Qatar’s World Cup 2022 has ended with a night of drama on the pitch for both Argentina and France, providing one of the all-time grand finals to crown a fantastic tournament.
It was one of the greatest finals of all time, capping off a fantastic tournament with commanding performances from two top players on the grandest platform - the night was filled with high emotion and swings in fate.
After a thrilling 3-3 draw in which Lionel Messi scored twice, and Kylian Mbappe had a hat-trick, Argentina defeated France 4-2 on penalties to win their third World Cup.
Nearly 89,000 spectators watched the action in Lusail Stadium, one of three stadiums built especially for the tournament in Qatar, with a population of 2.5 million people, the first Arab country to host the game.
Messi's penalty and Angel Di Maria's goal in the first half placed Argentina in command, but Mbappe converted a penalty in the 80th minute and volleyed in an equaliser a minute later to send the game into extra time.
Messi put Argentina back in the lead, but Mbappe tied the game with another penalty, making him the second player in World Cup final history, after England's Geoff Hurst in 1966, to score a hat-trick.
As a result, the game was decided by a shootout. Argentina's Emiliano Martinez stopped Kingsley Coman's attempt, and Aurelien Tchouameni missed the mark, allowing Gonzalo Montiel to win, which he did.
“What a game, that is all I can say. This World Cup ended with the best game of all time. We are all in awe,” Mohammed Faisal, a Bangladeshi Argentina fan, told TRT World.
In pictures: #FIFAWorldCup 2022 CHAMPIONS 🏆 🎇 🥳#ARG players lift the cup, celebrate the victory with fans who came Qatar to support them pic.twitter.com/uYCRnfEfEG— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) December 18, 2022
And with that dramatic final on Sunday, Qatar - which garnered criticism on human rights but overcame fears that it could successfully host such a global event - closed the curtain on the World Cup on its national day.
Critics also questioned how football officials could pick a country which had never before qualified for the finals, was too hot to host summer matches, and would need to build most of its World Cup stadiums from scratch.
In the run-up to the games, restrictions on alcohol sales also drew much attention, but fans eventually shrugged off the issue, with the majority, mainly female fans, saying this decision has led to a safer experience at the tournament.
There has been hardly any violence or arrests throughout the tournament.
Laws on homosexuality and the display of LGBTQ symbols also drew negative attention to the football tournament.
FIFA's decision to penalise teams wearing "One Love" armbands, German players pointedly putting their hands over their mouths for a pre-match photo, and German politician Nancy Faeser wearing the ‘one love’ armband further inflamed the issue.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani fired back, saying to a German newspaper that Berlin has no issue regarding energy agreements and investments with us, hinting at the 15-year deal to supply Germany with natural gas.
Qatari officials also refer to labour law improvements passed since 2018 as evidence that the nation has been unfairly and inaccurately criticised for a decade.
READ MORE: FIFA president slams Western ‘hypocrisy’ against Qatar
And that feeling of being mistreated resonated with many people in Qatar, who said controversy and the western media coverage of the tournament promoted a stereotypical negative image of the region.
“Before placing such judgement, you must be familiar with the environment. To find out the truth, you must visit the location, interact with the residents, observe the local culture, and do some research,” Abdelaziz Abdulrehman, a Qatari national, told TRT World.
“The western media coverage of Qatar was very exaggerated and biased.”
But the three weeks of heroism and heartache on the pitch overshadowed the controversies as underdogs defeated football giants and gave people the power to believe.
Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Japan, Ecuador, Cameroon, Tunisia, and Croatia are just a few teams with limited football histories that have surprised the world in Qatar. They contributed to eliminating World Cup favourites from the competition, including Brazil, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and others.
“I have to be honest here, each win was a surprise, a good one. Of course, we always hoped that Morocco would win every match, but deep down, I knew we had got so lucky to come this far, so if they lose, it will be ok,” Sanae, a producer from Morocco, told TRT World.
“So every time they won it was a great surprise for all the Muslim and Arab nations, that's the thing about Morocco, their win gathered a lot of people because as a country, its not only an African country but an Arab country too.”
Back at Lusail Stadium, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, draped Messi in a bisht, a traditional men's cloak used for hundreds of years, to underline the unique and mark history — a World Cup hosted by a Muslim and an Arab country.
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