Qatar 2022. The World Cup no one wanted, at a time when no one wants a World Cup. Marred by controversy and protest…. Has actually been pretty flippin’ mad.

Now, I'm not saying I like it, far from it. And let me tell you now, i tried so hard to follow Eric Cantona’s lead in not watching the tournament. I completely avoided the opening game (as hard as it was to avoid Qatar v Ecuador) and was remarkably focussed on my work during the next few, unlike any other tournament before.

But then being a football fan took over. Bah humbug. The rest has been a conflicting mix of anger and entertainment. When Gianni Infantino said this would be the best World Cup ever, I scoffed. How could it be you creepy prick?

It’s in the middle of the winter for a start and that’s without even getting into the serious stuff. But it’s hard to have watched the tournament unfold and not be gripped by its on field drama.

Yet we’re not gonna sit here and do a sunshine and rainbows review of the competition. You don’t need one of those. We’re going to do a breakdown of our favourite moments from it. Be them serious, lighthearted or somewhere in between.

Here you’ll find stuff you might have noticed but forgotten, things you never even saw and some other stuff you probably won’t give two shits about. What you won’t find is an in depth analysis of Gareth’s tactics or a glowing ode to Leo Messi. (There are, rightly so - plenty of those around). So read on for our favourite moments of the Qatar World Cup. In no particular order, and with no particular logic applied. You’re welcome.

(And as always, do let us know what your favourite moments were too. We might have missed something. We’re only human…).






Don’t be daft. I didn’t watch it and I'm not sure why anyone would have, even IF they chose to sit through Qatar v Ecuador.







Prior to the tournament he felt like a gay, disabled, immigrant worker. During it he must have felt like an unpopular, bald prick. That’s going by the crowd's reaction to him appearing on the big screen inside the stadiums during the games. Not sure what he was expecting really?

Rapturous applause for being offensive and out-of-touch?? Yet while we continued to be shown images of his smug bonce at home, they stopped cutting to Infantino in the stadiums as a result. Poor guy. Wonder how he slept at night? No, you don’t have to answer that one.

Either way, I’m not sure if Gianni meant to paint himself as the pantomime villain but by the time the competition started he was a couple of shades shy of Jack Nicholson’s Joker. (The best one. Don’t @ me.) By the end of it, he was full blown pack of cards and evil grin.







Nothing sums up the sheer, lose yourself in the moment giddiness of a World Cup better than this. It’s the 89’th minute and Osman Bukari has just scored for Ghana to bring them to within a goal of equalising v Portugal, who lead 3-2. So obviously, he then wrestles the ball off of the time wasting goalkeeper, pushes all oncoming team-mates away and makes a bee-line for the centre circle to give his side every chance of equalising in the closing moments right? Right??
Does he fuck.

No, Bukari legs it over to the Ghana fans and busts out a SIUUU in front of them.

“Sod it lads, it’s the World Cup and it’ll piss Ronaldo off”.

Great stuff.







So bad they were good, and we’re not sure who’s were worse out of the two main culprits. Yes we’re looking at you Japan and Spain. Two sides who looked about as comfortable going into their shootouts as David Moyes did in Sir Alex Ferguson’s office chair all those years ago.

Each penalty was taken with an almost admirable lack of conviction, resulting in some of the easiest saves the goalkeepers could have dreamt of. For the sheer fact it’s Spain and they’d spent the previous 120+ minutes of their last 16 encounter passing the ball around and forgetting to shoot (or perhaps even worse, leaving it to Alvaro Morata to do so), we’ll give them the ‘W’ here.

But Japan, you gave them a serious run for their money.







