Will Argentina’s Lionel Messi or Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo lift the 2022 World Cup? | Sunday Observer

Will Argentina’s Lionel Messi or Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo lift the 2022 World Cup?

20 November, 2022
Argentina Captain Lionel Messi-Portugal Captain Cristiano Ronaldo
Argentina Captain Lionel Messi-Portugal Captain Cristiano Ronaldo

The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the biggest football show on the planet is all set to kick-off on November 20 and run through to December 18. The cynosure of all eyes would be on two of the global stars and candidates for footballing GOAT, the Argentina Captain Lionel Messi and Portugal Captain Cristiano Ronaldo who are ready to light it up.

The FIFA men’s World Cup Trophy is up for grabs, four years after France claimed the right to call themselves world champions. The stakes are as high as ever with established footballing nations like Brazil, Belgium, Argentina, England, Germany, Portugal, Senegal, South Korea, and many more aiming for glory and a new page of football history.

The 35-year Argentina captain Messi has confirmed that the FIFA 2022 would be his last. Messi has scored six goals in his nineteen matches at the World Cup, spanning four editions (2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018). Messi steered Argentina to the 2014 World Cup final but lost to Germany. Argentina will launch its World Cup campaign against Saudi Arabia on November 22 and will play Mexico on November 27 and Poland on December 1.

Messi said: “I am counting the days for the World Cup, the truth is, there is a little anxiety of wanting it to be now and the nerves of saying well, we’re here, what’s going to happen, it’s the last one, how is it going to go and yes, on the one hand we can’t wait for it to arrive and on the other the shit of wanting it to go away fine.”

The 37-year Portugal captain Ronaldo has scored seven goals in seventeen matches at the FIFA World Cup, scoring in every edition (2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018). The World Cup 2022 will be his final shot at winning the coveted title. Ronaldo will enter the World Cup holding the men’s record of 117 international goals. Portugal will play Ghana on November 24, Uruguay on November 29, and South Korea on December 2.

Ronaldo is planning to represent his country beyond the 2022 FIFA World Cup, until at least the 2024 Euro Championship: “I am still motivated. My ambition is high. I am in a national team with a lot of youngsters. I want to be in the World Cup and at Euros. I want to make that commitment now.”

It is the first FIFA World Cup not taking place in the northern hemisphere summer and is being held at the end of autumn and start of winter in the Persian Gulf region. It will be held in eight different stadiums across Qatar: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Al Bayt Stadium, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium, Stadium 974, Al Thumama Stadium, Education City Stadium and Al Wakrah Sports Complex.

FIFA World Cup

The World Cup is the most prestigious association football tournament in the world, as well as the most widely viewed and followed single sporting event in the world. The cumulative viewership of all matches of the 2006 World Cup was estimated at 26.29 billion with an estimated 715.1 million people watching the final match, a ninth of the entire population of the planet.

In all, seventy-nine nations have played in at least one World Cup. Of these, eight national teams have won the World Cup, and they have added stars to their badges, with each star representing a World Cup victory. However, Uruguay chooses to display four stars on their badge, representing their two gold medals at the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics and their two World Cup titles in 1930 and 1950.

Brazil are the most successful World Cup winners with five titles (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) and also the only nation to have played in all 21 World Cups. The other winners with four titles are Germany (1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014) and Italy (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006); with two titles are Argentina (1978 and 1986), France (1998 and 2018), and inaugural winner Uruguay (1930 and 1950); with one title are England (1966) and Spain (2010).

Brazil was also the first team to win the World Cup for the third (1970), fourth (1994) and fifth (2002) time. Seventeen countries have hosted the World Cup: Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, and Mexico have each hosted twice; Uruguay, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, England, Argentina, Spain, the United States, Japan, and South Korea (jointly), South Africa, and Russia have each hosted once.

The tournament was expanded to twenty-four teams in 1982, and then to 32 in 1998, also allowing more teams from Africa, Asia and North America to take part. Since then, teams from these regions have enjoyed more success, with several having reached the quarter-finals: Mexico, quarter-finalists in 1986; Cameroon, quarter-finalists in 1990; South Korea, finishing fourth in 2002; Senegal, along with USA, both quarter-finalists in 2002; Ghana, quarter-finalists in 2010; and Costa Rica, quarter-finalists in 2014.

