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World Cup

A World Cup of Firsts

12:30 AM WAT 19/12/2022
Lionel Messi Argentina 2022
GOAL is celebrating 22 football moments that have never happened before on the World’s biggest stage as they keep taking place in Qatar

The Qatar 2022 World Cup is special for so many different reasons. It's the first to be played in the Middle East. It's the first to be played during November and December. It's the first in nearly 100 years to have most of the stadiums in one city. And for a number of players & teams it will be the World Cup where they do something that's never been done before. From fearless football feats to fancy footwork, record breakers to break through players, if a World Cup first happens on the pitch, this is the first place you'll hear about it.

  • Jude Bellingham celebrates England Iran

    #1 First player born in the 21st century to score at a World Cup

    Jude Bellingham hadn't even made his Championship debut when the 2018 World Cup kicked off in Russia. And four years later, Borussia Dortmund's golden boy became the FIRST player ever born in the 21st century to have scored at the World Cup with a towering header in the 35th minute against Iran on Monday at the Khalifa International Stadium.

    Bellingham had a perfect first half where he not only found the net but also completed all his 40 passes. He is being touted as a generational talent and after shining in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League earlier this season he proved his mettle on the grandest stage of international football.

    But the midfielder thought that he had missed the target after latching on to Luke Shaw's cross, beating defender Hossein Hosseini in the air.

    "I thought it had missed, as it took ages to loop into the goal but it was a brilliant ball from [Luke] Shaw and I just had to flick it away," he later said to England Football.

    Bellingham showed that, despite being just 19, he belongs to Europe's elite and is a perfect example of a modern central midfielder who adds dynamism and creativity at the same time.

    Travelling English fans showered love on Bellingham by singing 'Hey Jude' and it won't be surprising if the chorus grows bigger and louder with each passing game.

  • Salem Al-Dawsari Saudi Arabia 2022-23

    #2 First Saudi Arabian ever to have scored back-to-back winners at the World Cup

    Cometh the hour, cometh the man! Salem Al Dawsari has a knack for causing upsets in the FIFA World Cup.

    Four years back, on a rare sunny afternoon at the Volgograd Arena in Russia, he stole the limelight with a dramatic late injury-time winner against Egypt. And on Tuesday, he repeated his heroics against one of the favourites Argentina with another stunning solo strike that made him the first Saudi Arabian ever to have scored back-to-back winners at the World Cup.

    The stage was set for Lionel Messi to shine and earn the plaudits. But Al Dawsari with his grit and determination not only stole the thunder from the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner but also inspired Saudi Arabia to arguably the biggest upset the World Cup has ever witnessed.

    After picking up possession on the left-hand side of the penalty box, he dropped his shoulders to wriggle past two weak tackles, escaped a despairing lunge by Leandro Paredes, churned out a bit of space for himself and then curled the ball into the top right corner of Emiliano Martinez's net.

    The celebration that followed was nothing short of unbridled euphoria and the decibel levels at the Lusail Iconic Stadium might have even rocked the skyscrapers of Riyadh.

    The last three teams to beat Argentina at the World Cup either won the trophy or reached the final. See you on December 18, Saudi Arabia? Well, to make it happen Al Dawsari will have to pull a few more rabbits out of the hat.

  • Modric Croatia

    #3 Modric becomes first Croatian to appear in four different World Cups

    Luka Modric is ageing like fine wine! Even at 37, he is indispensable to the Croatian national team and Zlatko Dalic's aspirations to lift the World Cup trophy, especially after falling short in the last lap four years back in Russia.

    He made his World Cup debut back in 2006 during a group stage encounter against Japan and on Wednesday he led his country as the first Croatian to play in four different World Cups. With that, he also became the first player to play in both the European Championship and FIFA World Cup in three different decades.

    Indeed, the little magician knows how to roll back the years. He is a bundle of energy on the pitch and tries to cover every single blade of grass on the pitch. His tactical awareness is beyond measure and knows exactly whether to start a quickfire counterattack or pass the ball sideways to kill the pace of the game.

