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The 10 greatest moments of the 2022 World Cup so far

The World Cup in Qatar is now in the semi-final stage: Argentina, France, Croatia or Morocco will win the biggest prize in football at the Lusail Stadium next Sunday.

But already, the 2022 World Cup has offered many great moments that are unlikely to be forgotten.

Iran players do not sing the anthem

In their opening match of the tournament against England, Iran’s players took the bold step of not singing their national anthem before kick-off. It was a gesture to show his support for the national protests taking place in his country following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the moral police.

His silence spoke volumes and added pressure on the Iranian government, which suspended the morality police last week.

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Saudi Arabia beats Argentina

Argentina’s World Cup campaign has been so fraught with drama that it’s easy to forget it began when they lost to Saudi Arabia 2-1 in their opener.

The second lowest ranked team in the tournament mounted an incredible comeback after dropping a goal to score twice in the space of five minutes in the second half. The result sent tremors throughout the soccer world. The fact that Saudi Arabia lost their next two group stage matches didn’t matter. It was not just a victory for the team. It was a victory for the nation.

German players covering their mouths

In their opening group matches, the captains of England, Wales, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark had chosen to wear OneLove armbands, a symbolic gesture against discrimination. But FIFA banned the armband and threatened sanctions against any team whose captain wore it on the pitch.

In protest at the restriction of their freedom of expression, the entire German team posed for the pre-match photo with their hands over their mouths.

Germany's players cover their mouths as they pose for a team group photo before the game against Japan.
Germany’s players covered their mouths as they posed for their team’s group photo before their World Cup opening match against Japan. [Annegret Hilse/Reuters]

Messi’s goal against Mexico

Emiliano Martínez’s heroics in the penalty shootout against the Netherlands has led Argentina to a final victory. Following their loss to Saudi Arabia in the opening game, Martinez had said that every game thereafter is like a final. The first of these was against Mexico, where a loss would have sent Argentina home.

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This pressure cooker of a game had its lid blown off in the second half by Lionel Messi’s left boot. It was an amazing shot from outside the box to the bottom corner. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s where he really started his World Cup.

Brazil put on a show against South Korea

Of course, this was not a moment, it was 45 minutes. But it was a flash of brilliance that would eventually pass too soon. Brazil was 4-0 up at half time in their round of 16 game. It wasn’t just the South Korean back line, but the entire soccer world that they made dance to the samba beat. It was a performance for which Brazil has historically been renowned: fast attacking play, sharp movement and flair.

His campaign may have finally ended in tears, but during those minutes, Brazil Brazilianized and it was beautiful to watch.

Brazil goal dance routine
Neymar (right) celebrates after scoring Brazil’s second goal against South Korea alongside his teammates Vinicius Junior, Raphinha and Lucas Paquetá. [Carl Recine/Reuters]

Weghorst’s moment of genius

Wout Weghorst’s goal in the 11th minute of added time to save the Netherlands from losing to Argentina in the quarter-finals will go down as one of the greatest World Cup moments of all time. The art and awareness of the free kick taken quickly took the Argentine defense and millions around the world by surprise. Timing and weight of the goal aside, the fact that Weghorst was a Burnley striker whose style of play had made him a despised figure in the footballing public only added to the disbelief of the moment.

Weghorst had also scored earlier, and the goal from a free kick was the second of the game. The fact that he still hasn’t been able to save the Netherlands, who lost in a penalty shootout, makes Weghorst’s genius all the more a loser’s tale for history.

The eternal soldiers of Croatia

They secured a penalty shootout victory over Japan in the round of 16 and then managed their nerves against Brazil to book a place in the final four on Friday, building an impressive legacy.

Consider this stat: In the six World Cups Croatia has competed in, it has reached the semifinals three times. Reaching the final in 2018 was considered the pinnacle for this team. His boring and sluggish performances in the first few games this time did not alleviate concerns about his age and speed. But what they lack in agility, they make up for in skill and experience.

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Interestingly, they have yet to win a 90-minute knockout game since 2018. Croatia have mastered the art of the smash and grab. Messi and the Argentine team, which faces them next, will not make the mistake of underestimating them.

al jazeera
Croatia beat Brazil on penalties in the quarterfinals [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

The magic race of Morocco

When they lifted coach Walid Regragui high to celebrate their quarter-final victory over Portugal, they epitomized Morocco’s unprecedented achievements.

In every World Cup there is a team that punches above its weight, beating the odds and the opposition alike. They were Ghana in 2010, Costa Rica in 2014 and Croatia in 2018. This time, the mantle has been taken by Morocco, who have made history by becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals.

The destination is only as amazing as your journey to get there. They topped a group that included Croatia and Belgium, eliminated Spain on penalties in the round of 16 and then Portugal in the quarter-finals. Despite the strength of the opposition they have faced, the Atlas Lions have only conceded once in the tournament.

In the process, the Moroccan side has inspired not only its nation, but also the Arab world, Africa and the Global South at large, emerging as the darling of neutrals. His fans have been the most colorful and outstanding throughout the World Cup. But her secret sauce? The families of the players, and especially their mothers, who have accompanied the team, have kissed them and wished them luck and even danced with them on the pitch.

ronaldo on the bench

You had to read the team sheet a couple of times to make sure you didn’t miss their name. Cristiano Ronaldo’s loss for Portugal’s round of 16 match against Switzerland was seismic. Coach Fernando Santos had spoken about his displeasure with Ronaldo’s reaction to being substituted against South Korea at his news conference the day before and declined to confirm whether he would be given the bracelet.

While Ronaldo wasn’t captain it seemed unlikely, it wasn’t even considered a possibility that they would abandon him completely. Portugal looked young, wild and free in his absence and won 6-1. The fact that his replacement, Gonçalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick only added to the narrative.

Extra time

There was a staggering 563 stoppage time minutes played in the group stage of this World Cup. In the England-Iran group game, 27 minutes were added to the regular 90. All of that is the result of a deliberate decision by FIFA to add time for all stoppages more strictly than ever before.

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