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How Was the 2022 World Cup Different from Previous World Cups – Takeaways and Teams that Surprised us the Most

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As the excitement of the World Cup is over and done with and the dust is settling, it’s time for us to take a look at just how it measured up against previous years. This can give a unique insight into the general sentiment in national and international games and potentially make some worthwhile predictions for the future.

What were the key takeaways from the 2022 World Cup?

The first thing to impact football fans all over the globe was the fact that alcohol was banned for the entire tournament to comply with the host country’s laws. Qatar was strict about imposing this ban and things seemed to work out for the best for British fans in particular as there were no reported police incidents or arrests of British nationals during the campaign (although we did miss the off-pitch celebrations that we’re used to).

There were a host of standout players and it goes without saying that football fans of all nationalities were happy to see stalwart Lionel Messi playing an amazing tournament and lifting the cup alongside his Argentina teammates. While World Cups always have standout players (a few names to mention for 2022 are Kylian Mbappe, Luka Modric, and Luis Suarez), surprises came this time around in the form of unexpected team performances with Morocco and Japan doing far better than expected.

There seemed to be a stronger focus on atmosphere this campaign, with a higher pace and energy that kept the fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Knockout round games were nail-biting, attack and defense performance was stronger than ever and the overall feel of matches was more octane than in previous years. Although spirits were elevated and players were more than showcasing their talents by bringing the most goals ever in a World Cup, there seemed to be a more basic approach to tactical formations. This may have contributed to the fact that there were more 0-0 results in the tournament overall. The fact that the campaign ended on a 3-3 final really sets 2022 apart.

With such a diverse range of goals scored, many fans felt yet another of Qatar’s restrictions; no gambling, online, and crypto casinos included. The tournament presented so many opportunities for gamblers looking to have some fun and place a decent bet, but unfortunately, this wasn’t allowed.

A closer look at the tournament’s surprises

As always, the big names in football talked a good game, but teams like America and Germany ultimately failed to live up to their own hype. In fact, Japan really took the stadium by storm by beating both Germany and Spain, South Korea took out Portugal and Uruguay and Morocco pulled out unpredictable wins against Spain, Belgium and Portugal. In other upsets, Croatia beat Brazil, Tunisia beat France and Saudi Arabia nearly took out tournament winners Argentina with an early win of 2-1.

It may be worth mentioning here that Qatar left the Cup early on with a combined 7-1 loss across its three group-stage matches (although this wasn’t exactly a surprise).

2022 memorable controversies

One of the biggest things to set the 2022 World Cup apart was the general sentiment of the hosts, Qatar. We’ve already mentioned restrictions such as no alcohol and gambling, but many fans were especially impacted by the lack of respect for global tradition. In a major display of close-mindedness, gay culture was criminalized to the point that both players and fans were restricted from even showing tolerance and support by sporting rainbows on their armbands and the robe placed on Lionel Messi’s shoulders to lift the trophy definitely felt like a way to reinforce the fact that Qatar was in control.

The choice to implement semi-automated VAR didn’t sit well with fans either and while technology certainly has its place in the modern world, there were some controversial calls made as a result. For example, Argentina was called offside more times in a single match than they were in their entire 2018 campaign and this led to an understandable level of frustration. In that same game, two offside goals were scored – one of which caused significant upset and the reliability of the software was called into question. 

There was also a revised approach to added time that fans and players alike struggled to grasp and this caused its fair share of disruption across the tournament.

Final thoughts

It’s no secret that Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe pulled off one of the most memorable World Cup finals in history and that their 2022 campaign will be one of the best-used benchmarks for tournaments moving forward. The entire season seemed to pass by in a blur and while there was a general lack of visible fan groups, there were still standout moments that will stick with fans for years to come.