    However, his primary strengths are his exemplary ball control in tight spaces and extraordinary peripheral vision that helps him to slice open defences with a single through ball.

    During the 2018 World Cup, Modric almost single-handedly led Croatia to the finals and was awarded the Golden Ball for his heroics. More importantly, he broke the hegemony of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the Ballon d'Or as he became the first midfielder since Kaka in 2007 to win the prestigious award.

    Fancy Croatia's chances in Qatar? Well, Modric will definitely have a say in it.

  • John Herdman Canada Belgium World Cup 2022

    #4 Herdman becomes first manager ever to have coached both a men's and women's team at a World Cup

    John Herdman is as maverick as a football coach can be. His ingenious methods helped the Canadian women's national soccer team scale new heights, as they finished with successive bronze medals in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games respectively and also reached the last eight of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.

    His success with the women's team prompted the Canadian FA to hand him the reins of the men's team in January 2018, which were going through a rough patch and had seen the back of three managers within 18 months.

    On Wednesday, when Herdman took his place in the dugout for the Canadian men's team he became the first manager ever to have coached both a men's and women's team at a World Cup.

    Under his tutelage, the Voyageurs not only qualified for the World Cup after a hiatus of 36 years, but also finished ahead of CONCACAF giants Mexico and United States in the qualifiers.

    Herdman believes in his process and knows that if they stick to it with discipline, results are bound to follow.

    To put things into perspective, when he took charge Canada were 95th in the FIFA rankings. Just over four years later they have broken into the top 50 and are currently ranked 41st.

    Once a primary school teacher, Herdman, is now a man on a mission in Qatar.

    “To upset some teams, I get out of bed for that.”

  • Gavi Spain World Cup 2022

    #5 Gavi becomes youngest player to score for Spain at a World Cup

    When Gavi took the pitch against Costa Rica, he became Spain's youngest player at the World Cup, and 75 minutes into the match he nonchalantly made another record for himself by becoming their youngest goalscorer at just 18 years and 110 days.

    His goal was nothing short of a Picasso painting which had aesthetics and technical brilliance written all over it.

    Alvaro Morata dinked the ball into space inside the box knowing very well that Gavi would make a late run into the box to pounce on it. And just as he had expected, the Barcelona midfielder ran almost 12 yards and with the first touch, he sliced the ball with the outside of his foot.

    As soon as it left his feet, it started spinning away from Keylor Navas not wholly but in perfect measure, such that it would just brush the inside of the post before rippling the net. Immaculate!

    Gavi might be just 18 but his performance was nothing short of a veteran who has the experience of winning many battles. His ball control, technique and vision were stamped throughout the match which helped Spain to completely dominate proceedings.

    A few months back, when he was awarded the 2022 Kopa Trophy, for the best U-21 footballer, there were many who raised their eyebrows. Some favoured England international Jude Bellingham whereas a few put their weight behind Germany's Jamal Musiala.

    That goal against Costa Rica must have silenced those critics!

  • Thibaut Courtois

    #6 Courtois becomes the first Belgian goalkeeper to stop a penalty in regulation time

    36 years! No, it is not Thibaut Courtois' age. He is much younger (30). Rather, it is the number of years that Canada have been waiting to appear at the World Cup and score their first-ever goal at the tournament.

    The wait just got a tad bit longer after Courtois dived to his right and saved Alphono Davies' attempt from the spot on Wednesday, thereby becoming the first Belgian goalkeeper to stop a penalty in regulation time.

    The Real Madrid shot-stopper, who has an imposing figure between the sticks, used every muscle of his 199cm frame to keep out that penalty from Davies after guessing the right direction.

    To be fair, it is an uphill battle against the keeper from the spot. In 2022, he has faced nine penalties so far and has saved five of them including one from Lionel Messi in the previous edition of the Champions League. His last stop saw his penalty-saving ratio climb to a staggering 55 per cent in this calendar year.

