The Europeans can thank a lock of Ronaldo's hair and one of the cruelest handball penalty decisions you could imagine. La Celeste still had fate almost entirely in their own hands, however. A win in their final game against second-placed Ghana would do the trick, so long as South Korea didn't beat Portugal by more goals than Uruguay could manage, or the same number. It's wasn't an easy one to imagine after the tepid performance of Son Heung-min and his countrymen in their 3-2 loss to the Black Stars but, guess what? That's exactly what happened.
While Ghana didn't quite manage to get their revenge on Luis Suarez for 2010 – they lost to Uruguay 2-0 – South Korea took down Portugal 2-1 thanks to an injury time winner from Hwang Hee-chan. That left Uruguay and the Koreans on the same points, with the same goal difference and a draw in their head-to-head record, meaning that South Korea qualified with more goals scored. Perhaps the best story came in Switzerland's 1-0 win against Cameroon, where Breel Embolo scored the winner but didn't celebrate after scoring against the country of his birth. Sure, there have been a few 0-0 Christmas turkeys – the less said about Poland vs Mexico the better, while Belgium were so bad despite beating Canada 1-0 they must appear here – but this footballing jamboree never fails to disappoint and World Cup 2022 has been no different. With the group stages over it was time to head to the knockouts. With the last 16 up next, Qatar 2022 is shaping up very nicely indeed.
Last 16It was then over to the knockouts where the quiet but confident Netherlands team took on the USA, with the former having navigated Group A as safe winners thanks in no small part to the stewardship of the hugely experience Louis van Gaal. Cody Gakpo and Frenkie de Jong has consigned Qatar to a 2-0 defeat in the final group encounter. That loss sealed another unwanted record for the hosts who left the contest as the only home nation in history to have failed to have registered a goal at the finals. It was another assured showing for the Oranje who had things largely done and dusted by the end of the first half when they led 2-0.
They scored all three goals. Sadly, that meant goodbye for Wales, both to the World Cup and their golden generation which has put Welsh football back on the map. Gareth Bale left the field at half-time. His days turning out for the Dragons look numbered. Time for the FAW to rip it up and start again.
Elsewhere in Group G, Serbia and Cameroon played out an incredible 3-3 draw, leaving second place in that pool very much up for grabs. That set things up nicely for another shock in final Group G games. Cameroon took down the mighty Brazil 1-0 with an injury time goal from Vincent Aboubakar. It was the first shot on target that anyone had registered against Brazil in the whole tournament.
Aboubakar, who was on a yellow card, quite rightly took off his shirt and swung it about his head as he celebrated with his fans, only to have to head over to the referee, give the official a high-five and accept his second yellow and leave the field. Doubtless a moment which will go down in World Cup legend but sadly it was all for nought with Switzerland's victory over Serbia in the other game consigning the Indomitable Lions to third place in the group despite their historic win. The game of the first week was probably Portugal 3-2 Ghana in Group H. Goalless after 65 minutes, all hell broke loose after Cristiano Ronaldo became the first man to score in five different World Cups with a nerveless penalty.
While Gakpo didn't manage to get on the scoresheet – he has scored in every game up until then – the Netherlands simply out-classed their none-too-shabby opposition. The game finished 3-1, the USMNT went home and people began talking about this Dutch team in a much more serious light. That same day Argentina took on a plucky Australia that had finished second in Group D, and they certainly gave Messi and his men a run for their money.
We're down to just two teams, after France beat Morocco 2-0 and Argentina toppled Croatia 3-0 in the semis. Who will prevail at Lusail Stadium on Sunday? The early team news is in and it's not good for France. A mysterious flu-like illness that has been spreading through the France squad has hit a third player. Kingsley Coman is now in doubt for Sunday's huge World Cup final clash.
Ghana equalised, Portugal then went 3-1 ahead – goalscorer Joao Felix was six when CR7 scored in his first tournament in 2006 – only for the Black Stars to shoot back with an 89th-minute strike. In the dying moments, a quick piece of thinking from Inaki Williams – who channelled his inner Dion Dublin in hiding behind Selecao keeper Diogo Costa to spring out and nearly dispossess him – nearly secured an improbable draw. Portugal's passage to the knockouts was confirmed when they beat Uruguay 2-0 in a fascinating game that neither deserved to lose.
FIFA World Cup 2022 final live streaming & TV broadcast