Moving forward from the 2023 FIFA World Cup

Argentinas Lionel Messi may have cemented his legacy as the greatest soccer player ever at the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi may have cemented his legacy as the greatest soccer player ever at the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The most watched event in the world came to an end late 2022. After a 36 year drought, Argentina defeated France to take home their third FIFA World Cup title. With multiple controversies, upsets, Cinderella stories, failures, flops, and one of the best finals of all time, the 2022 Qatar World Cup left a legacy that will be remembered for years to come. 

The 2022 World Cup was mainly highlighted by two stars: Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. The 35-year-old Argentine Messi came out with the trophy and the Golden Ball, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest of all time. Meanwhile, his PSG teammate, the 24-year-old Frenchman Mbappe finished as the top scorer and as silver medal recipient.

The two teammates represent the passing of the torch for best player in the world. Although Messi took home the prestigious trophy, Mbappe finished with a hat-trick in the final, becoming the first player to do so since 1966. Messi finished with two goals of his own, topping off a back and for the 3-3 game in which the Argentinian’s won in penalty kicks to claim their first title since the days of Diego Maradona.

“That was definitely the greatest game I’ve ever watched,” Olympic Heights junior and soccer player Guilherme Pes told The Torch. “After France tied the game in the last 10 minutes, it became a new game. It was crazy watching Messi and Mbappe turn up in one of the best games of all time.” 

This fairy tale ending to the World Cup rewarded Messi with the most desired trophy in all sports, opening up the way for a potential retirement as the greatest of all time. Being able to succeed at the club and international level, Messi has achieved everything there is to achieve, leaving doubters without any real argument.

Messi’s success story wasn’t the only triumph storyline in Qatar. Croatia once again shocked the world, defeating the five time champions Brazil in the quarter-final and reaching a second consecutive semi-final. The country with a population of less than four million people, finished third in the tournament, claiming a second consecutive medal and once again completing huge upsets on the world’s biggest stage. 

However, the biggest underdog story of the tournament was Morocco. The “Atlas Lions” became the first nation from Africa to reach the World Cup semi-finals, defeating powerhouses such as Portugal, Spain, and Belgium. Although they fell to France in the semis, Morocco took home a fourth place finish, and an underdog story that will be passed on throughout generations. 

The 2022 World Cup wasn’t all smiles for everyone, though. The disappointment of nations such as Brazil, Portugal, Spain, USA, Uruguay, and Belgium has shaken up the international soccer world. With high expectations entering 2022, none of those six nations managed to make the semi-final, with Brazil and Portugal being upset in the quarter-finals, Spain and USA exiting out at the round of 16, and Uruguay and Belgium not being able to make it out of group play.

What some would call a failure, others see it as a rebuilding opportunity. All six nations have opened up a head coach spot, with some managers resigning, and others simply not being rehired after their contracts expired.. For Belgium, Brazil, Portugal, Uruguay, and USA the role is vacant, while Spain announced Luis de la Fuente, the team’s former under-21 coach, to pick up the vacant head coach position.

For these and other nations who weren’t as successful in Qatar, 2023 is a new opportunity to start looking ahead. The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by the USA, Canada, and Mexico, and will be an opportunity for redemption runs, underdog stories, and even more excitement.