2022 saw a number of major football trophies take place.
Although the World Cup in Qatar has just finished, at the start of the year there was the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the conclusion of the group stages of the Nations League, and the Women’s European Championship (Euros).
African Cup of Nations
The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations was staged in Cameroon, having been delayed a year to because of the pandemic.
The tournament saw its fair share of controversies, including a Zambian referee ending a group match between Tunisia and Mali early twice without taking into account injury time, which should have been considerable.
The tournament also saw a stadium tragedy when eight people died after stampede among Cameroon fans who were trying to gain access to a stadium in Yaoundé to watch their team in action.
The final itself saw Senegal take on Egypt. And after the scores were tied at nil-all, it went to a penalty shootout with Senegal captain Sadio Mané with the decisive spot kick.
The Nations League
The Nations League, the competition introduced by UEFA to make matches between European nations more competitive in between major tournaments, reached the culmination of the group stages.
As a result, Croatia, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands have all reached the finals which will take place in the Netherlands next June.
Austria, England, Czech Republic, and Wales have all been relegated from the top tier groups and have been replaced by Scotland, Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.
Euro 2022 was the 13th edition of the UEFA Women’s Championship and took place in England between 7th July and 1st August – having again been postponed from earlier because of the pandemic.
Expanded to 16 teams for the first time, it expanded record crowds and culminated in a final at Wembley between the hosts England and Germany, which was watched by more than 87,000 people.
Ella Toone gave England the lead only for Lina Magull to equalise for the Germans, meaning that the match went to extra time.
Chloe Kelly, though, scored the winner after the Germans failed to clear a set-piece, and England had won their first major football tournament since the men lifted the World Cup in 1966.
England player Beth Mead was top scorer in the tournament, whilst their coach Sarina Wiegman successfully defended the title she had won with her home nation back in 2017.
The World Cup
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar was surrounded by controversy from its inception and took place against a background of protests against the country’s human rights record, treatment of its large migrant worker community, and stance on LGBTQ+ issues.
On the pitch, the group stages was notable for some of the biggest upsets in the history of the World Cup with Saudi Arabia beating Argentina, Japan defeating Germany and then Spain, and then Morocco prevailing over Belgium.
Germany, Belgium, and Denmark were among the well fancied teams to make an early exit from the tournament, whilst Qatar turned out to be the weakest nation ever to have staged it.
Brazil began as pre-tournament favourites, but having dazzled in the earlier rounds, succumbed to their usual fate when facing a European team in the knock-out stages and lost to Croatia in the quarter-finals.
Morocco turned out to be the surprise package, becoming not only the first African nation to make the semi-finals of the World Cup, but also the first from the Arab world.
Their run was eventually ended by France, who were hoping to defend their title in the final.
They were joined by Argentina, who had recovered from that early loss. And inspired by their captain and talisman Lionel Messi, had got stronger the deeper into the competition that they went.
The final in Lusail on December 18th turned into a classic.
Messi gave Argentina the lead from the penalty spot, and when they added a second 10 minutes later, they were in complete control.
France did not even have a shot on target until the 67th minute, but were handed a lifeline back into the match from the penalty spot thanks to Kylian Mbappé, who then equalised 97 seconds later.
Into extra time, Messi restored Argentina’s advantage, only for Mbappé to complete his hat-trick – again via a penalty.
In the subsequent shoot-out both men converted their spot kick. But whilst the rest of the Argentine takers were flawless, France missed two of third.
At the fifth and final attempt at the age of 35, Messi – who won the Golden Ball – had his hands on the World Cup.
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