January 27, 2023

The main act

If nothing else, you’d imagine vain curiosity will probably get the better of him, but even if it doesn’t, he’ll find out soon enough. Whether he chooses to walk the dog, sit at home watching the ITV4 Midsomer Murders double bill or cooped up somewhere with his Liverpool teammates with earplugs in and his back to the screen, the better he can do anxiously ignore. will find out who won the World Cup around the same time as the rest of us who have been following it.

It was a visibly distraught Van Dijk who, when asked if he thought Argentina would win after their ill-tempered victory over the Netherlands in the quarter-final, said curtly to a reporter: “I don’t care, I won’t watch anymore. ” Having just missed a penalty in the previous shootout, he was understandably injured and could excuse his dismissive response More than a week later, there’s a good chance Van Dijk still doesn’t care how Sunday’s final plays out or whoever wins this one, but if that is really the case, he will surely belong to a very small minority of the football crowd.

For more than 12 years, it’s been impossible not to see Qatar 2022, from the moment Sepp Blatter to a mixture of cheers and widespread clamors of amazement drew the card with the name of the country in the Arabian Peninsula. infamous envelope in December 2010. A view of whether it should take place in Qatar, a view of whether it should actually take place in Qatar and then, in more recent years, a view of the incalculable and much-discussed human cost of it taking place in Qatar when it became clear that Qatar is the place where it would definitely be held.

This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

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Quick guide

Qatar: beyond football

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This is a World Cup like no other. For the past 12 years, The Guardian has covered the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights violations to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism has been collected on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football homepage for those who want to dig deeper into the issues off the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the field. Support our investigative journalism today.

Photo: Caspar Benson

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Blatter has since acknowledged what many of us already knew by saying that giving Qatar hosting rights was a “mistake” and a “bad choice”, though his mea culpa focused more on the country’s size than its violations of law. human rights in his country. boundaries. It was indeed “a mistake” and a “bad choice”, even if Gianni Infantino, Blatter’s similarly egotistical successor as FIFA president, broke an almost month-long undignified silence to hail this indelible blot on world sports history as “an incredible success in all fronts”.

For all the nonsense from Infantino, for all the unspeakable grimness surrounding this often tacky but carefully polished Fifa spectacle, Qatar 2022 has been an incredible success on one side, in that much of the football played has been undeniably sublime. Later on Sunday, the 64th and final game of a long-in-the-making soap opera will be played, the winners will be crowned and the trophy lifted triumphantly into the air. With so many contrasting storylines and potential plot twists, it promises to be the hugely immersive sports spectacle the organizers hoped it would become, even if, like Van Dijk, we could all have good reasons not to tune in. BG

Men's and Women's World Cup trophies on display at Lusail Stadium
Men’s and Women’s World Cup trophies on display at Lusail Stadium. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Fifa/Getty Images

Topics to discuss

Croatia stands out in style
Mislav Orsic’s beautiful goal would have been worth the World Cup win. It was definitely worth third place for Croatia. The winger’s perfectly flying curling iron from an angle, lifted and over the towering frame of Yassine Bounou, aka Bono, was one of the goals of the tournament. It was the kind of effort you probably won’t see in a final when the pressure is so much higher, the stakes so much higher. In that sense, it was a good advertisement for the idea of ​​a third-place finish in the playoffs, and the football was attractive all along. Morocco may not have achieved the result they wanted, but the match was a chance for their outstanding fans to celebrate and pay tribute to the players who have made them proud as they progress to the semi-finals. The team’s treatment of the referee was the only sour note, but other than that it was a resounding success. LMC

The Croatian players, coaching staff and family members celebrate with their medals
The Croatian players, coaching staff and family members celebrate with their medals. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

End of an era for La Liga
Sergio Busquets’ retirement from international football was the last of Spain’s 2010 World Cup winning squad to say goodbye. With Lionel Messi, Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo almost certainly drawing their last World Cups, Qatar has seen the end of the era when Barcelona and Real Madrid dominated the world stage from the late 1990s. Madrid may be the winners of the Champions League, but Modric, even if he plans to play until 2024, is one of the last of the old guard. At Barcelona, ​​a club that has fallen out of favor due to financial mismanagement, Busquets and Jordi Alba, a survivor of Spain’s Euro 2012 winners, are the last to stand. The giants of La Liga have not been as dominant as in previous tournaments. Argentina have not used players from either club, although Barcelona have provided Jules Koundé and Ousmane Dembélé for France, who also have Madrid’s Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga. JB

David Beckham has made his first public statement about his controversial involvement with the World Cup host nation. He told a US newspaper through a spokesperson that he has “always believed that sport has the power to be a positive force in the world”. “We understand that there are different and strong views on engagement in the Middle East, but take it positively that debate on key issues has been directly stimulated by the first World Cup to be held in the region,” the statement continued. It added: “We hope that these conversations will lead to greater understanding and empathy for all people and that progress will be made.”