    So, to be fair, it wasn't completely surprising to see Courtois come out on top against Davies. The left-back sat stunned, head in hands, for a few seconds until his teammates arrived to pick him up. He knew that the miss could come to haunt them back and it did indeed!

    However, kudos to Courtois who not only made history with that slice of brilliance but more importantly handed Belgium the three points who were second-best to Canada for large chunks of the game.

  • Graham Arnold Australia Qatar 2022

    #7 Australia manager Graham Arnold becomes the first coach from Oceania to win a World Cup game

    Graham Arnold wanted to remove the technical errors after the heavy defeat to France in their World Cup opener.

    It was about getting rid of the sloppy mistakes. And on Saturday morning against Tunisia, his team played just as the doctor ordered to snatch a gritty 1-0 victory which made the 59-year-old the first coach from Oceania to win a World Cup game.

    In the 23rd minute, Australia sprayed a long ball from the back which found Mitchell Duke at the halfway line. He quickly spread it out to the wings for Craig Goodwin on the left and made a run down the middle. Goodwin kept going with the ball and fired in a cross which fortuitously fell for Duke after getting deflected off Tunisian centre back Dylan Bronn. The forward jumped higher than his marker and his glancing header flew into the far corner beyond the reach of an out-stretched Aymen Dahmen.

    The Eagles of Carthage did not leave any stone unturned to get the leveller. But Arnold's boys gave their all, put their bodies on the line, and made sure that they kept a clean sheet for the first time in a World Cup match since 1974. Sometimes it doesn't have to be flashy, it doesn't need to be glitzy, but just hard work and being stubborn in defence.

    Before the match, the manager admitted that he "hadn't slept for a long time". Well, this win should give him a good night's sleep.

  • Messi 2-1

    #8 Messi becomes the first player to assist in five World Cups

    A moment of Lionel Messi magic brought a slumbering Argentina alive against Mexico. A low precise drive to Guillermo Ochoa's left was all it took to revive Argentine hopes at the Lusail Stadium on Saturday night.

    However, it was just three minutes from the final whistle, a simple pass to set up Enzo Fernandez that doubled Argentina's lead, propelled Messi into the history books as he became the first player to assist in five different and consecutive World Cups.

    Rodrigo De Paul took a short corner, passed it onto his skipper who nonchalantly forwarded it to an on-rushing Fernandez. The Benfica midfielder dropped his shoulder, skipped past Erick Gutierrez and unleashed a sumptuous curler that flew past Ochoa to nestle into the far corner. Messi laid the foundation and the 21-year-old simply built on it.

    With this assist, Messi is now both the youngest (18y 357 days against Serbia & Montenegro in 2006) and the oldest (35y 155 days vs Mexico today) player to both score and assist in a single World Cup game since 1966.

    Germany, South Africa, Brazil, Russia and now Qatar, the little magician has assisted in five countries across four continents. Phew!

    This one might be a little more special than the others as it was a night when Argentina and his international career were just a step away from fading into oblivion. A moment of quality and the fumes of despair have given way to a cauldron of hope and life.

    It's his last dance and he is not done yet.

  • Alphonso Davies Canada 2022

    #9 Alphonso Davies becomes first Canadian to score in a World Cup

    It was a dream start for Canada. A few fans were still making their way to their seats and suddenly they could hear the Khalifa International Stadium erupt with joy. 

    Their knight in shining armour had ended their excruciating wait of 36 years. 67 seconds into the match, Alphonso Davies created history by becoming the first Canadian player to score in a World Cup. 

    After missing the penalty against Belgium in the previous match, it was nothing short of redemption for the Bayern Munich player. The celebration that followed the goal was pure ecstasy. A few huffs and puffs as well, albeit of relief. 

    A gigantic distribution from the goalkeeper Milan Borjan started the move. Tajon Buchanan received the pass in the right wing from midfield and he galloped forward unhindered. 