Along with all his teammates, Afram Hakimi had a bloody good tournament, the highlight being his winning penalty in the last 16 shootout v Spain. A penalty that was described by many as ‘outrageous’ was, let’s be honest - also a bit rubbish. Luckily for Hakimi being rubbish was part of its effectiveness. Remember when Zidane tried a panenka in the 2006 final v Italy and nearly fucked it up, only to see it hit the bar and bounce back over the line anyway? Well it was like that, but instead of overcooking his panenka, Hakimi undercooked it to the point of steak tartare and it drifted helplessly into the open net. Had Hakimi put any less chip on it, it would have been the most famous daisy cutter scored from the spot since Diana Ross in 94’.

Either way it went in and Hakimi penguin danced into the quarter finals like ‘who gives a f.’ And thus…. nobody did.







No he wasn’t naked and running after Leo Messi. He was covered in anti-war and human rights messaging and waving a rainbow flag. How he ever got through the intense security to get that far I'll never know, but he was the first pitch invader I can remember to have had cameras focus on him instead of turn away. Respect.







Ah the debate that split an entire planet. Was it ok for Brazil to dance like retired Arsenal players on an episode of Strictly after every one of their goals against South Korea? I don’t bloody know. But Roy Keane was (obviously) livid. Which then made Brazil livid with Roy Keane. Then everyone got livid with each other, while Brazil danced all the way into…. oh wait, the next game where they came up against someone good (Croatia) and crashed out on penalties because their poster boy and talisman had his name written on the final kick but never got a chance to take it. Poor Neymar.

Anyway, where were we?

Oh yes, dancing….







Despite going out at the first hurdle Saudi Arabia actually looked decent at the tournament and not just because of their utterly lush kits.
But, yeah… mainly because of their utterly lush kits.
Just look at em’... (they did actually play some nice stuff too).







Full credit to them for remaining calm enough to pick up rubbish after watching their team provide plenty of it from the penalty spot v Croatia.







Yeah yeah, i can’t lie… when Holland brought on Sean Dyche prefect Wout Weghorst i pissed myself. ‘Is that what they’ve resorted to?!’. Then like Jack Grealish everytime he watches Newcastle on Match of the Day, I had to hang my head in shame as the 15ft dutchman scored two goals out of nothing to haul Holland level with Argentina at the death. His two goals including the finishing touch of the cheekiest free kick routine you’ll ever see. If ever a 3 yard toe-poke deserved a goal of the tournament award it was that. 







 This did.

I mean it’s a shame that VAR lingers over every goal like a spectre of doom, stopping players from celebrating with full vigour, because if one goal deserved a SUIII or a pigeon dance or a knee slide along the pitch, through the tunnel and across the sand dunes of the Qatari desert it was this outrageous scoop from Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubacar. Not only did he sit the onrushing Serbian defender down with a little feint, he then looped the ball over the keeper from a standing position with the kind of finish reserved for cocky school kids trying stupid shit in the playground.

The resulting confusion around the goals legitimacy means it never really got the recognition it deserved, with other potentially better goals such as Richarlison's bicycle kick, Mbappe’s volley or Argentina’s team goal getting more. But none were quite as preposterous as this.

Aboubacar then completed his tournament by getting sent off for removing his shirt while celebrating another goal. He laughed, shook the referees hand and left the pitch, happy that his work in Qatar was done.
It was. What a dude.







Formerly known as ‘The Other GOAT’ before the other ‘GOAT’ became the ‘Official, undisputed GOAT of all GOATS’, Cristiano Ronaldo started the World Cup in typically understated fashion - by getting sacked by his club after his interview with tabloid trash king Piers Morgan. He then turned up to Portugal's training camp, got blanked by Bruno Fernandes, dominated every press conference, scored a penalty in his first game, tried to claim someone else’s goal in his second, got dropped for the last 16 tie v Switzerland while his replacement bagged a hattrick, was subbed on against Morocco in the quarters to help save them from a shock exit, failed, cried all the way to the dressing room and then went home to look for a new club.

All in a month's work.







Quite why you’d want to take to a football pitch with the cost of a small island hanging round your neck is beyond me, but Jules Kounde didn’t give a shit and there’s something naively endearing about that.







