Messi’s World Cup triumph to Ronaldo’s fall: Football’s journey in 2022
It was undoubtedly the year of Lionel Messi and Argentina, who won the World Cup for the first time since 1986. For Leo Messi, it was the ultimate tropy that cemented his position as the greatest player of our generation. Argentina, the team Messi led, had reached the final of the World Cup in 2014, but suffered a 1-0 loss against Germany in the final. Four years later, Argentina lost in the Round of 16 against a dominating French side.
This time, however, football fans were certain that “The Flea” would win the elusive World Cup. And the little genius did not disappoint.
This year was also special for Kylian Mbappe, who was part of the France side that won the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He reached 12 World Cup goals in just his second Fifa World Cup. For football fans at home, Indian captain Sunil Chhetri provided some cheers by lifting the Durand Cup for the first time.
While Messi had an spectacular year, things were not so exciting for Cristiano Ronaldo, who is often compared to Messi and his cool demenour on the field. Not someone to hold himself back, either in celebration or disappointment, Ronaldo saw himself benched by his national team coach Fernando Santos during the World Cup because of his poor form.
Here’s a look at the major happenings of 2022 in the footballing world
Lionel Messi and Argentina’s dream come true
Lionel Messi and his fans finally had what they wanted all along — the World Cup. Arguably the Greatest of All Time (GOAT), Messi won the only trophy he had so far failed to win.
During the WC final, it appeared for a moment that Messi’s desire would again remain a dream. The match was evenly poised after the full time. Even after the extra time, both teams matched the score at 3-3, courtesy Mbappe’s late showing. The French striker scored a hat-trick, the only player after Pele to do so during a World Cup final.
In the penalty shoot-out, the Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved two French shots and etched his name in history. His extraordinary effort to deny goals to France won his nation the third World Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s great fall
Ronaldo had a torrid year. He started in only 10 games for Manchester United and scored only three goals during the season. After he gave an interview to Piers Morgan, criticising Man Utd coach Erik Ten Hag and the management, the club sought a mutual separation from him.
Playing for his national side, the Portuguese star was not the first choice during the World Cup Round of 16 match against Switzerland; he was benched for the first time in 12 years. Against Morocco in the quarterfinal, was benched again.
Though not many agreed with the decision, coach Santos said he did not regret the decision. “Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player, he came in when we thought it was necessary, so no regrets,” Santos said.
Many felt it was the bombshell interview and the criticism that he received for it resulted in Ronaldo’s poor form. But the coach stressed that off-field incidents had no impact on the player or on the team.
Now a free agent, after separation from Manchester United, Ronaldo, 37, is looking for a fresh start in the New Year.
In many ways 2022 was also the year of the underdogs. Not many had expected Morocco to come so tantalisingly close to challenge the established teams. In doing so it became became the first African nation to make it to the semi-final of a World Cup.
On their way to recognition, this team beat the likes of Belgium in the group stage, Spain in the Round of 16 and Portugal in the quarterfinal before going down to France in the semi-final.
Croatia, which had showed their determination to reach the top during the last World Cup, were again out to prove their mettle with an outstanding performance. The Croatian side, after drawing against Morocco in their first group stage game, beat Belgium and Canada to move to the Round of 16. There, they beat Japan on penalties and finally beat Brazil on penalties in the quarterfinal. Their winning streak was contained by Messi’s Argentina.
Also Read: Fifa World Cup 2022: A tournament of underdogs and major upsets in Qatar
Sunil Chhetri: Durand Cup victory and appreciation from Fifa
India’s biggest football star, Sunil Chhetri added more feathers to an already shining hat by winning the Durand Cup, the longest-running Asian football tournament. It was his first Durand Cup win. The tournament is hosted by the Indian Army and Sunil’s father served in the Army. India’s number 11 felt emotional after winning the trophy.
The 38-year-old was also honoured by Fifa, which released a three-episode web series on his career and life. The series is available on Fifa+.
Chhetri is the third-highest goal scorer among active players after Messi and Ronaldo. The Indian skipper has 84 goals in 131 appearances for the Blue Tigers.
Karim Benzema wins Ballon d’Or
The Real Madrid striker became the first French player since 1998 to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or, which is awarded the best club footballer of the year. Benzema beat Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne to lift the trophy.
He is only the second player after Luka Modric, the captain of Croatian national side, to win this trophy in the 15-year domination of Messi and Ronaldo. Messi has won it seven times and Ronaldo has five times. The award was not given to anyone in 2020 due to the Covid outbreak.
Real Madrid continues winning streak
One of the most competitive clubs, Real Madrid continued its dominance in the UEFA Champions League as it won its record 14th title, beating Liverpool 1-0 in the final held in Paris. Vinicius Junior, the Brazillian striker of Madrid, scored the only goal in the game as the Spanish team held on to The Reds and did not let them score.
Also Read: Many hits and some misses: Indian cricket’s journey through the year 2022
England women becomes European champions
England football finally had a reason to celebrate at the senior level as the lionesses beat Germany in the final of the Women’s Euro at the iconic Wembley Stadium, the same venue where the men’s team lost to Italy a year ago.
The match, played on July 31, looked headed to a draw. But Germany broke the deadlock in the 79th, taking a 1-0 lead. Within three minutes, England fought back and Toone equalised to raise the hopes of the Wembley crowd of more than 87,000 people. Chloe Kelly then scored the winner in the extra time as England celebrated its first-ever European victory.
Manisha Kalyan creates history
Manisha Kalyan created history by becoming the first player from India to play in the Champions League. She came on as a substitute for Marilena Georgious of Apollon Ladies FC in a qualifying game of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Also Read: Who is Manisha Kalyan? The first Indian to play in UEFA Champions League
It was also the year in which the All India Football Federation was banned by Fifa but later got restored and eventually hosted the Women’s U-17 World Cup. The home team lost all three of its group matches and couldn’t move forward. Spain beat Colombia to be crowned champions.
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