Two hundred teams entered the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification rounds; 198 nations attempted to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, while a record 204 countries entered qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

32 Qualifiers and Final Tournament

The 32 countries qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup are the hosts Qatar, Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Croatia, Denmark, Mexico, the United States, Senegal, Wales, Poland, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Switzerland, Ghana, Korea Republic, Cameroon, Serbia, Canada, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Ecuador.

The current final tournament featuring thirty-two national teams, competing over the course of a month in the host nation or nations has been used since 1998. There are two stages: the group stage followed by the knockout stage. In the group stage, teams compete within eight groups of four teams each. Eight teams are seeded, including the hosts, with the other seeded teams selected using a formula based on the FIFA World Rankings or performances in recent World Cups, and drawn to separate groups.

The other teams are assigned to different “pots,” usually based on geographical criteria, and teams in each pot are drawn at random to the eight groups. Since 1998, constraints have been applied to the draw to ensure that no group contains more than two European teams or more than one team from any other confederation.

Each group plays a round-robin tournament, in which each team is scheduled for three matches against other teams in the same group. This means that a total of six matches are played within a group. The last round of matches of each group is scheduled at the same time to preserve fairness among all four teams. The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage. Points are used to rank the teams within a group. Since 1994, three points have been awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss.

The knockout stage is a single-elimination tournament in which teams play each other in one-off matches, with extra time and penalty shootouts used to decide the winner if necessary. It begins with the round of sixteen in which the winner of each group plays against the runner-up of another group. This is followed by the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, the third-place match (contested by the losing semi-finalists), and the final.

Stars at World Cup 2022

The biggest names in the men’s game will descend on Qatar for the sport’s showpiece international event. Ronaldo and Messi have admitted that this is their last dance. But they will be joined by an all-star cast that includes France’s Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, and Antoine Griezmann - the reigning champions from 2018.

Besides, there is Olympic gold medallist Neymar and Brazil who have been in devastating form with a side stacked with superstars like Gabriel Jesus who fired Arsenal top of the Premier League, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo emerging as global superstars at Real Madrid and Olympic champion Richarlison aiming to become world champion, too.

And that is just in attack and the “Selecao Canarinho” also boast Thiago Silva and the iconic Olympic champion Dani Alves at the back, along with defensive midfield maestros Casemiro and Fabinho. Even in the goal, Brazil has a choice between Liverpool’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson.

Also, there’s England Captain Harry Kane who believe that they have a strong shout after making the final of Euro 2020 and only losing to Italy in penalties. English stars like Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Jude Bellingham, Reece James, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, have England fans dreaming of a first World Cup since 1966.

Outside some of the big favourites there is Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, South Korea’s Son Heung-Min, Belgian duo Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, Japanese wonder kid Kubo Takefusa, Alphonso Davies of Canada and the USA soccer hope Christian Pulisic.

FIFA World Cup Trophy

From 1930 to 1970, the “Jules Rimet Trophy” was awarded to the World Cup winning team. It was originally simply known as the ‘World Cup’ or ‘Coupe du Monde,’ but in 1946 it was renamed after the FIFA President Jules Rimet who set up the first tournament. In 1970, Brazil’s third victory in the tournament entitled them to keep the trophy permanently. However, the trophy was stolen in 1983 and has never been recovered, melted down by the thieves.

After 1970, a new trophy, known as the FIFA World Cup Trophy, was designed. The experts of FIFA, coming from seven countries, evaluated the fifty-three presented models, finally opting for the work of the Italian designer Silvio Gazzaniga. The new trophy is 36 cm (14.2 in) in height, made of solid eighteen carat (75%) gold and weighs 6.175 kg (13.6 lb). The trophy is simply identified as the FIFA World Cup.

The base contains two layers of semi-precious malachite while the bottom side of the trophy bears the engraved year and name of each FIFA World Cup winner since 1974. The description of the trophy by Gazzaniga was: “The lines spring out from the base, rising in spirals, stretching out to receive the world. From the remarkable dynamic tensions of the compact body of the sculpture rise the figures of two athletes at the stirring moment of victory.”