The statement, made to the New York Times, came in response to intense criticism that 47-year-old Beckham had accepted millions of pounds from Qatar to serve as ambassador for the games despite the country’s repressive stance on LGBTQ+ rights , the human rights record and allegations of mistreatment of migrant workers.

David Beckham flanked by Luis Figo (left) and Robbie Keane in the third place playoffs
David Beckham flanked by Luis Figo (left) and Robbie Keane in the third place playoffs. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Today’s match

Argentina v France (Final, 3pm GMT, BBC One and ITV1) Some suggest that France has been happily at this tournament, but the champions progress to a second consecutive final rien to do with luck. It’s largely down to talent, knowledge, teamwork – and a generous helping of hard graft. Whether France successfully blunts Messi’s threat, or Argentina finds a formula to deny Kylian Mbappé and co, the team that lifts the trophy will have deserved it. Messi maybe and Mbappé will thrive against defenses that have looked fragile at times, and will we witness a high-scoring classic? Perhaps a member of the supporting cast, such as Julián Álvarez or Olivier Giroud, will seize the moment. Messi’s ultimate dream is tantalizingly close and many neutrals want to see him achieve it. The formidable France and their fiercely driven coach Didier Deschamps stand in his way. LMC

Man in the middle

Poland will provide the referee of the final in Szymon Marciniak, a 41-year-old from Plock, with his compatriots Pawel Sokolnicki and Tomasz Listkiewicz as his assistants, and Tomasz Kwiatkowski leading the VAR effort. Ismail Elfath, an American, will be the fourth official. Marciniak led two games during the group stage in Russia four years ago, but missed Euro 2020 due to tachycardia. “Now life is giving me back and I can’t even stop smiling because it’s an amazing feeling,” said Marciniak, who wears the same World Cup final ref haircut as predecessors Pierluigi Collina (2002) and Howard Webb (2010) … and Gianni Infantino herself. JB

Szymon Marciniak refereed Argentina's last 16 win over Australia
Szymon Marciniak took charge of Argentina’s last 16 win over Australia. Photo: François Nel/Getty Images

Global media watch

In France, L’Équipe drew a fitting comparison between the great Brazilian Pelé and the young megastar Mbappé on the eve of the final. The newspaper’s front page featured an image of Pelé celebrating during the 1970 World Cup, side by side with a similar picture of Mbappé celebrating with teammate Giroud. ‘Their story’ was the headline. “With victory tomorrow, Mbappé’s France would join Brazil, the last country to win two consecutive World Cups,” the subheading read. “Mbappé would be the first player since Pele to be crowned twice.” In the meantime, here’s Sunday’s front page.

The comparison is not blasphemous.

The only player in the past to whom I could compare this new Mbappé dominating as number 10, it’s Pelé pic.twitter.com/s31dSOE4by

— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) December 17, 2022


The comparison is not blasphemous.

The only player in the past I could compare to this new Mbappé who dominated as number 10, it’s Pelé pic.twitter.com/s31dSOE4by

— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) December 17, 2022

The internet responds

Who says romance is dead? A few Moroccan fans showed up for the playoffs as boyfriend and girlfriend… but left with a wedding to plan.

Croatia 2 Morocco 1.
Marriage proposals in the row behind me 1.
Surreal quotient 29 pic.twitter.com/ZIYYUWjsQt

— Jim Proudfoot (@JimProudfoot) December 17, 2022


Scrap the footy, marriage proposal instead. And she said yes! Two very happy #Morocco fans… & everyone around them too. #MAR pic.twitter.com/qQa5k6yRyI

— John McAuley (@_JMcAuley) December 17, 2022


And finally …

That concludes the Qatar 2022 briefing, but a delight in the timing of this World Cup means it’s only three and a half years until the next men’s final. The United States, Mexico and Canada will be the trio of hosts for a huge, sprawling 48-team tournament whose format has yet to be determined. One thing that is almost certain is that Gianni Infantino, whose FIFA presidential reign will be extended to a third term because he was an unopposed candidate, will declare the North American World Cup the “best ever”. He said that for Russia 2018 and it has been his mantra for the build-up and throughout this tournament. Revenue of $7.5 billion, $1 billion more than expected, explains some of that high praise. Over the next four years, FIFA is expected to bring in $10 billion in revenue from 2026 sponsors, TV rights and tickets.

Banner thanks Qatar for the event in 2022 and looks forward to the tournament in 2026
Not for long. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Observer

Of course, before that there is the 2023 Women’s World Championship in Australia and New Zealand starting in July, another winter tournament. Hopefully real football will speak more there. JB

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