The FIFA World Cup only comes around once every four years. The buildup lasts for years, forcing fans to worry and wonder about what will transpire when the first ball is finally kicked. But without fail, the greatest sporting event on Earth delivers a dazzling display every time.
The 2022 World Cup was no exception. The product on the field was beyond what any soccer fan could have possibly imagined, producing more than enough storylines to hold us over until the competition returns in 2026. I’ve put together my favorite moments, matches, and more so we can relive this incredible World Cup together, one last time.
By the Numbers
Plenty of records were broken this year. Across 64 games, there were a total of 172 goals scored, more than any other World Cup. Five games were decided by shootouts, another all-time high for a World Cup.
The man of the moment, Lionel Messi, staked his claim as the greatest player of all time, and he’s got the stats to prove it. He has now played in more World Cup matches than any other male player (26) and contributed to more goals at World Cups than anyone else (13 goals, eight assists). He became the first man to earn the golden ball at two World Cups, as well as the first player to score in every stage of the competition in a single tournament. To put it plainly, this guy is in a league of his own.
Messi wasn’t the only one setting records. His PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe earned the golden boot after scoring eight goals, including a hattrick in the final. His French teammate, Olivier Giroud, overtook Thierry Henry as Les Bleus all-time leading goalscorer just a few matches before Neymar equalled Pele’s Brazil record as well.
Alphonso Davies scored Canada’s first ever men’s World Cup goal against Croatia, just as Atiba Hutchinson became the first man to reach 100 appearances for the Maple Leafs. Even Ronaldo managed to get into the history books, becoming the first man to score in five different World Cups.
Nearly every team accomplished something noteworthy at this World Cup. Try as I might, there’s no way I could recognize every significant accomplishment without boring you to death. Instead, let’s look at some of this tournament’s most memorable moments!
- Argentina vs. France (3-3, Argentina win on penalties)
- Cameroon vs. Serbia (3-3)
- South Korea vs. Ghana (2-3)
- Japan vs. Germany/Japan vs. Spain (2-1, 2-1)
- Morocco vs. Spain (0-0, Morocco win on penalties)
This World Cup produced some truly magical matches, though none were more captivating than the final. Argentina’s triumph against France may go down as the greatest match in the history of soccer, if not the greatest athletic spectacle of all time. A truly good game is an even contest that could go either way, and we had plenty of those from start to finish.
Personally, I found the craziness of Cameroon vs. Serbia and South Korea vs. Ghana to be enthralling. Both matches were high-octane affairs, with goals flying in left and right. All four of those teams were playing must-watch soccer in the group stages, despite the fact that they all failed to make a splash in the knockouts. Likewise, Japan took down two giants on their way to winning their group. I couldn’t pick just one of their wins against Germany and Spain, so I put them together at number four.
It’s not often that you see a 0-0 draw make a list of great matches, but this one was special. Morocco vs. Spain was the match where the world truly saw what this Morocco team was capable of, proving that their group-topping campaign was no fluke. Casual soccer fans may have been left wanting more goals, but purists probably needed a cigarette after this one.
This was the hardest section to trim down. Fantastic goals were cropping up in almost every game, with no two looking quite the same. We saw incredible technique in Richarlison’s scissor-kick against Serbia, as well as Luis Chavez’s jaw-dropping free-kick against Saudi Arabia.
I always love a good buildup, a true team goal. Whether it comes from a counterattack or serves as the punctuation mark at the end of an extended period of possession, team goals are just as beautiful as any individual brilliance. When Argentina sprung a counter from a failed France corner kick, they produced one of the greatest World Cup Final goals ever, finished off by Angel Di Maria after beautiful passing and movement.
To round out the top five, I’ve put Salem Aldawsari’s wonder-strike to beat Argentina just above Youssef En-Nesyri’s Ronaldo-esque header that downed Portugal. While I have a long list of honorable mentions, I’ll spare you the details. Look up Brazil’s highlights against South Korea and Vinecnt Aboubakar’s heroics against Serbia!
While there were plenty of plain, boring uniforms, Adidas didn’t disappoint this year. Both Japan and Mexico had amazing home and away kits, featuring the updated Adidas logo and nods to the cultures of each country included in the designs. Germany and Argentina rocked updates to their iconic looks, not straying too far from what fans love and recognize.
The Netherlands sneak in as the lone Nike representative in my ranking. The classic orange kit of the Dutch is pretty hard to mess up, and it was nice to see it back in action after they missed the World Cup in 2018. Honorable mentions go out to the home kits for Morocco, Portugal, and Ghana. All three were great, but not quite good enough to crack the rankings.
Things I Loved
To close out this homage to the World Cup, I wanted to highlight a few more trends that made this edition so great. The stories that unfolded at this tournament were so compelling, unexpected and beautiful, I doubt Shakespeare himself could have written a better script — although he likely would’ve picked a better setting.
This was a year for the underdogs. Between Japan’s giant-slaying and Morocco’s Cinderella run to the semi-finals, the little guy showed that soccer is changing. Saudi Arabia are kind of World Cup champions, as they hold the prestigious honor of being the only team to beat Argentina at this tournament. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to the heart shown by Australia and Tunisia, both truly inspiring to watch.
Plenty of other squads felt the weight of disappointment as well. Germany, Spain and Brazil all fell short of expectations, leaving Qatar with unfulfilled dreams and motivation for a better showing in 2026. The days of Tiki-taka, Total Football, and other possession-based styles of play appear to be at an end. Quality of possession is overtaking quantity in an ever-evolving game that demands higher and higher standards of technical excellence.
The drama of the third group games was unlike anything else in sports. In a ten-minute span, four different combinations of teams could grab hold of a spot in the knockout rounds, only to lose it moments later. I’ll never forget watching Saudi Arabia vs. Mexico while Argentina vs. Poland was on another screen. El Tri were so close, ultimately falling short in heartbreaking fashion.
The USA showed that the best is yet to come, especially with home crowds awaiting this young core in 2026. The greatest player of all time finally got his crown, ending debates and giving the world quite a show along the way. Thank you, soccer, for providing such a wonderful exhibition of art and elegance to inspire and unite us.