    Meanwhile, Davies had already started his sprint from the left-back position. Buchanan patiently waited for him to enter the box and then launched an inch-perfect cross inside the box. Croatia’s Josip Juranovic thought he had a lifetime to head it clear. 

    Little did he know that Davies would pounce on the ball like a predator on its prey and pierce the back of the net with a thumping header. A historic moment that will stand crystallized, beyond the corrosive reach of the sands of time. 

    Davies' story is classic folklore. Born in a refugee camp, escaped a civil war aged five, somehow managed to reach Canada and then goes on to score the first goal in the nation's history on the grandest international platform. The stuff of legends and myths! 

  • Enner Valencia Ecuador World Cup 2022

    #10 Enner Valencia becomes the first South American to score six consecutive World Cup goals

    In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Ecuador scored three goals. And all of them came from the boots of Enner Valencia. Fast forward to the 2022 edition of the tournament in Qatar, and nothing much has changed for La Tri.

    This time they scored four and again the first three of them were netted by Valencia which made him the first South American to score six consecutive World Cup goals.

    Against Qatar on the opening day, it was a one-man show. The Maroon defenders were at their wit's end to contain Valencia and two first half goals were enough to make Ecuador dream of a knockout berth since 2006. His goals also made him the country's highest goal-scorer at World Cups, but they came at a cost. He had injured his knee.

    Against the Netherlands, he pushed through the pain barrier to take the field and had a strapping on his right knee. They were trailing at half-time but within five minutes of the resumption, Valencia once again became their knight in shining armour and delivered the goods.

    Inspired by the equaliser they had a splendid half but in the 89th minute, he had to leave the field on a stretcher.

    Fighting a race against time, he recovered just in time to feature against Senegal. The grit and determination on display were unparalleled. Time and again he sprung into life but this time the pied piper failed to take his nation to the promised land!

    But as he bows out of Qatar, battered and bruised, he leaves with his head held high and a place in the history books.

  • Cody Gakpo Netherlands 2022

    #11 Cody Gakpo is the first player to score in all three matches in a World Cup group stage for the Netherlands

    More often than not, every World Cup edition champions a new star on the horizon; and this time it just might be Cody Gakpo. Three matches and three decisive goals have made the forward the first player to score in all three matches in a World Cup group stage for the Netherlands.

    Within a week of his World Cup debut, it has become amply clear that the PSV forward is an exceptional talent and is the Netherlands' talisman in Qatar who is destined to reach the acme of success.

    In their campaign opener against Senegal, Gakpo's well-timed run and a perfectly-placed header were enough to break the deadlock for a toiling Netherlands who looked to be at their wit's end in their efforts to break down a gritty backline. Then the left-footed strike against Ecuador had the hallmark of a striker who has been a veteran of many battles. And lastly, a clinical right-foot finish against Qatar established his versatility beyond doubt.

    It was Gakpo's 35th goal contribution in 29 matches for club and country this season. And rest assured he is not done yet. "I know what I’m capable of. I’m not there yet, I think I can improve in a lot of things," he said after the final group stage game against the hosts.

    Johan Neeskens, Dennis Bergkamp, Wesley Sneijder. And now, a certain 23-year-old Cody Gakpo joins the list of Dutchmen to have scored in three successive World Cup fixtures.

    Not many will debate that the lad is genuine football royalty who is coming of age on the greatest footballing platform.

  • Stephanie Frappart referee team

    #12 Stephanie Frappart becomes the first female referee to take charge of a men's World Cup match

    92 years and 942 matches later, on a warm Thursday evening in Doha, a landmark event in World Cup history took place when Stephanie Frappart and her team walked out of the tunnel of the Al Bayt Stadium with Germany and Costa Rica players following her.

    The 38-year-old French official became the first woman to take charge of a men’s match at the tournament finals.

    In front of a raucous 70,000-odd crowd, Frappart’s first whistle not only kicked off the match but also heralded a new saga that will inspire a million more to follow her footprints.

