Against all odds, in the location that should have been the very worst, Qatar 2022 ended up being the best football tournament I’ve ever witnessed. There were so many great goals, lots of fantastic moments, and more shocks than anyone was expecting.
I thought it would be interesting to rank all of the participating teams’ performances, and give them a grade relative to what people expected them to achieve. This is all my opinion, but I think I know the general feelings of every nation!
Before we begin, you can check out a few of my related blog posts:
32 – Belgium
Belgium would have been embarrassed with themselves if they hadn’t topped the group, but they took it a step further and crashed out of the Group Stage. Needless to say, the Belgian population are devastated.
Their aging squad didn’t do them any favours, and the two teams that qualified ahead of them – Croatia and Morocco – had blinding tournament runs. But those are just excuses for a terrible tournament turnout.
31 – Germany
Germany going out of the Group Stage in 2018 was already enough of a shock, but them going home early two tournaments in a row is absolutely baffling.
It’s not as if they played particularly badly (Musiala was a true stand-out), but that initial loss to Japan ended up costing them dearly.
30 – Denmark
Denmark were easily the team that disappointed me the most – I predicted them coming top of their group (even over France!), but they ended up finishing dead last.
They had none of the spark that made them such a formidable team in Euro 2020, and their loss to Australia sealed their fate.
29 – Qatar
Everyone knew the host nation would struggle, but they somehow managed to do worse than expectations.
They almost went the entire tournament without scoring a single goal, and they were statistically the worst team of all. Possibly the worst showing by a host nation in World Cup history.
28 – Uruguay
Uruguay should have breezed into a second-place finish, and some even tipped them topping the group, but South Korea pipped them at the death.
A lot of their young stars like Nunez and Valverde didn’t do enough to impress, and their early exit ended up being deserved.
27 – Wales
Wales should be happy that they qualified for the World Cup at all, as that in itself is an historic achievement, but they didn’t have enough spark to cause an upset.
It’s an aging squad that struggled to fight against the big boys, and their last-minute loss to Iran was heart-breaking.
26 – Canada
Since this was Canada’s very first World Cup, expectations were extremely low. As it turned out, that was the correct bar to set.
They finished bottom and failed to win a single game, but at least they scored a couple of goals along the way.
25 – Serbia
There was a fair bit of buzz about Serbia’s squad in the lead-up to Qatar 2022, with some even citing them as the dark horses of the tournament with Quarter Final potential.
Serbia finished bottom of their group, losing out to their rivals Switzerland. It’s not the most bizarre outcome, but I’m sure the Serbians will feel hard done-by.
24 – Spain
If you’d have told me that Spain’s 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica would be their only win of the tournament, I would have called you crazy.
Everyone was touting them as potential winners after that first game, so the subsequent losses to Japan and Morocco must have stung the Spanish fans.
23 – Iran
As an Englishman, I was worried about Iran. They seemed like an underrated team that could have given us grief … but all my fears were washed away once we thumped them 6-2.
Their win against Wales certainly helped, but then the loss to USA sealed their fate.
22 – Ecuador
After a win against Qatar and a draw to the Netherlands, it seemed guaranteed that Ecuador would make it to the Knockouts.
All they had to do was draw to Senegal, but the African side managed to beat them outright. If you’re an Ecuadorian, that’s got to hurt.
21 – Mexico
I was sure Mexico had what it took to come second in their group, but they ended up losing out to Poland on goal difference.
At least they bowed out of the tournament with what I believe to be the best goal of the World Cup – that Chavez free kick was an absolute rocket!
20 – Ghana
Ghana got a win against South Korea, but that was the only positive thing they really managed. They were never going to get out of their strong group, so at least they got a few points to take home with them.
19 – Cameroon
I never really thought that Cameroon would make it out of their group, and they didn’t. So no surprises there.
The big shock, however, was when they beat Brazil in their final group game – that will be a match that Cameroonians never forget.
18 – Costa Rica
They finished bottom. What a shocker.
Unbelievably, Costa Rica managed to achieve what Spain and Germany could not – beating Japan. Definitely one of the most random results of the tournament.
17 – Poland
Poland should count their lucky stars that they made it out of the group. They were hardly convincing, and everyone on planet earth knew their time was up when they drew France in the Knockouts.
As expected, they were beaten in convincing fashion. But I’m sure the Polish were just happy to make it that far.
16 – South Korea
South Korea didn’t exactly set the tournament ablaze, but their winner against Portugal to send them to the Knockouts was a great moment.
They got thumped by Brazil in the Round of 16, unfortunately, but who can blame them?
15 – Tunisia
Tunisia was yet another of those middling teams that nobody expected great things from, so I’m sure they were comfortable going out in the Group Stage.
They did somehow manage to triumph over France, though (it was definitely the French’s B-team, but let’s ignore that …).
