Once the talking stopped and the football began, the 2022 FIFA World Cup reminded us why we love the game. We pick the very best moments from Qatar
By Becky Gamester-Newton and Chris Miller, Writers
The 2022 World Cup has been like no other.
Not only has it been played in winter, it also had a strange build-up as all manner of non-football issues – from human rights to environmental concerns – took the headlines rather than pundits’ predicted best XIs.
But once the first ball was kicked – which was, if you can remember all the way back to 18 November, a rather low-key game between the hosts and Ecuador – viewers quickly warmed up to the quadrennial festival of football, just in time for a series of massive upsets, chaotic scorelines and heartwarming moments.
For more about the FIFA World Cup including details of the remaining matches, see our complete guide. We’ve already picked our team of the tournament – here we take a look at the best bits from this memorable World Cup.
Saudi Arabia’s Salem al-Dawsari stuns Argentina
Day 3 of the tournament saw arguably the biggest shock, when Saudi Arabia surprised us all with a 2-1 victory, ending Argentina’s 36-match unbeaten run. Wow.
…and then Japan joined the party
One of the more lovely moments of the group stages was Jack Grealish’s first World Cup goal for England, which came against Iran – and the celebration that followed it.
The Manchester City player had promised a young fan, who like Grealish’s sister has cerebral palsy, that he would do a worm-like arm dance if he scored. He was as good as his word, and we all cried a little.
Brazil Richarlison > Spurs Richarlison
We all know Brazil can win games with moments of brilliance – and an overhead effort from Richarlison in their match against Serbia was exactly that. Then he thought he’d compete against himself for goal of the tournament with another stunner as the Seleção trounced South Korea. You don’t see those on a cold Tuesday night in north London.
Rashford? More like Smashford
Marcus Rashford is not a regular starter for England, but he certainly took his opportunity in the Group B clash with Wales by opening the scoring with a delightful free-kick. He later revealed that his emotional celebration was in honour of his friend, who had died of cancer just days before the game.
Szczesny is the world’s best goalkeeper
… if you’re basing it purely on this World Cup group stage, that is. Poland’s progression to the knockouts was largely due to the former Arsenal man’s form, including a superb save from a Lionel Messi spot kick and this amazing double save after Saudi Arabia were awarded a penalty.
Serbia and Cameroon’s 3-3 madness
Neither Serbia nor Cameroon made it out of Group G, but they probably gave us the game of the group stage with this chaotic clash. When Aleksander Mitrovic put Serbia 3-1 up, it seemed they were on their way to three points – but a delicately scooped goal from Vincent Aboubakar was swiftly followed by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s equaliser, leaving fans of both teams flabbergasted.
Shirt shenanigans for Aboubakar
If you’re going to score an injury-time winner against one of the best teams in the world, you deserve to celebrate – just make sure you don’t take your short off if you’ve already been booked. Vincent Aboubakar’s found out the hard way, and even the ref seemed sorry it happened. Still, he didn’t miss a knockout game as Cameroon went home – and he left with a moment to remember.
Martinez moonwalks out of his job
Belgium left Qatar much earlier than expected, so whether boss Roberto Martinez would be leaving his position seemed a straightforward question. His physical response was far from that (even though he quit not long afterwards anyway). What a way to go.
Leckie sends Socceroos into raptures
Australia fans went wild when a brilliant goal from Matt Leckie sent them through to the last 16 against a lethargic Denmark. Coach Graham Arnold claimed the feat marked a new “golden generation” for the Socceroos, who lost narrowly to Argentina but will be looking to push on in future tournaments.
Kylian Mbappé, just existing
We’re all walking in an Mbappé wonderland in this winter World Cup. The France striker arrived in Qatar in top form, and there’s certainly been no sign of him slowing down. He has proved to be the complete striker with a variety of goals, although we particularly enjoyed this emphatic effort against Poland.
Japan absolutely cleaned up
An experienced Croatia side ended Japan’s run on penalties in the last 16, but Japan won the hearts of many – not least with the exploits of their players and eccentric fans alike, who both always cleaned up after themselves. Excellent origami, too.
Tite puts his dancing shoes on
Brazil’s otherworldly performance against South Korea was certainly a spectacle – and that includes their early goal celebrations. Certain pundits may have been frowning behind their beards, but it added to the celebratory nature of a spectacular victory.
They weren’t dancing in the next round, though, when Croatia beat them on penalties…
The Morocco wall
Morocco were not a fancied side ahead of this World Cup, but their defence frustrated every single opponent they faced. After beating Belgium 2-0 in the group stages, they held Spain to a goalless draw and duly dispatched the 2010 champions on penalties to make the quarter-finals – and then went one further by keeping yet another clean sheet to knock out Portugal, a sobbing Cristiano Ronaldo and all.
Going out? Time for Wout
The Netherlands were staring at a limp quarter-final defeat, 2-0 down against Argentina. Enter Wout Weghorst. The giant striker pulled one back in the 83rd minute, then as the clock ticked over to 100 minutes, he orchestrated the cutest free-kick routine you’ll see to equalise and send the stadium reeling. The Dutch didn’t make it through – but they sure made it memorable.
More Martinez moves
After Belgian Bobby’s textbook moonwalk, Argentinian keeper Emi kept it more improvisational when he celebrated saving a pen in the quarter-final shoot-out. With those moves, the Villa man will be a hit in the clubs of Birmingham this Christmas when he he heads home.
Pickford embraces #BeKind
He may scream like a banshee at his defenders repeatedly in every game, but Jordan Pickford showed his softer side after England’s defeat to France by shooing cameras away from his devastated captain Harry Kane, who had missed a penalty that would have made it 2-2. The true measure of the man.
A miraculous Moroccan and his mum
This is a genuinely groundbreaking World Cup for African and Arab football, as Morocco became the first ever country from either region to make it to the semi-final. And star man Sofiane Boufal revelled in the chance to celebrate their quarter-final win over Portugal, bringing his mum on the pitch to dance with him in front of their delirious fans.
When is the World Cup final on Virgin TV?
You can watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup final on Sunday 18 December at 2pm. The choice to watch it on BBC One HD (CH 101) or ITV1 HD (CH 113/103) is yours because it’s on both.
You can even watch it on both if you want, or at least watch wherever you are thanks to Virgin TV Go, which allows all Virgin TV customers to register on up to five devices (and view on two devices simultaneously) at no extra cost. It’s available for iPhone, iPad, Android mobile or tablets, and Windows and Mac laptops and desktops. Find out more about managing your Virgin TV Go app here:
TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.
HD: HD TV set, V HD Box, TiVo box or Virgin TV V6 connected with HDMI cables required for HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.
Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.
TV Go: Content available to view depends on TV package. Not all channels/content from relevant pack available. Live streaming and On Demand requires broadband/WiFi or 3G/4G/5G access. UK only. Access via PC, Mac or TV Go App (selected iOS devices and Android™ devices only). Maximum 5 compatible devices per account can watch TV. Maximum 2 compatible devices per account can watch TV simultaneously.