Here are my TOP FIVE World Cup moments 2022 by Dan Smith
5- Argentina and Morocco Take Over as home crowds
As expected, this World Cup lacked the atmosphere of the hosts going on an adventure.
In the opening match some locals didn’t come back to their seats for the second half.
It’s almost like Qatar is not a footballing nation?
When they submitted their bid in 2010 it wasn’t in their culture to go to sporting events with only one stadium existing. Again, it’s almost like the was zero interest in football?
When everyone goes home, venues built just for this month will be knocked down or redeveloped which means Qatar have zero desire to leave a footballing legacy.
So, supporters have come from elsewhere.
Argentina and Morocco have had such support it’s almost been unfair on their opponents, with every match being like an away game.
That aspect could yet decide the Final.
I have seen even Messi crippled by the fear of failure in the past, but Argentina fans this time have been smart to realise it would be counterproductive to put too much pressure on them.
4- A World Cup of Upsets and giant-killing
With Qatar not making much of an impact, Saudi Arabia became their noisy neighbours.
They were so noisy against Argentina the whole world was listening, a noise that will be heard for years to come.
Japan beat two of Europe’s superpowers although a shock everywhere but Japan, who generally have high ambitions and have justified why.
Morocco became the first African nation to get to the semi-final of the World Cup.
No fluke though, they beat Belgium, Spain and Portugal.
Australia got out of their group for only the second time, while Tunisia and Iran beat European sides for the first time in World Cup history .
This World Cup was built as the last dance for several famous names.
Some are like fine wine, getting better with age while for others it proved a tournament too fine.
Croatia have found the perfect balance, the core of their team experienced, while introducing the likes of Gvardiol and Livakovic.
The way Croatia have used their know-how and game management has been fascinating to watch.
They know when to do the dark arts, how to keep the ball, how to stay in a game, how to preserve energy.
You only get that with a squad who have been together for a long time.
Every player knows their job, which is so hard to create in international football.
While many obsess about what youth stars they have coming through, Croatia is a timely reminder that having old heads can be vital.
Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Portugal all, not just failed to beat Morocco, neither could they score against them.
That’s too many upsets to be a coincidence.
In fact, before the semi-finals, the only goal they had conceded under Regragui was an own goal.
That’s why the manager is already thinking about the World Cup in 4 years with the aim of winning it.
Before a ball was kicked, I called the Moroccans my dark horses but never thought they could be the first Africans to get to the semi-final of a World Cup. That’s huge for that continent.
I fancied their counterattacking football against ageing legs in their group.
Helped by a following who (only rivalled by Argentina) made every game feel like it was a home game at this World Cup
What I couldn’t envisage was their defending. In a world where we over complicate what a defender should be able to, it’s been heart-warming to watch defenders that love to defend.
Players timing their tackles, throwing their bodies in the way, getting their head to every ball, etc, Defenders who just love to defend and showing there is an art to it.
They didn’t just make Morocco proud but the whole of Africa.
1- Messi’s Last Dance
We have this unique desire in the UK to when someone has reached the top, to want them to fall flat on their face.
It’s why I feel sorry for Ronaldo, who for all his faults, deserves a better send-off given all he’s done in the sport.
Messi’s been written off since he went to PSG.
That’s why it’s been an honour to watch him this month, because you realise he won’t be around much longer.
You know you’re never going to see another Messi, so enjoy him while you can.
Messi didn’t have to do anything in Qatar to convince me he’s the greatest to ever live, but it’s refreshing to see him play with a smile on his face.
That’s not always been the case, 4 years ago the scrutiny was even too much for the number 10 to bear. It was like he and his peers were crippled by the fear of failure.
That seemed to be happening again in their opening match. As soon as Saudi Arabia equalised, decent players couldn’t do the basics things.
The turning point was Fernandez and Alvarez coming off the bench against Mexico. They did the running and graft that allowed Messi to play in a free role. From that moment Argentina never looked back and nor did Messi.
His opener against Mexico was him having enough, taking his country by the scruff of their neck, by the palm of their hand and guiding them through.
Every game since, he’s enjoyed his football, coming deep to be his nations composure.
There will be those who will look at things as black and white.
Lose to France and he will probably get hammered?
Don’t listen to those people.
Enjoy Messi while you can …. there will never be another like him (cue comments that he can’t get in this Arsenal team).
If Shakespeare was writing the last chapter of Messi’s career, it might involve him being on Sunday ‘s final.
It’s almost too romantic, too perfect.
Life just doesn’t work like that …. Does it?
Let me know your top moments of this World Cup.
I’ll give you my Top 10 sad moments tomorrow….
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