    From an early age, Frappart started playing football in the Val d’Oise, north of Paris. She could have become a footballer but she chose to be a referee. And by 13, she was already taking charge of junior matches.

    Frappart aimed for the stars and taking one step at a time she began realising her dream. She was the first woman referee to officiate a men's match in Ligue 2, Ligue 1, the Uefa Super Cup, the Champions League, the men's Euro 2020 and now the men’s World Cup.

    With all the experience up her sleeves, Frappart had a smooth outing in her debut World Cup match which was an exhilarating contest in itself.

    She allowed the game to flow, kept the tempers in check, and was always on top of proceedings.

    "Judge me on my competence, not my gender," she once said. And after her immaculate performance, each of those words is worth its weight in gold.

  • 2022-12-01-japan-hajime-moriyasu-ritsu-doan

    #13 Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu is the first Asian manager to top a group at the World Cup

    Hajime Moriyasu was part of the 1994 World Cup qualifying squad of Japan that got knocked out in Doha with a late equaliser from Iraq.

    "With a minute to go, I was thinking about the 'Tragedy of Doha'," the manager confessed after beating Spain at the Khalifa International Stadium.

    But on Thursday his players put their bodies on the line and ensured that there was no equaliser. A resounding 2-1 victory for the Samurai Blue over the European heavyweights and Moriyasu became the first Asian manager to top a group at the World Cup.

    However, it has been a topsy-turvy World Cup for Japan. After beating Germany in their campaign opener they meekly surrendered to Costa Rica in their second game. Yet, Moriyasu remained defiant that his tactics were spot on. At the same time, he admitted that there will be a “different game plan, we need different tactics” against Spain.

    Alvaro Morata struck early but Japan were patient. They sat back and continued to absorb pressure. At half-time, Moriyasu brought on Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma to inject pace so that they could hit Spain on the counter.

    Moriyasu's troops carried out his instructions to perfection, waited for their opportunities on the break, and scored twice despite barely touching the ball.

    With 17.7% of the ball, Japan have won a World Cup game with the lowest possession figure in recorded World Cup history. Both his substitutions worked like a charm as Doan scored while Mitoma assisted Ao Tanaka.

    However, Moriyasu's task is far from over. After getting the better of two former World Champions, Japan face Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runners-up, next. Another upset on the cards?

    Let's wait and watch!

  • Rodri Spain World Cup 2022

    #14 Rodri becomes first player to complete over 200 passes in a World Cup game

    215 passes. A world record in a World Cup. Spain's Rodri achieved this incredible feat and that too by operating as a centre-back, a shift from his usual role in midfield in the final group stage match against Japan.

    Sergio Busquets remains indispensable for Luis Enrique even at 34. But the manager wants Rodri as well, who cannot only win dispossess and win back the ball but also can think ahead of others as to where he will spray the next pass.

    So, the Asturian gambled and put him at the heart of defence as right centre-back. And voila! That worked as a charm.

    Pep Guardiola showed the way by using Rodri as a centre-back on a few occasions in the 2019-20 season, but to use him in such a crucial position on the grandest stage of international football was a risk.

    But the lanky Spaniard at 6ft 2in, is revelling in his new position and has shown the tactical understanding to deal with the rigours of the job.

    Rodri helps Spain to play out from the back and he gradually moves up the field to ensure a smooth transition from defence to attack. Even when the opposition is sitting deep the more advanced players like Gavi and Pedri can just push the ball back to Rodri to restart and relaunch through a new avenue without the fear of losing possession.

    "I try to exploit my characteristics. I help to come out with the ball played from the back. Our opponents give us little space between the lines, so the central defender is very important in our scheme," he said before facing Morocco.

    There is little doubt that his credentials will be tested far more in the knockouts starting with the tricky encounter against Morocco. But if he can maintain his form it will be smooth sailing for the Spanish armada.

