DOHA, Dec 17 (Reuters) – The Qatar World Cup has been a rich feast of football over the past month, with shocks, great goals, incredible celebrations and record-breaking achievements.
Here are 10 highlights selected by the team of Reuters reporters covering the tournament.
Saudi Arabia stun Argentina
Argentina cruised into their opening Group C match after Lionel Messi scored a penalty in the first half. But the Green Falcons surged after half-time, with Saleh Al-Shehri equalizing with a low shot and Salem Al-Dawsari curling in a burning second five minutes later to leave Argentina in disbelief and Saudi fans chanting ‘where’s Messi’.
The nervous system of South Korea
The tough part began when Hwang Hee-chan scored a stoppage-time winner in South Korea’s final Group H game. The Korean players had to spend about 10 agonizing minutes staring at their phones in the center circle, hoping that Uruguay wouldn’t score another goal against Ghana. Finally, with the last 16 secured, they swarmed towards their raving fans.
Magical Messi bamboozles Croatian Guardiol
Such has been the Argentine No.10’s influence in Qatar that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner could have multiple entries on a memorable list. But the way Croatia’s masked defender held off Josco Guardiola, then sprung him with an electrifying twist to set up the third goal in the 3-0 semi-final win, embodied the 35-year-old’s genius.
Ronaldo left the final World Cup in tears
Portugal’s talisman became the first man to score in five World Cups with a penalty against Ghana. But the 37-year-old was later left out of the starting line-up and was pictured walking down the tunnel in tears after coming off the bench to save his team in the quarter-final against Morocco.
First female referee in Men’s World Cup
Frenchwoman Stéphanie Frapart took control of Germany’s final Group E clash against Costa Rica, becoming the first female referee to take charge of a men’s World Cup.
Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez described it as a “big step forward in a ‘sexy sport'” and the 39-year-old Frapart produced a calm and confident performance in Germany’s win.
Shocked by Germany, Japan retaliated
Germany’s players covered their mouths before kick-off in their Group E opener to protest FIFA’s threat of sanctions against wearing ‘One Love’ armbands.
At the final whistle, Japan’s substitutes Ritsu Don and Takuma Asano gave the Samurai Blue a shock 2-1 comeback.
Fans of Morocco
Thousands descended on the Arabian Gulf to see the Atlas Lions roar and they were richly rewarded as Morocco became the first African and first Arab nation to reach the semi-finals.
A frenzy of whistles greeted each opponent’s touch as Morocco defended, and the noise generated by the reds in the stadiums was deafening when they lost to Spain in a penalty shootout in the last 16 and to Portugal in the quarter-finals. Their 1-0 lead.
Group E final chaos
Germany beat Japan and Spain with a seven-goal thrashing of Costa Rica to end a group on a tumultuous night that nearly turned the football world upside down.
Germany needed a win against Costa Rica and Spain needed to beat Japan to finish as runners-up, and that’s what happened at halftime. And then everything went crazy.
Japan scored two goals in three minutes early in the second half, Costa Rica overturned their game against Germany, and for four minutes the live table showed Japan and Costa Rica in first and second place, while Spain and Germany went home.
Germany won 4-2 to save Spain’s bacon and they were flying home the next day.
MBAPPE is ruining Poland
Kylian Mbappe enhanced his reputation as one of the best players in the world in Qatar and the Frenchman missed out on the last 16 against Poland.
First he set up Olivier Giroud to open the scoring, then took matters into his own hands with two superb finishes to seal a 3-0 win. During the game, the speedster reached 35.3 kmph.
Cameroon’s Abubakar sinks Brazil, then sends them off
A manic group stage ended in almost comical fashion when Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar scored a stoppage-time winner against earlier qualifiers Brazil, took off his shirt, and was immediately given a second yellow card by an apologetic referee who shook the player’s hand.
Reporting by Martin Herrmann Editing by Christian Radnedge
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