A look back in time ahead of World Cup 2022

A recap of the World Cups of the 21st century before games kick off in Qatar

It is finally here. After four long years of waiting, the world’s most-watched sporting event is on the verge of opening its curtains for us to watch its beautiful show. The 2022 World Cup is set to begin next month, and the anticipation is palpable. With almost a century of World Cups to look back on, it seems only fair to recognize some of the greatest moments in World Cup history.
The story of this century’s World Cup begins in 2002. Think peak Avril Lavigne, flip phones and Brazil led by Ronaldo (the original one) tearing up the soccer world. It proved to be the year of the underdog, with South Korea and Turkey making a run all the way to the semifinals. For the typical winners it did not go so well, with favored France crashing out of the Cup before they could score even a single goal. Colorful controversies and crucial comebacks peppered each rivalry as if every game was telling its own story. In the end, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo ran the show, dancing and weaving in a sparkling performance of Brazilian brilliance. The three R’s took their country all the way to the finals, where they sealed the deal in a 2-0 win over rivals Germany.

Four years later, the World Cup was back in all its glory. To this day, it remains one of the most watched events in television history, with 715 million viewers in the final alone. Drama, anger and violence boiled over in those few months of the summer of ‘06. Officials handed out 345 yellow cards and 28 red cards, both the most ever in a tournament, with Russian referee Valentin Ivanov handing out 16 yellow and four red cards in one match between Portugal and the Netherlands, known as the Battle of Nuremberg.

The culmination of this madness did not disappoint, with the final between France and Italy being one of the best games produced in football history. Both teams scored early, yet the game remained tied until the final whistle blew, not for lack of trying. Chance after chance was missed by both teams, and frustration mounted until the kettle that was Zinedine Zidane boiled over so violently that he headbutted rival Marco Materazzi and was promptly kicked out of the match. This would prove to be his last game for the French national team, one that ended in heartbreak after a penalty shootout crowned the Azzuri champions by a 5-3 margain.

2010 was the year of “Waka Waka” by Shakira, a song which took the world by storm and became a cultural staple in soccer history. The highlight of the tournament was Uruguay versus Ghana in the quarterfinals, where striker Luis Suarez swatted the ball just off of the goal line with his hand, causing himself to get ejected from the match and granting Ghana a penalty kick. Suarez sat on the sidelines for the rest of the game and witnessed Ghanian striker Asamoah Gyan blast the penalty kick over the bar. In the end, the game finished one to one and led the two teams into a tight penalty shootout, where Suarez’s unorthodox save paid off and Uruguay won the game 4-2 on penalties.

The final was Netherlands versus Spain, an intensely back-and-forth match that held the two excellent teams neck-and-neck the entire time. The contest would go into extra time where Andres Iniesta, one of the best midfielders to ever grace the game, scored a beautiful volley to win the game for Spain by a score of 1-0..

The 2014 World Cup had a certain magic about it. The tournament kicked off with a bang, where a 2010 rematch took place between the Netherlands and Spain, electrifying the Itaipava Arena in a five to one revenge win for the Netherlands. Legendary Dutch striker Robin Van Persie scored one of the most beautiful goals of all time, a flying swan dive header that soared gracefully into the net, deflating all hope and glory from Spanish hearts. Brazil versus Germany, a historic match, was also a notable moment of the Cup, where host country Brazil, known as one of the best soccer nations in history, was absolutely picked apart by the German side. A humiliating 7-1 thrashing occurred at the hands of the Germans. The final, Argentina versus Germany, can be best described as the world’s best player (Lionel Messi) against the world’s best team (Germany). This match produced a heart-attack inducing performance with close calls, and eventually heartbreak for Messi and co. when Mario Götze, nicknamed Super Mario after this game, scored a last-gasp winner during extra time.

The most recent tournament was World Cup 2018, held in Russia. The curse of the champions continued, as reigning title-holders Germany were knocked out in a shocking sequence, beaten by Mexico and South Korea in the group stage. The round of 16 went on to make quick work of some of the world’s best teams, as fans said goodbye to Argentina, Spain and Portugal. Arguably the best match of the game came in this round where the Belgium Red Devils took on Japan. The Red Devils went down early in the match, suffering two quick goals and going down 2-nil at the half. In a historical turn of events, substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli sparked unmatched energy in the squad, and led the team to an amazing 3-2 comeback win. They would finish third, behind Croatia and France, who battled for the top spot in a final where a star-studded French team beat Croatia 4-2.

World Cup 2022 kicks off in exactly one month, and the entire world is ready to see what story will be written this time. Due to the heat in Qatar, this tournament will occur in the winter for the first time. As it is the middle of the club season, many players are picking up injuries that will exclude them from the Cup, some of whom are crucial to their nations’ teams. Nevertheless, the fate of the tournament remains to be seen, and it cannot come soon enough.