  • Kylian Mbappe France Poland 2022 World Cup

    #15 Mbappe becomes first player to score eight World Cup goals under 24

    Kylian Mbappe huffed and puffed for most of the first half against Poland but could do little in the attacking third even after getting the better of Matty Cash on several occasions. But just at the brink of half-time, he set Olivier Giroud up with a brilliant through ball that the AC Milan striker buried in the net with a clinical finish to become the leading international goalscorer for France.

    In the second half, Mbappe killed off the game with sheer individual brilliance. His 74th-minute strike made him the first player to score eight World Cup goals under 24 smashing Pele's record of seven. He latched on to a pass from Ousmane Dembele, saw a bit of space in front of him, and then rifled a shot towards goal that completely bamboozled Wojciech Szczesny.

    However, the Paris Saint-Germain forward was not done yet. In the first minute of stoppage time, he received the ball from Marcus Thuram at a relatively tight angle inside the box. But that did not deter him from wrapping his foot around the ball and he produced another venomous strike that nestled into the top-right corner beyond a full-stretched Szczesny.

    With that second goal, he became the youngest player (23y and 349d) to reach five knockout stage goals at the World Cup since Pelé in 1958 (17y 249d) and also the first Frenchman to score four goals at multiple World Cups.

    "I built my season on this competition physically and mentally. We’re still far from the goal we’ve set for ourselves and which I’ve set for myself, which is to win," stated Mbappe after a record-breaking evening.

    Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) are the only two teams to successfully defend a World Cup title. Can France become the third side to do so? With Mbappe in such blistering form, French supporters can dare to dream.

  • Shaqiri Switzerland Qatar 2022

    #16 Xherdan Shaqiri becomes first Swiss player to score in three consecutive World Cup tournaments

    Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xherdan Shaqiri! That's some elite company for the Swiss player.

    Shaqiri's wand of a left foot helped Switzerland open the scoring against Serbia and helped the Rossocrociati qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup. With that strike, he became the first Swiss player to score in three consecutive World Cup tournaments, matching Messi and Ronaldo in the process.

    In 2014, he found the net against Honduras, whereas, Serbia fell prey to his goal-scoring prowess in 2018 and 2022 respectively.

    The Chicago Fire player was whistled whenever he touched the ball by Serbia fans but he silenced them all by scoring the opener. A misplaced clearance fell for Djibril Sow, who set up Shaqiri and he made no mistake to score from close range before racing towards the corner flag with his finger on the lips.

    He was a constant menace on the flank against Serbia and also played a crucial role in setting up Switzerland's third goal, which would eventually be the winner.

    Murat Yakin's men are set to face Portugal next in the last-16 showdown and needless to say that their hopes once again lay on Shaqiri. With Nuno Mendes out of the World Cup, it is likely that Portugal's coach Fernando Santos would field Joao Cancelo in the left-back position.

    It will be a riveting battle between the two on the flanks and the Manchester City full-back can ill afford to allow him space especially given the form he is in. And if he scores again, he would equal Josef Hügi (6) as Switzerland’s all-time top scorer at the World Cup.

    Shaqiri has all to play for against Portugal!

  • Goncalo Ramos Portugal 2022

    #17 Gonçalo Ramos became the first Portuguese player to score a hat-trick on his first World Cup start

    A star was born on Tuesday evening. And he goes by the name of Gonçalo Ramos from Algrave. The 21-year-old made his international debut last month and had 33 minutes of prior international experience before he was called up to replace an iconic figure in Portuguese history, a legend of the game; Cristiano Ronaldo.

    67 minutes later, on the grandest stage of international football, in a crunch knockout game against Switzerland, Ramos had got thrice on the scoresheet to become the first Portuguese player to score a hat-trick on his World Cup debut.

    He took just 17 minutes to open the scoring from an incredibly tight angle with a venomous shot through the first post that left Yan Sommer as a mere spectator. An immaculate strike with the precision of a sharpshooter.

