One of the best years in terms of football in recent memory, 2022 had all that a football fan dreams of. We witnessed brilliant comebacks, several fairytale journeys, last-minute winners, and outstanding displays. From the brilliant title races that went to the last day to the brilliant Champions League campaign and the incredible World Cup, which rounded off the perfect year, fans witnessed how crazy the game could get.
And we at FootTheBall pick the top 22 moments of 2022 and bring to you the best that football had to offer this year.
Pele passes away
In one of the most heartbreaking news coming just ahead of the end of the year, Brazilian legend and three-time World Cup winner Pele passes away in his native Sao Paulo. The 82-year-old died after a long battle with cancer at the Albert Einstein Hospital.
His health had been continuously deteriorating in the last few days. His daughter had also shared an emotional post with him from the hospital bed. Pele remains one of the best players ever to play football and broke several records during his illustrious career. Several players, past and former and clubs shared their condolences over his death.
Argentina win the World Cup
Argentina went all the way in Qatar, defeating France on penalties in the final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to win their third title. Argentina started the match on the front foot and took the lead through a Lionel Messi penalty in the 23rd minute. They added a second through Angel de Maria as France made a double substitution replacing Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele with Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani.
It looked like Argentina would win the match, but Kylian Mbappe scored two in the final minutes to take the game to extra time. Messi and Mbappe added one goal each in extra time before Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez made a crucial penalty save to help his country win the tournament.
Lionel Messi is a World Cup Winner
At 35, it was Lionel Messi’s last chance to win the World Cup. However, after their loss against Saudi Arabia, people questioned if the team could even qualify for the next round. However, Lionel Messi would deliver the performance of a lifetime scoring seven goals and providing three assists. In fact, his goal tally was better than all his previous World Cups combined.
Messi became the first player to score in every knockout round match as he helped Argentina to a third title.
Cristiano Ronaldo joins Al-Nassr
The interview with Piers Morgan made Cristiano Ronaldo a villain in Manchester United, a club where he was accorded a legendary status. In November, Cristiano Ronaldo went on an interview with Piers Morgan where he criticised Manchester United stating that the club had made zero progress since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Due to this, Manchester United terminated his contract leaving Ronaldo without a club, and since then he has joined Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr in a record-breaking deal.
Kylian Mbappe makes history
France came within a whisker of becoming the third nation ever to defend their World Cup title. In the end, they lost on penalties, but their talismanic striker Kylian Mbappe made history. He became the second player after Geoff Hurst in 1966 to score a hat trick in the World Cup final.
His first came through a penalty, while his second was a work of beauty when he scored a beautiful volley past Martinez. And his third came in the dying minutes of extra time as Nicolas Otamendi’s handball gave France another penalty which Mbappe duly converted. And while France didn’t win the World Cup despite coming so close, Mbappe won the Golden Boot.
Real Madrid – The comeback kings
Real Madrid are a different beast when it comes to Champions League knockout matches. And Los Blancos managed not one, not two, but three comebacks. It all started in the round of 16 when Real Madrid lost the first match 1-0 to Paris Saint Germain, but under the lights at Santiago Bernabeu, Karim Benzema scored a hattrick to inspire their first comeback.
Then in the quarter-final, they defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with Benzema scoring another hattrick. However, the Blues produced an inspiring comeback in the second leg leading 3-0 at one time before Rodrygo and Benzema scored to help their team win by a thin margin.
A chaotic final day in Premier League
Going into the final day of the Premier League, the top two teams, Manchester City and Liverpool, were separated by one point. Both teams played at home, which meant that if City won or at least matched Liverpool’s results, they would win the title. However, Wolverhampton were frustrating Liverpool, keeping the score at 1-1. On the other hand, Aston Villa were leading Manchester City 2-0.
And it was the final 10 minutes of the match where the tussle started. First, City scored three goals and took the lead, meaning they would win if the results in both games stayed the same. Then, however, Liverpool scored two goals in the final minutes, which meant that if Aston Villa scored one, Liverpool would win the title. However, City held on and thus ended one of the craziest final days in the Premier League, with City winning the title.
AC Milan win Serie A title
Before the 2021-22 season, it had been more than ten years since AC Milan had won the Serie A. The club had experienced years of financial problems, which had made them a mid-table team. However, under the charismatic manager Stefano Pioli, AC Milan won the title after an intense fight with neighbours Inter Milan until the last matchday.
This trophy was a signal of a resurgence of the fallen Italian giants as they now look to reestablish their supremacy in Italy and Europe as well.
Senegal are African champions
Senegal won their first African Cup of Nations title after defeating Egypt in a penalty shootout in the final. With a strong defence, Senegal only conceded only two goals during their entire run.
The Lions of Teranga defeated Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Egypt to win the final.
The final went for 120 minutes without a single goal being scored. And in the resulting penalty shootout, Senegal triumphed 4-2.
Morocco make World Cup history
No African team had managed to reach the semi-final of the World Cup before the 2022 event. However, the curse was broken this time as Morocco became the fairytale journey of the 2022 World Cup. The Africans produced brilliant performances against some of the big teams. In fact, they defeated Belgium, Spain and Portugal without conceding a single goal.
The star of the impressive run were Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saïss, Sofyan Amrabat, Sofiane Boufal, Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, and manager Walid Regragui.
