FIFA World Cup 2022: Underdogs shine bright

Graph for the weekly world cup updates, on scores and winning teams for the event. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

We are halfway through the tournament and there have been some remarkable stories coming out of the group stage at the 2022 World Cup. 

The big hitters, like world rank #2 Belgium and #11 Germany, got on the first flight out of Qatar, while Japan, Australia and South Korea managed a longer stay.

Canada gained experience in their second-ever World Cup, which will set them up nicely for when they co-host in 2026. They scored two goals, one being an own-goal from a Moroccan defender in their last game at the tournament. 

They joined host Qatar as the only teams without a point, and the first teams eliminated. 

It is refreshing to see three Asian teams and two African teams in the next round of the tournament. Senegal and Morocco are heading the charge for their continent.

Here is everything you need to know about the round of 16.

More Messi magic

It is getting a bit ridiculous now, but it has been like that for a long time. Lionel Messi got Argentina going and led them to victory against a well-disciplined Australian team on Dec. 3. The Socceroos almost equalized in the final minutes of the match but were denied by Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez.

The story here is all about Messi. His grasp of the match was breath-taking at times and his goal was something that you only see from him. It was his best performance of the World Cup so far, in which he got his first ever World Cup knockout goal in his 1,000 game played, 18 years after his illustrious career started. 

The Netherlands is next on the agenda for Argentina after taking down the U.S. 3-1 on Dec. 3. This match promises a classic fixture on paper and hopefully even more on the pitch.

Asian teams against all odds

The teams from the Asian Confederation have captivated fans at this tournament. Australia had been moved over to the Asian Confederation from the Oceania Confederation and helped to upkeep the standard being set.

All three of the teams defied the odds, particularly Japan, who finished ahead of Spain in the group and knocked Germany out in their final game before the round of 16.

South Korea inexplicably qualified ahead of Uruguay due to them scoring more goals, with the dagger coming in the 91 minute in their win against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.

Australia also managed to eliminate Denmark, who were tipped to perform well at this tournament.

Australia left a long-lasting impression against Argentina but were not able to find enough for a second goal. The responsibilities remain with Japan and South Korea. On Dec. 5, Japan will play Croatia, while South Korea will take on five-time champion Brazil.

African teams given adoration and applause

There weren’t many people giving much hope to the teams from Africa in this World Cup. Other than Senegal, there was not much expectation of Morocco, Cameroon, Ghana or Tunisia. 

We could not have been more wrong.

Morocco topped their group with Croatia, Belgium and Canada, leading to the Belgians’ exit. Morocco was the only African team to top the group. Senegal finished second in their group and the others were eliminated. Even though they did not make it to the next round, those teams left us with moments that will live long in our memories. 

Cameroon became the first African nation to beat Brazil at the World Cup. Tunisia managed to beat current holders France, and Ghana provided us with two of the games of the tournament. Now it is left for Morocco to continue carrying the hopes of the continent with them, as Senegal’s run came to an end on Dec. 4 when England shut the door 3-0. 

The rest

Poland’s Robert Lewandowski scored a penalty in the 99th minute, giving him two in the tournament, but the jubilation was short lived. Reigning champions France slayed the Polish dragon 3-1 to move through the round of 16 on Dec. 4.

England’s powerhouse lineup will face off against touted favourite France on Dec. 9. in what is sure to be a fantastic match for viewers.

Ronaldo’s response required

It seems almost planned that Messi would play on the first day of the round of 16 and Ronaldo on the last. Messi has set the tone for the knockouts and everyone is now talking about his performance.

Over to you, Cristiano.

Portugal will take on Switzerland on Tuesday with the winner setting up a meeting with Spain or Morocco. Ronaldo has only scored a penalty in the tournament so far and is playing far below his normal standard.

All eyes are on him to see if he can match the performance of his great rival. Portugal needs to win so he must be at the epicenter of everything they do to try to win the match.