    Ramos' second was a typical poacher's finish as he tucked in Diogo Dalot's cross once again in the near post after getting ahead of his marker. This goal gave him the confidence to take the match by the scruff of its neck. For his third, he chose to slightly dink the ball over Sommer, an undoubtedly outrageous and audacious attempt in a one-on-one situation with the keeper.

    Ramos' movement between the lines, his knack for running into spaces, and his scathing acceleration are the key attributes which help him turn into a defender's nightmare. Against Switzerland, he proved that he also has an eye for the goal and the heart of a lion to express himself on the biggest occasions.

    Not many know that he earned his ticket to Qatar, in part, because of an injury to Liverpool forward Diogo Jota. And now, the entire world is buzzing with his name on their lips.

    Will Fernando Santos stick to his guns and continue to back Ramos over Ronaldo? That's a million-dollar question!

  • Yassine Bounou saves a penalty.

    #18 Morocco’s Yassine Bounou – who saved two in total – became the first African goalkeeper to save a penalty in a World Cup shootout

    Yassine Bounou was being thrown in the air by his teammates after his heroics in the tiebreakers against Spain on Tuesday.

    Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets saw their penalty saved by the Sevilla goalkeeper while Pablo Sarabia struck the post as Spain suffered yet another defeat in penalties after being beaten by Russia four years ago at the same stage in the FIFA World Cup.

    The celebrations that followed with Bounou seemed that the Atlas Lions had won the trophy itself! But when you are just the fourth African side to reach the quarter-final in the storied history of the World Cup, the occasion warrants a grand celebration.

    His anticipation and agility to save the spot kicks were world-class as he waited till the end and guessed the right direction every single time.

    Luis Enrique's side had 77 per cent of the ball but could manage just one shot on target. But stats are often misleading.

    Bounou had to be on his toes for 120 minutes and marshall his defence as the bulk of the match was played in the defensive third of Morocco. La Roja had eight corners and during each of them, the goalkeeper was seen screaming out instructions to his defenders.

    After more than 330 minutes of football in the tournament, Bounou has not been beaten by any opponent. The only goal that he has conceded was scored by one of his teammates against Canada.

    With this, he became the first African goalkeeper to save a penalty in a World Cup shootout and Morocco became the first African nation to win a penalty shootout in the tournament.

    “I wouldn’t change anything; just their goalkeeper,” Luis Enrique insisted after the loss. Hardly anyone can disagree with the tactician.

  • Morocco celebrate.

    #19 Morocco become the first African team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup semi-final

    Croatia. Belgium. Spain. Portugal. They are just not any footballing nation but elite European heavyweights with an infantry of star-studded players on their roster.

    Spain are former world champion, Croatia and Belgium are the second and third-placed teams of the 2018 edition, while Portugal are 2016 Euro champion and also boast of having one of the greatest to have ever played the sport. And yet, not even once could they breach the Moroccan defence cumulatively after more than 500 minutes of high-octane football.

    When Facundo Tello blew the final whistle at the Al Thumama Stadium Walid Regraui's men created history by becoming the first African team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup semi-final courtesy of beating Portugal 1-0 with Youssef En-Nesyri hitting the back of the net.

    Attiyat Allah sent in a looping ball inside the box with En-Nesyri as the target. Diogo Costa had come off his line but the keeper not only misjudged the flight of the ball but also was out-jumped by his adversary. En-Nesyri kept hanging in the air until he got his head to the ball and before Costa could comprehend anything, the striker was running towards the corner flag to celebrate with his teammates. With that, the entire pride of Atlas lions roared and it was loud enough to hit the shores of Casablanca.

    Portugal tried and gave their all. They came agonisingly close on a couple of occasions even in the dying embers of the game to force extra time but the indomitable Moroccan side stood tall. Cristiano Ronaldo was through on goal in the 91st minute, but Yassine Bounou thwarted him. Minutes later, Pepe came close but his header flew just wide of the post.

    Morocco will next play France, the defending champions on Wednesday. They will take the pitch having nothing to lose, but only more history to be made. This time for Africa!