The winners of the World Cup retain the trophy only until the post-match celebration is finished. They are awarded a gold-plated replica rather than the solid gold original immediately afterwards. Currently, all members (players, coaches, and managers) of the top three teams receive gold, silver and bronze medals with an insignia of the World Cup Trophy.

In the 2002 edition, fourth-place medals were awarded to hosts South Korea. Since 2006, winners of the competition are also awarded the right to wear the FIFA Champions Badge, up until the time at which the winner of the next competition is decided.

World Cup Awards

At the end of each World Cup, awards are presented to the players and teams for accomplishments in the tournament. There are currently five post-tournament awards from the FIFA Technical Study Group: the ‘Golden Ball’ for best player (since 1982); the ‘Golden Boot’ for top goal scorer (since 1982); the ‘Golden Glove’ for best goalkeeper (since 1994); the ‘FIFA Young Player Award’ for best player under 21 years of age at the start of the calendar year (since 2006); the ‘FIFA Fair Play Trophy’ for the team that advanced to the second round with the best record of fair play (since 1970).

There is currently one award given during the tournament from the FIFA Technical Study Group: the ‘Man of the Match’ for outstanding performance during each game of the tournament, first awarded in 2002. There is currently two awards voted on by the fans after the conclusion of the tournament: the ‘Goal of the Tournament,’ as determined by a poll of the general public, first awarded in 2006; the ‘Most Entertaining Team’ for the team that has entertained the public the most, during the World Cup final tournament, as determined by a poll of the general public.

Records and Statistics

Three players share the record for playing in the most World Cups: Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal (1950–1966) and Rafael Marquez (2002–2018); Germany’s Lothar Matthaus (1982–1998) all played in five tournaments. Matthaus has played the most World Cup matches overall, with twenty-five appearances. Brazil’s Djalma Santos (1954–1962), West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer (1966–1974), and Germany’s Philipp Lahm (2006–2014) are the only players to be named to three World Cup All-Star Teams.

Miroslav Klose of Germany (2002–2014) is the all-time top scorer at the World Cup with sixteen goals. He broke Ronaldo of Brazil’s record of fifteen goals (1998–2006) during the 2014 semi-final match against Brazil. West Germany’s Gerd Muller (1970–1974) is third, with fourteen goals. The fourth-placed goal scorer, France’s Just Fontaine, holds the record for the most goals scored in a single World Cup; all his thirteen goals were scored in the 1958 tournament.

In November 2007, the FIFA announced that all members of World Cup-winning squads between 1930 and 1974 would be retroactively awarded with the winners’ medals. This made Brazil’s Pele the only player to have won three World Cup winners’ medals (1958, 1962, and 1970, although he did not play in the 1962 final due to injury), with twenty other players who have won two winners’ medals.

Seven players have collected all three types of World Cup medals - gold, silver, and bronze. They include five players from West Germany’s squad of 1966–1974, Franz Beckenbauer, Jurgen Grabowski, Horst-Dieter Hottges, Sepp Maier, and Wolfgang Overath. The remaining two are Italy’s Franco Baresi (1982, 1990, 1994) and the most recent has been Miroslav Klose of Germany (2002–2014).

Brazil’s Mario Zagallo, West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and France’s Didier Deschamps are the only individuals to win the World Cup as both player and head coach. Zagallo won in 1958 and 1962 as a player and in 1970 as head coach. Beckenbauer won in 1974 as captain and in 1990 as head coach, and Deschamps repeated the feat in 2018, after having won in 1998 as captain. Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo is the only head coach to ever win two World Cups (1934 and 1938). All World Cup-winning head coaches were natives of the country they coached.

Among the national teams, Germany and Brazil have played the most World Cup matches (109), Germany has appeared in the most finals (8), semi-finals (13), and quarter-finals (16), while Brazil has appeared in the most World Cups (21), has the most wins (73) and has scored the most goals (229). Both Germany and Brazil have played each other twice in the World Cup, in 2002 final and in 2014 semi-final.

(The author is an Associate Professor, International Scholar, winner of Presidential Awards and multiple National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil, and double MSc. His email is [email protected])