A FIFA World Cup group stage like no other | Football News

The first World Cup hosted by an Arab nation has seen two weeks of heady drama. It has been a daily rollercoaster of shocks and head-spinning climaxes.
As the knockouts begin, TOI looks at how things panned out in the first phase…


Ronaldo | Rewriting More Firsts
Cristiano Ronaldo became the first man to score at five World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022) when he netted home a penalty in Portugal’s 3-2 victory over Group H rivals Ghana. At 37 years and 292 days old on November 24, Ronaldo became the oldest player to score for Portugal at the World Cup. He also holds the record for being the youngest, having scored for his nation at the 2006 World Cup when he was 21 years and 132 days old.
Gavi | Spain’s Youthful History Maker
Spain’s No. 9 Gavi became the first player born in the year 2004 to score a goal in Qatar when his country thumped Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening match of the tournament. Incidentally, that victory is the record for the most goals Spain have ever scored in a single World Cup match.
Lionel Messi | Argentina’s Record-Breaker
Lionel Messi became the first player to score in four World Cups for Argentina (2006, 2014, 2018 and 2022) after he netted a penalty in an opening-round loss to Saudi Arabia. He surpasses fellow compatriots Diego Maradona (1982, 1986 and 1994) and Gabriel Batistuta (1994, 1998 and 2002), who both scored in three editions of the tournament. The goal was also his 92nd in an Argentine shirt.
Olivier Giroud | France’s All-Time Top Scorer
The 36-year-old Giroud’s two goals in France’s opening 4-1 win against Australia means he has now tied Thierry Henry’s all-time goal-scoring record for France (51).


Saudi Arabia snap Argentina win streak: Argentina came to Qatar unbeaten in 36 games, singling them out as one of the favourites to win the entire competition. However, that run was shattered by the second-lowest ranked team in the tournament, Saudi Arabia, who defeated Argentina 2-1.
Inaki and Nico Williams | Sibling Revelry: Inaki Williams of Ghana and Nico Williams of Spain made World Cup history on November 24 after they became the first brothers to play for different countries at the World Cup.
Qatar | A humbling first for Cup hosts: There’s positive record-making, and then there’s the other kind. Unfortunately for hosts Qatar, they claimed a first they might not want to brag about too much. In losing their first match 0-2 to Ecuador, Qatar became the first WC hosts to lose their opening-round game.
Wayne Hennessey | First red in Qatar, third ever for a goalkeeper: Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey became the first player at this World Cup to see a red card after he collided with Iran’s Mehdi Taremi. The card shown was initially a yellow before it was upgraded to a red. Hennessey is now the third goalkeeper in World Cup history to be sent off with a red card.
Enner Valenica becomes only the fourth man in history to score six World Cup goals in a row for Ecuador: Enner Valencia’s goal against the Netherlands was his sixth World Cup goal in a row for Ecuador – no other Ecuadorian player had scored in the meantime. Valencia scored all three of Ecuador’s goals in the group stage of the World Cup in 2014. The South American side did not qualify for the 2018 edition in Russia. The 33-year-old joins a select group that includes Portugal legend Eusebio in 1966, Italy’s Paolo Rossi in 1982 and Russia’s Oleg Salenko in 1994.


Lewandowski finally ends World Cup drought: Robert Lewandowski was in tears after scoring his first World Cup goal in Poland’s 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia. The Barcelona striker could not hide his emotions after doubling his side’s lead with eight minutes remaining to seal victory for his side. The 34-year-old had gone five World Cup games without a goal and missed a penalty in his team’s opening Group C game against Mexico. Lewandowski now has over 600 career goals and has equalled Pele’s tally of 77 international strikes.
Fastest goal in this World Cup: Alphonso Davies scored Canada’s first-ever goal at the men’s World Cup. Davies’ goal came in the 2nd minute of the match, after 68 seconds, making it the fastest goal at the 2022 World Cup. It was the fastest goal in a group stage match at the World Cup since Clint Dempsey scored after 29 seconds against Ghana in 2014.


An unusual first: This is the first World Cup in its current 32-team format in which no team won all three group matches. Three teams did so four years ago, four in 2014, two in 2010, four in 2006, and two in 2002 and 1998.
Africa’s Cup of joy: Morocco became the first African team to win its group this century. Senegal joined them in the knockouts.
Super subs strike it hot: 23 Goals scored by substitutes in the 48 matches of the group stages. South Korea, interestingly, reached the round of 16 after substitute Hee-Chan Hwang struck a 91st-minute winner to beat Portugal 2-1.
Graphic: Akib Javed

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