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“Powers of Europe, their leagues are the best, their teams are not”

Country, organization, public and football. In the four items that make up a World Cup, Qatar scored ten out of ten. It is going to be very difficult to overcome this, and very unlikely that a monstrous tournament and as widespread as the following one, from the United States, Canada and Mexico, with 48 teams and 16 cities distant thousands of kilometers from each other, will be able to match it. Qatar 2022 already happened, and it was great, there were more loves than hates and more applause than whistles.

* The perfection. Tournament setup. Qatar offered a World Cup of excellence, as if it had already done several before, nothing went wrong, zero improvisation. A year earlier, they hired international experts in all areas related to an event of this size: stadiums, hotels, transportation, security, ticket office, tourism, protocol, press, training centers, playing fields. Batistuta, who played here, had anticipated it: “Two things are certain, everything will be perfect and it will be very comfortable, in half an hour you can go from one stadium to another.” As it is. And everything was ready from the first day. “We don’t want to keep putting on coats of paint while people are arriving in the country,” said Ali Shareef Al-Emadi, Finance Minister. That’s how it went.

* The show. The final. The best in history without a doubt. A luxurious and crushing display of Argentina for 80 minutes. But when Mbappé woke up, the perfect storm broke out. The finals are always calculated, without taking risks, however Scaloni went to win from the start and a volcano of emotions occurred. For the neutral fan it was formidable. Six goals, extra time, penalties and a dozen dramatic situations in front of the goals. WhatsApp from a Bolivian friend: “We have seen the game bordering on a heart attack.”

* The novelty. The Asian public, massive, festive, peaceful. FIFA wins a giant market: Asia has 4,000 million inhabitants and became passionate about soccer (Messi has a lot, or everything, to do with it). Europe turned its back on the tournament, but it was not an obstacle for the stadiums to fill up. Arab Africa also contributed: Morocco and Tunisia brought tens of thousands of followers.

* The champion. An extraordinary Argentina. She played it safe in amazement. She wiped France off the pitch in the first 80 minutes, showing high technique, tactical intelligence and, above all, character. She crushed Croatia, beat the Netherlands in the first 70 minutes and throughout the overtime, she blew past Poland and Mexico. And the two times that she went to penalties, she psychologically prevailed over her rivals. He was clearly the best of the tournament and he takes all the individual prizes.

* Novelty II. The concept of a compact World Cup -all the stadiums in the same city- was something never seen for the fans, who were able to attend up to two games during the first phases of the championship, with journeys of one hour at most between the venues. Of course, by impeccable highways, train, metro and bus. And all for free. Some restless achieved the “feat” of going to three games in one day, although only to get the taste and count it later.

* The good bye. From the small teams to fear, to the almost reverential respect for the big teams. Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina, Japan defeated Spain and Germany, Tunisia defeated France, Australia defeated Denmark, Morocco defeated Belgium and eliminated Spain… Beyond the result, the easygoing and unprejudiced manner in which they came out to face seemingly superior rivals was impressive. They can win or lose, but they already play them without complexes. Qatar 2022 has marked the end of fear.

* The antipode. The rise of the boys is opposed by a decline of several greats. Italy was out of the World Cup for the second time in a row; Germany is eliminated in the first phase again in a series, and in groups that seemed easy. In Russia 2018 they lost to Mexico and South Korea, here with Japan. Brazil accumulates five tournaments without titles; Spain, after being champion in 2010, has three continuous failures. England was champion in 1966, then 14 tournaments followed one another and never reached the final again. Something is going on with the heavyweights. Their leagues are the best, their teams are not.

* The great goal. The second from Argentina to France: a sublime combination at full speed and with first-rate touches from Nahuel Molina to Mac Allister, the latter to Messi, Leo opens up Julián Álvarez with a slap, a return to Mac Allister and a deep change from right to left for Di María who came running and hit him as he came, crossed, dry, unattackable. A geometric poem to see it over and over again.

* The star. Without a doubt, Leo Messi. A 35-year-old man who, instead of choosing to retire, prepared himself physically and mentally like never before to arrive and win the title. And he did it. He left everything behind the goal. Seven goals in seven games, three assists, he played the 690 minutes that Argentina was on the field, plus another 90 of added time. And he was the flag, the mind, the body and the soul of the champion. Decades will pass and it will continue to be remembered as “the Messi World Cup”.

* The data. 172 goals were scored, the highest number in the 22 World Cups. The average of the six previous editions was improved: 2.68 per game.

* The revelation. Lionel Scaloni, 44-year-old Argentine coach. He came to the position without any previous experience, he put together this team from scratch and has already won a Copa América, the World Cup, finished the Qualifiers undefeated. And well above the list of winners, the personality, the serenity, the authority of a true leader. He makes decisions without hesitation, he relates well to the players without committing to them. And he is tactically brilliant.

* The ideal eleven. Argentina also took over this category. The one that this chronicler liked the most: Dibu Martínez (Argentina); Hakimi (Morocco), Cristian Romero (Argentina), Nicolás Otamendi (Argentina), Alphonso Davies (Canada); Ounahi (Morocco), Modric (Croatia), Alexis Mac Allister (Argentina), Bellingham (England); Messi (Argentina), Mbappé (France).

* The game. Former players have a habit of discrediting the present based on the past. Their time was always the best. Many exes criticized what was seen in Qatar. However, there were great matches, fast play, of remarkable intensity and with fabulous physical performance. Nobody stops running. And now the games don’t last 90 minutes. In the final, between the four times, there were 19 minutes of added time. In other words, 139 minutes plus penalties were played. And they could go on.

We’re saying goodbye to Qatar and there are several more rolls of fabric, but we’ll cut those in the next column.

Source: Elcomercio

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