For anyone who forgot; before the tournament a number of nations had pledged to wear the rainbow armband as a sign of inclusivity, despite being warned against doing so by the big meanies at FIFA. Then, they all backtracked when threatened with the blood curdling possibility of… A YELLOW CARD. While all other nations issued a statement explaining their cowardice, the Germans did their own thing in the form of a hand over the mouth protest for their first team photo, claiming they’d been gagged by FIFA. The resulting image was sobering and powerful and even enough to get a nod of approval from Roy Keane in ITV’s studio. Yikes.







FIFA and co seem to be on an eternal quest to ruin the beautiful game with all manner of stupid, pointless ideas and additions to the sport. So it’s a genuine surprise when any positive changes are made to it these days, and this was one. The inclusion of ‘genuinely reflective’ added time to each half of football meant we got less play-acting and more bang for our buck. If it wasn’t for the lengthy additions to each game we’d have been without some truly stunning moments of football such as Holland's 99th minute equaliser v Argentina, for example. So is a ‘well done FIFA’ due? Don’t be stupid.






A funny side-note to an otherwise by-the-numbers game. When Leo Messi was awarded a dodgy penalty v Poland in their group C game, cocky ex Arsenal dropper Wojciech Szczęsny bet the Argentine €100 that VAR would overturn it. You can see why he was so confident, with replays showing little to no contact between the two of them whatsoever.

But Leo Messi knew what we all knew… it didn’t fucking matter, as what Leo Messi wants Leo Messi gets and he damn well wanted a penalty and a penalty is what he would get. After the game Szczęsny said he had no plans to pay his counterpart his winnings. Expect Messi to be hounding him with phone calls and threats for months to come….







It started with their de-facto captain and talisman Kevin De Bruyne laughing off a journalist's suggestion they could win the World Cup with the confidence boosting riposte ‘of course not, we’re too old’. Cheers Kev’. It continued with further rumours of unrest, in-fighting and arguments and culminated with Romelu Lukaku giving us the most remarkable display of inept finishing we’ve ever witnessed, to see Belgium crash out of the tournament and their manager - Roberto Martinez quit to the disappointment of absolutely no one at all.

Banter of epic proportions.







It was a mixed bag of a tournament for Les Oranges. From Cody Gakpo adding an extra £70m to the price tag that Man Utd will inevitably pay for him in January, to Weghorst’s implausible rescue act. But the highlights, as they so often do, came from manager Louis Van Gaal’s press conferences. After telling an adoring journalist that ‘later you and i will be hugging’ he then went one better by revealing to the world that he and Memphis Depay ‘Kiss each other on the mouth’ despite their rocky relationship at Man Utd years ago. Memphis didn’t look nearly as comfortable with this claim as his manager, who was obviously enjoying himself after a difficult year of illness.







Just look at him.







Easily the best at the tournament. Although with competition coming from the likes of Jermain Jenas and Martin Keown over on the Beeb, it was never too much of a contest. Props to McCoist for being his usual fountain of knowledge about both players and local history, and also for referring to Leo Messi only as ‘The Wee Man’ for the entire duration of the tournament.







For no reason other than giving us all a healthy dose of nostalgia and sense of superiority when we spotted one.

“Hang on a second, is that Frank Lebouf sat next to Deschamps??”
“No, no it isn’t, but yes that IS Pablo Aimar in the dugout next to him and yes that IS Walter Samuel still getting yellow carded seven years after his retirement.”







Ok, this is pretty niche. So much so that it's unlikely anyone else noticed or gave a shit about it. But with an advertising background I couldn't help but chortle when I saw the image of the South Korea team, decked out in their lovely Nike kits and boots, holding aloft a national flag with Adidas’s famous tagline ‘Impossible is nothing’ innocently scrawled across it in felt pen. If anyone else found that as entertaining as me, then yes… you are a sad bastard too and we should probably be friends. 