14 – Switzerland
Everyone tipped Serbia to finish second in their group behind Brazil, so I bet Switzerland were chuffed to nab their rival’s place.
A heavy loss to Portugal was expected, but they should be glad to even make it that far.
13 – Senegal
Things were looking a little dicey for Senegal during the group stage, but then a win against Ecuador scraped them through to the Knockouts.
They fell to a mighty England team, and they didn’t really impress me when I watched that game, but I feel they did their country proud.
12 – USA
USA had a pretty good tournament on the whole – their draw to Wales felt like a loss, their draw to England felt like a win, and then their tight win against Iran sent them through to the next round.
Unfortunately for them, Netherlands are just far too strong of a squad. Hopefully they pick up the pieces of this decent campaign for when they host the World Cup in four years’ time.
11 – Brazil
The favourites going into the tournament, Brazil looked destined to win the trophy after their first four games. They were beating teams comfortably (apart from Cameroon, for whatever reason), and played great football while doing it.
In one of the biggest shock results of the tournament, they lost to Croatia on penalties in the Quarter Finals. Brazilians will feel that this should’ve been their year, but on the bright side they didn’t embarrass themselves like other major teams.
10 – Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia are one of those punching-bag nations that everyone tries to get points against in the World Cup, so a last place finish was inevitable.
They can go home happy, however, in the knowledge that they beat the eventual champions Argentina – the only team in world football to do so in over 40 games!
9 – Portugal
Portugal fans were desperate to get their hands on the trophy, mainly to cement their idol Ronaldo as the GOAT. Sadly, it was not to be (and Ronaldo spent more time benched than actually on the field!).
They did well to top the group, and their demolition of Switzerland must have got the adrenaline pumping, but they fell to an historic Moroccan side that were destined for the Semis.
8 – England
My home nation, and a team that did a pretty good job across the board. The 0-0 draw to USA was a little worrying, but otherwise we played some fantastic football that was worthy of winning the tournament.
It was heart-breaking, therefore, when Kane missed that penalty and we lost against France. I feel we were the better team on the day, and we could have really tested Argentina in the final, but on the whole it was a perfectly respectable tournament from the Three Lions.
7 – Australia
In a group with France and Denmark, all hope seemed lost for the Aussies. So imagine our surprise when they bested Tunisia and the Danes to claim a spot in the Knockouts.
They even did a respectable job in the Round of 16 against the eventual champions Argentina, only losing 2-1 in a tight affair.
6 – Netherlands
Netherlands had a bit of a shaky group stage, and people wondered if they would be one of the biggest under-achievers. As they eased into the tournament, they suddenly turned into real contenders for the trophy.
That Netherlands vs. Argentina game was one of the best I’ve ever seen live, and the two late Dutch goals will live long in their memories. If fate had gone the other way in the penalty shoot-out, they could have been the ones lifting the trophy.
5 – Japan
Playing in a Group with Spain, Germany and Costa Rica, it’s pretty funny that the only team Japan lost to was Costa Rica.
Their triumphs over the two European giants will go down in their footballing history, and it was devastating to see them lose on penalties to Croatia.
4 – France
It’s crazy that the runners-up in a World Cup will feel that they should have done better, but that’s only because France impressed everyone yet again for the second tournament in a row.
They weren’t as scintillating as they were in 2018, and the Group Stage loss to Tunisia was a little odd, but their battle against Argentina in the Final will go down in sporting history. The better team won in the end, but the French certainly made them fight for it.
3 – Croatia
Croatia were already punching above their weight with an aging squad back in 2018, so nobody expected great things from them this year. Against all odds, they managed to reach the Semi Finals for the second World Cup in a row.
They showed immense tenacity and grit to beat Japan and Brazil on penalties, and they even beat an in-form Morocco side to nab the bronze medal. For a relatively small European nation, their recent success has been nothing short of sensational.
2 – Argentina
Argentina came into Qatar 2022 as one of favourites (maybe only behind the likes of Brazil, France and England), but they managed to triumph over every competitor to lift the trophy.
Messi’s men got off to a shaky start against Saudi Arabia, but then famous wins against the Netherlands, Croatia and France were enough to bring home their first World Cup since 1986. We can now comfortably say that Messi is the GOAT.
1 – Morocco
After being drawn in a group with Belgium and Croatia, everyone thought they’d go home early. They finished top. They should have lost to Spain, but beat them on penalties. They should have buckled under the pressure of Ronaldo’s Portugal, but beat them against all odds. Morocco’s World Cup run was one of the all-time greats.
They made history by being the first African nation to reach the Semi Finals of a World Cup, and they won the hearts of every football fan along the way. Argentina may have triumphed overall, but this will be remembered as Morocco’s magical tournament.
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