Soccer for Dummies: The 2022 Fifa World Cup


Argentinian players celebrate their penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands at Lusail Iconic Stadium, Qatar [Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]

Lorenzo Nivellini, Writer

The 2022 Fifa World Cup started like no other. Following the opening ceremonies, which unfortunately did not include YouTuber iShowSpeed’s song, “World Cup,” Ecuador played host nation, Qatar,  in the opening match. The South American nation won thanks to 2 goals by attacker Ener Valencia, marking the first time a host nation lost their opening match. Unfortunately for Qatar, their luck did not improve, as they were eliminated during the group stage, having lost all 3 of their matches.  

If you are unaware of how the World Cup is played, that’s perfectly okay. The tournament starts out with what is known as the “group stage,” where sets of 4 nations are split evenly into eight distinct groups. Each nation plays 1 match against every team in their group, totaling three matches per team. The top 2 teams of each group make it through to the next round. If in any group there is a tie for second place, the difference between goals scored and conceded for each team is calculated, and the teams that are tied are ranked according to how high this difference is. If there is STILL a draw, then the ranking is decided according to total goals. Thankfully, it has never had to go further than that, but were it to, the tie would be broken by a coin flip. Following this initial round, the remaining 16 teams play in a single-elimination tournament against each other, just like the NBA playoffs. 

To fully understand the World Cup, you should know how individual games are played out. In the group stage, all games are 90 minutes long, split into two halves of 45 minutes with a 15 minute break at halftime. Stoppage Time is added at the end of the first half and, way more so, at the end of the second half to make up for long periods during which the ball was not in play. Since no game can end in a tie after the group stage, subsequent round matches resulting in ties after 90 minutes are given 30 minutes of extra time split into two 15-minute halves. A penalty shootout between both teams occurs if extra time ends in a tie. Each team gets 5 free shots from the circular spot in the goalie box. If both teams make the same amount of shots out of 5, it goes into sudden death. It works just like penalty shootouts in the NHL do, except with 5 shots per team rather than 3. Having covered all you need to know to understand how the World Cup works, let’s discuss what has happened leading up to the final.

In addition to the host nation’s underwhelming performance, several upsets happened during the group stage. Most notably, Belgium, the sports-gambling world’s favorite to win the entire tournament, was edged out by both Croatia and Morocco. While our own United States of America managed to make it to the round of 16 (AKA the knockout stage), sadly, we were decisively beaten by the Netherlands. The result may have been different if the U.S. had not missed several clear-through opportunities and had not left Denzel Dumfries wide open on the far post. Another notable result in the knockout stage was Morocco’s win against Spain in penalties. Also worth noting is Portugal’s emphatic 6-1 blowout against the Swiss. Morocco would meet Portugal again in the quarterfinals, this time with Morocco pulling through with just 1 goal. While Portugal packed their bags as Morocco advanced, France beat their long-time rival England 2-1, and heroic saves by Emiliano Martinez helped Argentina claim victory over the Netherlands in penalties. Just recently, during the semifinals, France achieved a decisive 2-0 victory against the African underdog, Morocco. Just the day before, Argentina dominated Croatia, beating them 3-0. 

Many players deserve credit this World Cup. Starting with the US Men’s National Team, Christian Pulisic scored a clutch goal (while getting injured) against Iran putting the U.S. through to the round of 16. Though not to forget the incredible performance of Weston McKennie and goalkeeper Matt Turner. Mohamed Kano helped Saudi Arabia pull off an astounding win against Argentina. Casemiro held down the back line for Brazil, sending them all the way to the quarter-finals. Some of the top goalies of the tournament have been Morocco’s Bounou & Croatia’s Livakovic. As far as coaches go, Walid Regagui of Morocco and Gareth Southgate of England composed brilliant strategies for their teams. However, three names stand out above all as the tournament nears its end. First, Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo played his last world cup, leading his team on a solid run to the quarterfinals, playing in the final game despite rumors that he would not be due to disagreements with the team. All-time great Lionel Messi is still alive, helping Argentina to the final with jaw-dropping goals & assists. Lastly, there is France’s Kylian Mbappe, who has been a constant threat off the dribble and a very accurate shooter on his run with France to the final.  

As you may know or have figured out by now, Argentina and France will face off against each other in the final happening Sunday, December 18th, at 10:00 AM EST, with the 3rd place game between Croatia and Morocco happening a day earlier, at Saturday, December 17th, at 10:00 AM EST.  

Overall, this tournament has been a huge excitement having Westlake students glued to their screens watching the match, even during class.