The 2022 World Cup came to a close on Sunday, with the eponymous trophy heading to Argentina after a dramatic final ended a tournament marred by criticism of host nation Qatar’s human rights record.
The experts agreed that the clash between Lionel Messi’s team and France with Kylian Mbappe was the best closing in memory, since the former consolidated his position in the minds of many as the best footballer in the history of the sport.
Although the French team’s hopes of retaining the world championship were dashed, their star striker took home the Golden Boot for scoring the most goals in the tournament; eight for Messi’s seven.
The 23-year-old superstar refused to let his team fall behind, scoring the first hat-trick in a World Cup final since Sir Geoff Hurst’s in 1966 and forcing the game into a penalty shootout.
Argentina claimed the title in that last turn-based challenge, scoring four against France’s two.
The stars of both teams will leave Doha to continue the soccer season at club level with Paris St Germain, an Arab state-owned team that has grown rich on natural gas exports in recent decades.
Qatar’s hosting of the tournament was controversial from the moment it was selected by FIFA in 2010, a choice critics said represented a triumph of money over ethics.
Fans and international commentators were uncomfortable with the country’s ban on homosexuality and restrictions on political expression.
The treatment of the foreign workers who built the stadiums for the tournament also drew criticism. Qatar eventually admitted that hundreds of workers were killed in the construction effort, though reports have put the figure in the thousands.
In May, a coalition of human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, called on Qatar and FIFA to establish a compensation fund at least equal to the total £362m of World Cup prize money for workers who were abused or killed in Qatar. Neither FIFA nor Qatar agreed to establish the fund.
Qatari authorities say the decade-long criticism of their country has been unfair and ill-informed, pointing to labor law reforms enacted since 2018 and accusing some critics of racism and double standards.
The country’s hosting of the World Cup was part of a careful strategy to raise its global profile and influence; a strategy that could be said to have been successful.
The state news agency QNA said on Sunday that 1.4 million people traveled for the World Cup to Qatar, a country of just 3 million permanent residents. A television audience for the final in excess of a billion worldwide was almost certain.
The Lusail Stadium, where the match was played, was packed with 89,000 fans who witnessed the Argentine victory in person.
On the other side of the world, hundreds of thousands of Argentines took to the streets on a sunny day in Buenos Aires, ecstatic after their team won the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
“It was an incredible match, at times distressing,” said Diego Aburgeily, 46, who cheered on the national team from the Buenos Aires suburbs. “This team made people fall in love with them for the first time in decades.”
The final victory cements Messi’s status as a legend among Argentines, and Sunday’s match is expected to be the 35-year-old’s last World Cup appearance.
“Our parents told us about Maradona, and we will talk to our children about Messi… We hope we win the cup and we can celebrate with him and all the people of Argentina,” said Nicolás Gómez, a fan. from Argentina.
After 63 games, the World Cup ended with a relatively modest ceremony, in which Argentina lifted the trophy for the third time in history.
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