After an incredible month of World Cup action, we review the 10 most unforgettable moments from a truly remarkable tournament.
Saudi Arabia floors Argentina
Herve Renard slammed his players at halftime for showing Lionel Messi too much respect. Saudi Arabia was 1-0 down, which given the gulf in quality between the two teams, wasn’t an embarrassing scoreline. But the Saudis took the lead just eight minutes into the second stanza and held on to secure one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. King Salman bin Abdulaziz called a national holiday for the day after the win over Argentina.
Boufal dancing with is mom
Morocco’s post-match celebrations were among the most heartwarming sights of the World Cup. Hakimi had some emotional embraces with his mother during the tournament, but sofiane Boufal’s mom arguably stole the show when she danced on the pitch with her son following the Atlas Lions’ progression to the semifinals.
That’s why he’s Brazil’s NO 9
Richarlison isn’t a conventional Brazilian No. 9. He’s not a renowned entertainer, instead earning much of his popularity with Tottenham Hotspur fans through his committed performances. But the forward kick-started Brazil’s campaign in true Canarinho fashion with his second goal against sabia. His first touch went straight up into the air, giving him time to twist his body underneath it for a stunning acrobatic strike.
German Come back counts for naught
Spain was atop Group E before the third matchday, but even the Iberian nation briefly dropped to third during a volatile day of action. Germany entered its match against Costa Rica with one point from its opening two matches and fell behind 2-1 to the Central Americans. The Germans roared back to win 4-2, but their three-point haul made no difference. Japan scored twice in two minutes and 22 seconds against Spain – and the ball barely stayed in play ahead of the second strike – to overturn a one-goal deficit and take top spot. Germany finished behind Spain and crashed out.
Time to take Morocco Seriously
People were still sleeping on Morocco despite its first-place finish in Group F, but that wasn’t the case after its round-of-16 dismissal of Spain. In front of a huge Moroccan contingent at Education City Stadium, the Atlas Lions nullified their opponent, and penalties were required to separate the teams. Yassine Bounou brilliantly saved two spot-kicks before Achraf Hakimi – who was born and raised in Madrid – sent Morocco through with a nerveless Panenka penalty.
Kane sends penalty into orbit
Harry Kane has voiced his ambition to become an NFL kicker once he’s done with soccer, and he certainly displayed a knack for converting field goals with his second penalty against France. The England marksman convincingly smashed in his first effort from 12 yards, but nerves got the better of him in the 84th minute when he blazed his spot-kick well over the bar. France won 2-1 and progressed to the semifinals.
Ronaldo’s tournament ends in tears
Ronaldo admitted his dream of winning the World Cup with Portugal “ended” in the Selecao’s 1-0 quarterfinal defeat to Morocco. His emotion was obvious after the match as he started to break down on his way into the tunnel before bawling inside the guts of Lusail Stadium. Ronaldo started all three of Portugal’s group games before he was dropped to the bench for disciplinary reasons.
Messi turns back the clock
Josko Gvardiol was the best center-back in Qatar. It wasn’t even close. That made the sight of Messi – 15 years his senior – tearing him to shreds in Argentina’s semifinal victory so impressive. The attacker collected the ball just inside Croatia’s half before carrying it down the flank with Gvardiol on his tail. The young defender caught up, but Messi burned him with his elusive movement and acceleration before setting up a Julian Alvarez goal.
Mbappe carries France in final
Kylian Mbappe took charge, scoring three goals to become the first man with a hat-trick in a World Cup final since England’s Geoff Hurst in 1966. France was on the verge of defeat before his two goals in 97 seconds brought it level in the 81st minute, and he netted his second penalty of the game to restore parity once again in the 118th minute. It was a performance of supreme quality and maturity – certainly not a display you’d associate with a player on the losing team.
Argentina gets the trophy
This is the Lionel Messi World Cup. Just like Diego Maradona in 1986, Messi inspired his country to victory on the biggest stage. His crowning moment came in the final, where he scored twice and was also successful with his penalty in the shootout. He was a constant threat against France, leading the match in final-third passes (34), passes into the opposition box (11), and shots on target (four). He deservedly collected the Golden Ball as the best player in Qatar.