Durban — The 2022 World Cup in Qatar ended on Sunday with Lionel Messi and Argentina beating France in the final on penalties.
It could all have ended differently for the eventual champions as they began the tournament with an upset loss against Saudi Arabia.
There were other shock results in Qatar, from Morocco knocking Portugal out of the tournament to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals, to Japan’s come-from-behind win against the mighty Germany.
IOL Sport’s Smiso Msomi takes a look at five of the biggest shocks in Qatar.
Saudi Arabia v Argentina
Saudi Arabia fought back from a first-half Lionel Messi penalty to stun Argentina and the world 2-1 in their opening group match.
Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari capitalised on lapses in concentration and blitzed them in an astonishing five minutes, leaving Argentina’s chances of qualifying for the knockout stages hanging in the balance.
Morocco v Portugal
Having blown away Switzerland in the Round of 16 in impressive fashion, few expected Portugal to struggle against Morocco.
The Atlas Lions however had other ideas, putting in a brave performance in both defence and attack to send Cristiano Ronaldo home at the quarter-final stage.
Youssef En-Nesyri proved to be the difference maker as he scored a first-half header and ensured Africa’s first-ever appearance in the semi-finals.
Japan v Germany
The Samurai Warriors grabbed two huge scalps in the group stages, upsetting both Spain and Germany.
However, their first display of the kind of danger they possess came against Die Mannschaft in their opening game of the competition, fighting their way back from a goal down to clinch the match late on.
Japan’s two victories not only caused two of the most famous shocks in the competition but also ensured Germany’s elimination from the competition in the group stage for the second consecutive World Cup.
Tunisia v France
Following their defeat against Australia, Tunisia headed into their most difficult challenge against France with little hope of claiming victory, let alone qualifying for the knockout stages.
Luckily for the Carthage Eagles, Les Bleus had already secured qualification into the next round and therefore opted to field a second-string team for this encounter, allowing for the opportunity of an upset.
The north Africans, led by Wahid Khazri, scraped a dramatic 1-0 victory, with the Europeans having a goal ruled out for offside in additional time.
Spain v Morocco
Morocco had already tasted victory against Belgium and drawn with Croatia, therefore their appetite for European opposition was at an all-time high for their Round of 16 encounter against Spain.
The Atlas Lions’ sound defensive displays laid the foundations for their impressive run in the competition and it showed once more when they held La Roja to a goalless draw before upsetting them in a penalty shoot-out.
Morocco’s miraculous run in the competition saw them beat Belgium, Spain, and Portugal, a great feat for a country attempting to promote their game on the global stage.