And carrying on the theme of brand aggravation no one really cares about, I also enjoyed Killian Mbappe hiding the Budweiser logo on every one of the three ugly player-of-the-match vases he was presented with. Deliberate or coincidental? It doesn’t bother me. Like Ronaldo with the coke bottle two years ago, any example of a player spoiling a brand's big moment is enough.







Taking ‘shithousery’ to a whole new level, Argentina’s antics had to be applauded by anyone lamenting the sanitisation of modern day football and its ‘robotic’ players. Starting with Leandro Paredes’s gloriously needless toe punt towards the Holland bench and finishing with the entire team's brilliantly tasteless celebrations as they ran past the stricken dutch players to celebrate their winning penalty in the shoot out.

They were petty, provocative and juvenile throughout, and for that we salute them.







So the semi-final miss-match of Morocco v France followed the template we all expected, but the moment of the match had to have been Morocco's Sofyan Amrabat tracking a full flight Kylian Mbappe the length of his half before planting one of the toughest, fairest sliding tackles on the striker you’re ever likely to see. A rare moment of physicality applauded.







Ok, so there’s not much England in here. It might be to do with the fact that, despite a couple of very good wins against Iran and Senegal there wasn’t a huge amount to shout home about from Gareth’s boys if we’re totally honest. They progressed from an easy group as most would have expected, and crashed out against tough opposition as soon as most would have expected. But there was good football and stand out performances along the way. Notably from Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka, two young men who suffered in the face of England's penalty shootout defeat in their last tournament game a few years ago. So it was great to see them contributing goals, excitement and smiles to the cause while it lasted.

Ok now that’s enough of the sensitive stuff.







No we’re not referring to the incredible save that denied France the trophy with the last kick of the game in the final, and no, not one of his many penalty shootout stops. That’s right, Emilio Martinez’s defining moment of his first World Cup will always be the image of him wanking off his golden glove award in front of an onlooking Qatari dignitary.

Iconic, symbolic and utterly childish all at once. Well done you silly, silly man. We’d probably have done exactly the same. Right? Ok then.







And quite rightly. A cringe fest from start to finish. Trophy presentations are more frequently becoming mass branding exercises these days than anything, but this really took the biscuit. Not only did Infantino (ludicrously decked out in expensive suit and white trainers) and Emir Sheikh Tamim make Leo Messi cover up his Argentina shirt with a Qatari robe before lifting the trophy, he was then shadowed all the way to the podium by the FIFA president, who seemed unwilling to simply let the Argentines have their moment.

The whole thing was borderline unwatchable, so at least the BBC acknowledged it in their commentary, with both Gary Lineker and Pablo Zabaleta voicing their disappointment at the appearance of the robe and Lineker claiming that Infantino had ‘man marked Messi better than anyone else in the tournament’. True and infuriating in equal measure. Big, fat sigh.







But come on, let's not leave it on such sour notes. After all, we’re not so contrary here as to ignore such a monumentally brilliant finale as this. Many people have called it ‘the greatest game of all time’ and with so much at stake it may be hard to argue. Wether that can ever be substantiated is hard to say, but what isn’t is that ‘it was a fucking barnstorming, end to end feast of the very best of football’. The kind of match that good tournaments deserve to finish with but inevitably never do.

It genuinely had everything. Great goals by great players, stunning comebacks, saves, near misses, extra time, penalties and a hero for the ages in Leo Messi. And it also had subplots too, with France’s recent bout of illness seeming to affect their performance in the opening 80 minutes, and Messi’s quest for the golden trophy in his last attempt at doing so. It was truly brilliant. A great game to end a controversial tournament, and a good way to bring an end to all this waffling.
Thanks for reading, understanding and indulging us.

Now back to proper football please. We’ve missed you…


Words by Paul Kocur

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1 comment

Brilliant summary man, I’d make sure to share it.


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