournament. The fans are right behind us, the future’s looking bright. We have a lot of young players who will learn from this and take it on to the Euros and the next World Cup.”
More than 1.4 million fans from across the globe have visited Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022.Fans in Qatar have revelled in the compact nature of the event with many thousands attending more than one match per day – the first time this has been possible in the modern history of the tournament.All eight of Qatar’s state-of-the-art stadiums are located within an hour’s journey time of central Doha and easily accessible by metro, bus and taxi services.Between matches, fans were enthusiastic to attend a host of entertainment events, including the FIFA Fan Festival, Corniche Activation and many others. More than 530,000 people attended the entertainment events daily throughout the tournament.HE Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, and Chairman, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC, said: “In 2010, we told the world to ‘Expect Amazing’ – and we have delivered on that promise in spectacular fashion. This has been an incredible edition of the FIFA World Cup – and one that will set a benchmark for future mega event hosts.”Al Thawadi added: “We are very proud to have hosted a compact, accessible and family-friendly FIFA World Cup. This tournament has provided a platform for cultural exchange on a level not seen before in history. Fans from far and wide experienced Qatari and Arab culture for the first time and were always in the thick of the action – never far from a stadium, accommodation or entertainment activation.“The feedback we have had from all stakeholders, including fans, players, the media, volunteers and tournament officials, has been overwhelmingly positive. Smooth transport operations have made it easy to get around and everybody has immersed themselves in the party atmosphere across the country. We have no doubt this tournament will leave a huge legacy for the country and region – socially, economically and environmentally.”
Argentina will face defending champion France in the FIFA World Cup 2022 final at the Lusail Stadium today evening.Defending champions France have made their way back to the summit of soccer, only to find Messi's Argentina squad at the top with them.This year's tournament brought plenty of upsets and excitement, the final will ultimately be played between two of the pre-tournament favorites.Argentina kicked the tournament off with a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. Messi-magic brought them back from the brink of elimination against Mexico before the supporting cast finally stepped up to beat Poland and top the group.A momentary scare against Australia turned out to be nothing more than a blip, though plenty of drama would come. The Netherlands' 2-goal comeback felt like curtains, but Emiliano Martinez rose up to save the day.Argentina qualified for the final after a comprehensive 3-0 win against Croatia in the semifinals, while France clinched a 2-0 win against Morocco to reach its second successive final.France, for its part reached the World Cup final for the fourth time in the last seven editions of the tournament (1998, 2006, 2018 and 2022), at least twice more than any other nation over the period.Les Bleus, coming into the FIFA World Cup 2022 as the defending champion, was subject to impediments even before starting its campaign in Qatar.Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante, two of its most important midfielders, and Presnel Kimpembe, one of its defenders, were all ruled out of the tournament with injuries.To make matters worse, Ballon D'Or winner Karim Benzema was ruled out of the tournament, following a thigh injury during training on the eve of the World Cup.However, France set up a heavyweight World Cup final against Argentina after an early goal by Theo Hernandez and a late one from Randal Kolo Muani ended battling Morocco's dream run via an action-packed 2-0 semi-final victory.Argentina and France will face each other for the 13th time in their history, with both the teams looking to win its third World Cup title.Out of the 12 matches they have played, Argentina has won six of them compared to France's three. Three matches have ended in a draw.Argentina and France met for the first time in the group stages of the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay. Argentina won the match 1-0 courtesy of a Luis Monti strike in the 81st minute, that led to an early exit for France.Both sides met again in the 1978 World Cup, that was being hosted in Argentina. It was yet another group stage match, where Argentina beat France 2-1 to knock it out of the tournament. Daniel Passarella scored for an Argentina lead in the first-half but Michel Platini equalized for France in the 61st minute. In the second-half, Leopoldi Luque's goal in the 74th minute turned out to be the match winner.The last time both the sides met was in the Russia World Cup in 2018. It was a Round of 16 match, where France edged out a 4-3 win.
The big day is finally here. After nearly a month of exhilarating action, it is time to decide the winner of the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab World.All roads will be leading to Lusail Stadium as two powerhouses of world football - France and Argentina - look to lift the trophy for the third time.Lionel Messi is hoping to crown his stellar career by leading Argentina to World Cup glory Sunday but Kylian Mbappe's history-chasing France are standing in his way, reports AFP.France may need every hour available as kick-off looms after their camp was struck by illness, forcing a number of players to sit out training and giving coach Didier Deschamps an unwanted headache.Argentina and France are both aiming to win the trophy for the third time, with Les Bleus returning to the final four years after their triumph in Moscow.Back-to-back titles would be a monumental achievement for the side coached by Deschamps -- the only teams to have done it previously are Italy in the 1930s and Pele's Brazil in 1958 and 1962.Yet that potential achievement is trumped by Messi's quest to win the ultimate prize in the game in what is almost certainly his final World Cup match.The former Barcelona star has won everything going at club level, also claiming the Ballon d'Or seven times, and last year led Argentina to victory in the Copa America.Messi has been brilliant in his fifth World Cup as the team bounced back from a shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia, while his new sidekick, Julian Alvarez, has scored four times."It is exciting to be in the final, but there is still one step to go," said coach Lionel Scaloni.Aged 35 and driven by his desire to make up for defeat by Germany in the 2014 final, Messi has scored five goals and produced some sublime assists.Sunday's match is likely to be his last chance to match the achievement of Diego Maradona, who inspired Argentina to victory in Mexico in 1986.On the other hand, Les Bleus have returned to the final without ever really hitting top form and they now have to contend with illness in their camp.France are also wary of reducing the match at the 89,000-capacity Lusail Stadium to just a showdown with Messi."Yes they have Leo Messi but there will also be 10 other players next to him who have lots of quality," said midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni."So we will need to be ready, aware of the opportunity we have to make history."Deschamps, who can become the first coach in the post-war era to win two World Cups, said: "We will try to limit his influence as much as possible, just as the Argentines will try to limit the influence of some of my players."
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani met at Khalifa International Stadium Saturday evening with a group of fans from outstanding students who are visiting the country to attend the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 matches as part of the "FIFA Qatar 2022 for All" initiative.Cordial conversations about the participating teams and the FIFA World Cup were exchanged during the meeting. Qatar launched the "FIFA Qatar 2022 for All: Sharing the Joy of Refugees and Displaced Persons" in a number of countries, including Palestine, Jordan, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Turkey, Bangladesh and others, where fan zones have been established for the refugees and displaced persons to enjoy the matches.
Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 in the World Cup third-place playoff on Saturday to secure a top three finish in the tournament for the second consecutive edition.Runners-up in 2018, Croatia also came third in the 1998 World Cup, beating the Netherlands 2-1.Josko Gvardiol put Croatia in front after a well-designed set-piece play. Lovro Majer lobbed a free-kick to Ivan Perisic, who peeled away from his marker to head the ball to the middle of the box where Gvardiol was perfectly positioned to nod the ball into the net with a brilliant diving header.But it only took two minutes for Morocco to find the equaliser, also from a free-kick, as Croatia’s Majer tried to clear the ball but miscalculated his header and missed badly, setting up Morocco’s Achraf Dari, who was alone in the six-yard-box to send home a close-range header.Croatia scored the winner three minutes from the break when Mislav Orsic netted a dipping, curled shot from just inside the area that went in off the post. They held their lead through an absorbing yet goalless second half.