The long-awaited 2022 FIFA World Cup is in full swing, with many countries already facing elimination after the group stage and initial knockout rounds. It began with the traditional opening ceremony and followed by the Qatar versus Ecuador match, kicking off the start of the tournament. As always, the World Cup has attracted more than three billion viewers and listeners worldwide, many of whom can be found on the Naples High campus.
“Without question, the World Cup is the greatest tournament on the planet and is followed by more people than any other sport,” varsity boys soccer coach Bob Prange said.
Throughout the group stage matches, there have already been many surprises and upsets.
Teams such as France, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Belgium were the subjects of upsets when playing statistically lower-rated teams. Many top teams that normally advance to the knockout rounds have also been eliminated such as Denmark, Belgium, Germany and Uruguay. In the first quarterfinals match, Brazil, a favorite to win the World Cup, was beaten by Croatia in a penalty kick shootout.
“There were plenty of upsets in the group stages, but we have to remember, these were heavily rotated teams,” former United States player Landon Donovan said while commentating the Brazil versus Korea Republic game. “The ‘big dogs’ have a lot of bite, and they have just shown that they have clinical finishing. You’re seeing now just the separation in quality.”
When the Group B games began, millions of Americans were eager to watch the U.S. play in its group matches.
“I believe that we are fortunate to have a fairly easy qualifying bracket in our region of the world, as many quality European and South American teams don’t even make the tournament,” Prange said.
After a difficult match against Iran, the United States secured advancement to the knockout round. Four days later, they faced the Netherlands in the round of sixteen and lost 3-1.
“I thought the USA played well in the group stages but were out-played in the round of sixteen,” varsity girls soccer coach Adam Weikel, who has watched every World Cup since 1990, said.
The team’s next big opportunity will be at the 2026 World Cup, hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“Hosting a World Cup always gives a boost to a national team,” Weikel said.
In addition to upsets and a good performance from the U.S. team, there have been many memorable moments.
After scoring a penalty against Ghana, Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo became the first man to score in five World Cups, Brazil continued their streak of being the only country to ever play in every World Cup, Qatar became the fastest host to be eliminated after losing its first two games and Poland’s goalkeeper saved Argentina’s Lionel Messi’s penalty, making him the first player to ever have two penalties saved in the World Cup. Having the tournament in the winter is another unique aspect.
With the semifinals and final still to come, fans remain excited to see which team will end up holding the trophy.
“Having the World Cup gets people interested in the sport and in turn, gets more people into playing the sport,” Weikel said.