Erling Haaland goal-scoring fest
When Manchester City signed Erling Haaland in the summer, everyone expected him to improve the quality of the team. However, no one could have predicted the goal fest that the Norwegian would bring. Haaland is the league’s top-scorer with 18 goals during an impressive run. Moreover, Haaland established a new record by becoming the first player ever to score three consecutive hat tricks in the Premier League. And if he continues in the same way, he could easily break Mohamed Salah’s 32 goals, the most by a player in a single season.
Stephanie Frappart becomes first female referee in men’s World Cup
The 2022 World Cup broke many records and set a few too. One of them was Stephanie Frappart becoming the first female referee to officiate a men’s FIFA World Cup game. The Frenchwoman has already broken several records as she is also the first woman to officiate a FIFA World Cup qualifying match. She has also officiated Ligue 1, UEFA Super Cup, and UEFA Champions League matches.
Frappart took charge of the match between Costa Rica and Germany in Group E, which the latter won 4-2.
Karim Benzema wins Ballon d’Or
Since 2008, the Ballon d’Or had been a two-man affair, with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo winning the award every year till 2021, barring the 2018 one (which was won by Luka Modric). However, that all changed in 2022 when Real Madrid star Karim Benzema won the award after an impressive season with Real Madrid.
Benzema scored 15 goals in the Champions League, the most by any player and helped Los Blancos win their 14th title. In addition, his 27 goals in La Liga propelled Real Madrid to their 35th title.
These performances were awarded with a well-deserved Ballon d’Or.
Croatia’s golden generation prove their worth once again
After reaching the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Croatia once again went on an impressive run reaching the semi-final. Led by the enigmatic Luka Modric, the Vatreni produced several inspired performances, including the penalty shootout win over Brazil.
Like the previous World Cup, the Croatians used their grit to physically overpower their opponents by taking the match through the entire 120 minutes before defeating them in the penalty shootouts. In fact, out of threw last seven knockout games in the previous two World Cups for Croatia, four have gone to penalty shootouts, all of which have been won by the Vatreni showing the success of their golden generation and their rise to a footballing powerhouse.
Barcelona’s financial problems
It was a tumultuous year for FC Barcelona, who faced their worst economic crisis in history. The Covid-19 pandemic, combined with the loss of ticketing revenue and on-field performances, impacted the club financially to the point where they were very close to bankruptcy.
The situation was so dire that the club had to activate several ‘economic levers‘ to help them buy players and provide them with a massive flow of cash that ensured that they did not let the quality of the squad fall.
Mason Greenwood Allegations
Ronaldo’s interview was not the only controversy that Manchester United found themselves being involved in. Mason Greenwood’s then-girlfriend in January uploaded several photos of hers showing physical injuries and levelled allegations that the player had inflicted them.
This caused massive protests against the club and the player. After this, Manchester United launched an inquiry and suspended the player. A criminal trial is currently going on, and the player remains suspended.
England win Women’s Euros following a stellar campaign
England were levels above their opposition as they won their first Euro title. The Lionesses scored 14 goals in their group stage, conceding no goals to top the group. Following this, they drafted Spain, Sweden and Germany to win the title.
During this entire run, the team conceded just two goals while scoring an astonishing 22 goals. Beth Mead scored six goals, followed by Alessia Russo with four goals, while Fran Kirby, Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone, and Ellen White scored two each.
✨🏆 𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐌𝐏𝐈𝐎𝐍𝐒 🏆✨
— UEFA Women’s EURO (@WEURO) July 31, 2022
Indonesia’s Stadium Tragedy
In one of the most unfortunate incidents of the year, more than 150 fans died after a clash following a match in the Indonesian league. Following a game between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya, fans of the former clashed with the riot police.
According to eyewitnesses, the riot police started to tear gas the fans. Media reports stated that as many as 34 people died immediately on the pitch. The ensuing chaos caused all fans to gather at the one exit gate in the stadium. It caused a considerable build-up, leading to suffocation and a lack of oxygen.
Belgium’s Golden Generation falter in final show
At the start of the previous decade, Belgium witnessed the rise of several talented youngsters, which ultimately led to the rise of a golden generation. However, after participating in five international tournaments, the Belgian team has nothing to show. In fact, their best run came in the 2018 FIFA World Cup when they reached the semi-final.
In the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Red Devils were knocked out in the group stages losing to Morocco and drawing to Croatia. This was the anti-climactic end to one of the most talented national teams of the 21st century.
Australian goalkeeper debuts at 14
Ymer Abili made history as he became one of the youngest players ever to make his professional debut. Abili played his first match for the Australian club Oakleigh Cannons at the age of 14.
With his team losing 5-2, Cannons’ coach Chris Taylor decided to give Abili a dream chance as he sent him on the pitch. And while the team may not have enjoyed the match, it was a dream come true for the young shot-stopper.
It has been a tumultuous year for Chelsea as they have gone through a takeover, seen their Champions League manager sacked and are currently eighth in the Premier League table. After Russia invaded Ukraine, British sanctions forced long-time owner Roman Abramovich to sell his club.
In a record deal worth £ 4.25 billion, American businessman Todd Boehly brought the club beginning of a new era that has had a rough start.
The Romain Molina expose
One of the best investigative journalists in football Romain Molina exposed the rot in French football. According to Molina’s investigation, several members of the French football setup were involved in the harassment of several youth players.
Molina’s investigation revealed that instead of taking action against the accused, the French Football Federation (FFF) actually sided with them and tried to bury the incident.