The World Cup has officially come to an end, with Argentina taking home the most coveted trophy in soccer history. While it was an extremely hard-fought final, with Kylian Mbappe putting up three pivotal goals, the effort was not enough to tackle an inspired Messi and the rest of that star-studded squad.
However, this World Cup was much more different from the many other editions that we have seen in the past. For starters, the two stars of this generation, Messi and Ronaldo, have decided to end their international careers after this major tournament. This spells the end of two of the greatest competing on probably the largest stage in soccer history. For Messi, this meant continuing a soccer tradition that had been started by none other than the great Diego Maradona. Ronaldo had a similar burden on his back, given that soccer had been the largest sport in Portugal for over a century. Furthermore, the latter’s rags-to-riches story has been considered one of the most inspiring in the sport’s history. The end of these two’s careers on the international stage means glory for one and bitter sadness for the other. In his last appearance for Argentina, Messi was able to pull through and win the trophy that had eluded him for the past two decades. For Ronaldo, the Portuguese star was not able to add winning the World Cup trophy to his list of achievements.
Another major story that cannot go unmentioned is Morocco and Japan’s impressive runs to the semifinals and round of 16, respectively. Morocco became the first ever team from Africa to make it this far in the tournament, whereas Japan, relatively unknown for its soccer team in the first place, announced itself on the world stage. Before the tournament, Morocco had not experienced much success at the World Cup, not qualifying for many years and making it to the round of 16 in 1986. However, this World Cup is sure to revitalize hopes for not only Moroccan people but African people in general, who had never seen a country within their own continent do so well at such a major tournament. Japan had been a bit more consistent in their results, including a round of 16 showing in the previous World Cup edition. In this World Cup, the team lost a tightly-contested match against Croatia, a very high-level and impressive team. Both of these teams not only demonstrated but inspired their own country people that their was hope within this sport and that people could find success within athletics in general.
Another major story is the location: Qatar. Of course, with its many controversial events that had taken place in the leadup to the tournament, there had been much debate over whether the place really deserved to host the tournament after all. WIth its relatively inexperienced background in soccer and its sub-par team to say the least, Qatar did not seem that they were qualified nor particularly popular enough in the sport to host such a tournament. At the end of the tournament, there was also talk about their choice to dress Messi up in a bisht when he was accepting his trophy, effectively covering up the Argentinian jersey that Messi sported throughout the entire tournament. Nevertheless, aside from these events, it did seem that the tournament did run somewhat smoothly, and for a country that has not really been noticed for soccer all that much, they certainly did put up a good show.
One final notable aspect of the World Cup was female referees and the groundbreaking matches that these women officiated during the World Cup. It had never been seen at the Wold Cup that a full team of women were officiating such large and influential matches. And yet, at this year’s edition of the World Cup, exactly that happened. This does not impact soccer but all sports in general. In such historic firsts lies precedents tha all spots will be sure to adopt, if not in place already. Many sports, such as basketball and tennis, already have women referees. These types of events have caused awareness and a sense of relief that women are finally being allowed to take part in such large sporting events.
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