Is the 2022 world cup the greatest of all time? How does it compare?

Almost 80,000 people were in Lusail Stadium to watch the 2022 World Cup final, and around 25 million saw it on TV. It is unlikely any of these people thought that they would see the most memorable final in World Cup history. Argentina saw its national squad narrowly etch out a victory in a penalty shootout against the defending champions, France. While this tournament proved to be one for the ages, how does it compare to the other editions which had their share of iconic moments? Here’s my ranking of different World Cups and how they were the best in their unique categories. 

Greatest Final: Argentina vs France 2022 (3-3 Argentina wins on penalties)

Photo via CNN, Taken by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The World Cup has seen its fair share of heart-wrenching finals over the years, whether it be the emotionally charged 2006 final that sent players off the field or the extra-time thriller that gave England its only world cup victory. The scene described in the intro doesn’t do the actual final justice. The match began with absolute domination by Argentina over France with a 2-0 lead in the first half, followed by probably the most clutch performance of any soccer player in a single game to tie it up. All that was in vain as the game reached extra time and still went out with a draw. France went from a 2-0 deficit only to tie with two Kylian Mbappé goals to bring the match to extra time. 

If you thought the game would finally let up by then, you would be wrong. A Lionel Messi goal near the end of extra time brought the predominantly Argentinian crowd to its feet. Mbappé yet again exploited the false sense of security brought by an Argentinian lead to score his third goal of the match via penalty, making him the second player in history to score a hat trick in a World Cup final. What followed was a grueling penalty shootout where the Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez shined and Gonzalo Montiel scored the win. A 3-3 tie with the winner being decided by penalties, along with Mbappé’s incredible performance despite losing, makes this the greatest World Cup final of all time — it’s not even close.

Greatest Team: Spain 2010

Photo via Reuters.

No country dominated as much with its playstyle as Spain did from 2008 to 2012. Along with winning the World Cup in such a fashion, they also won the 2008 and 2012 European championships. If this is just about the World Cup, then why am I including this? Well, Spain brought a new style of sideways passing pioneered by Barcelona in the mid-2000s, dubbed “tiki-taka,” which took the world by storm. The results they won by were close, but when looking further into the stats, like percent of possessions, it proves that the game was anything but. While 1970 Brazil is the obvious choice with Pele and a surrounding cast of stars like Rivelino and an overall stacked squad filled with legends, 2010 Spain and the roster of the early 2010s might be the greatest international squad of all time.

Greatest Player Performance: Diego Maradona, 1986

Photo via The Guardian, taken by Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Winning any sports event, especially the elusive World Cup, is a team effort — that’s obvious. The aforementioned 2010 Spain team was a star-studded squad; however, 1986 Argentina is a different story. Their lineup included one of the best players of all time, Diego Maradona, and a good, but underrated, supporting cast: the 2011 Mavs of international soccer. Maradona dragged Argentina to the finals with memorable matches against England and Belgium. 

The England game became one of the most memorable matches in the history of the tournament. In the second half, Maradona famously broke through the entire English defense and its goalkeeper to score what was dubbed the “goal of the century.” Not long after, it was overshadowed by arguably the most controversial goal in soccer history, where Maradona leapt up and punched the ball over the goalkeeper to win for Argentina. The goal was known as the “hand of god,” after a famous quote by Maradona after the game. 

Maradona would continue to be the main focal point of the attack, which carried his team to the world cup title. Other players have scored more and put up better stats at a World Cup, but nobody made his team a better unit as Diego Maradona did in that tournament. For that, he earns the prize of having the best individual performance in World Cup history.

Greatest Narrative: 2022 Argentina: Messi’s last dance

Photo Via CNN, taken by Julian Finney/Getty Images

To understand the importance of the 2022 World Cup, you have to understand what went down in 2014. That year, when Germany faced Argentina in the final in Rio De Janeiro, a lineup filled with stars led by Lionel Messi and strikers Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero, Germany beat Argentina after an intensely boring 0-1 match that ended with a late winner in extra time by German forward Mario Gotze. It seemed like the end of the line for Argentina after that loss, as they embarrassingly bowed out to France in the next World Cup four years later; the media even hosted a mock funeral for Argentinian football. 

After an initially dismal situation with an embarrassing loss to Saudi Arabia, Argentina barely squeezed by and made it to the knockout and quarter-final rounds where a fight broke out between the Dutch and Argentinian players. It was followed by a 3-0 beating of Croatia leading up to the greatest World Cup final of all time. The plot armor for Argentina was heavy, and if you told me it was scripted, I would 100% believe you. For all intents and purposes, it was a storybook ending for the greatest player of all time’s international career, as this might very well be his last World Cup. In terms of drama and the overarching story, there is no competitor.

FINAL VERDICT: 2022 is the greatest World Cup of all time

While every tournament mentioned in this article was spectacular in its own right, this latest tournament had it all. It’ll likely end up as the greatest edition in the 92-year-old tournament.