  • Dani Alves Cameroon Brazil World Cup 2022

    #20 Dani Alves becomes the first player aged 39 to play for Brazil at the World Cup finals

    Records are meant to be broken. This old adage was once again proven true by Brazilian international Dani Alves when he took the field against Cameroon on December 3.

    His teammate and fellow defender Thiago Silva set the record of becoming the oldest Brazilian to play in a FIFA World Cup match, aged 38 years and 67 days against Serbia in the campaign opener. Within a week, Alves eclipsed the record and set a new milestone by starting on matchday three at 39 years and 210 days.

    Before the Qatar edition, this record was held by Djalma Santos, also a defender, who played against Hungary in 1966 at 37 years and 138 days.

    Tite did not hesitate to hand the armband to Alves and hence he also became the oldest skipper to lead the Selecao in the World Cup. It was his 126th appearance in Brazil's colours which made him the second-most capped player overtaking another legendary full-back Roberto Carlos.

    Not many expected Alves to defy the odds and make the cut for Brazil's 26-man squad after leaving Barcelona in the summer and joining UNAM in Mexico's Liga MX. Moreover, he had been struggling with a knee injury before the tournament which further raised questions about his inclusion.

    However, against Cameroon, he proved his critics wrong and played until the final whistle showing that he still has enough gas in the tank to last a full match at the highest level. His technical qualities set him apart from the rest and is a leader at the back with his organising capability.

    In 2021, Alves helped Brazil to defend their Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. Not many know, with that achievement the former Barcelona player became the oldest footballer ever to win gold at 38 years. Age is truly just a number for Alves!

  • Randal Kolo Muani (Embed Only) World Cup 2022

    #21 Randal Kolo Muani becomes first substitute to score within a minute for France at a World Cup

    44 seconds. This was all it took for Randal Kolo Muani to carve out a chapter for himself in the history books.

    It was his first touch, his first international goal and the strike made him the first French substitute to get on the scoresheet within less than a minute in a World Cup match in the 79th minute of the semifinal match against Morocco.

    However, the primary architect of the goal was none other than Kylian Mbappé. His quick feet helped him dance past two Moroccan defenders and he even pulled the trigger. But his attempt got deflected by Ezzalzouli and fell kindly for Kolo Muani who just had to tap in from handshaking distance into a gaping goal.

    There was no panic. He kept his head down and struck firmly to ensure that even a fully stretched Yassine Bounou would fail to get his hands to the ball.

    The goal came at a crucial juncture as Morocco was piling on the pressure in search of their equaliser on the opposite end and they kept agonisingly close on a few occasions as well. But this insurance goal was the final nail in the coffin.

    Interestingly, it was the third-quickest goal for a substitute in World Cup history, only behind Richard Morales in 2002 (16 seconds) and Ebbe Sand in 1998 (26 seconds).

    Born in Bondy, the same Parisian suburb that Mbappé hails from, Kolo Muani plies his trade in Bundesliga for Eintracht Frankfurt. He has had a blistering start to this season with eight goals and 11 assists to his name in 23 appearances and it was no surprise that Didier Deschamps chose to have him as a replacement for Christopher Nkunku ahead of other more popular options.

    Another dream cameo on the cards against Argentina in the finals? If brought on, he will be eager to make a difference.

  • Messi Argentina

    #22 Lionel Messi is the first player to score in every round of the World Cup

    Lionel Messi achieved footballing immortality on Sunday. After winning the FIFA World Cup with Argentina, beating a formidable France team in tie-breakers, Messi can claim his place at the pinnacle of football history.

    He won the Golden Ball for being the best player of the tournament for his seven goals and three assists in seven matches and with that became the first player in World Cup history to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final in a single edition of the tournament.

    Saudi Arabia. Mexico. Australia. The Netherlands. Croatia. France. Messi has found the net against all of them. He almost single-handedly powered the Albiceleste to the World Cup trophy having scored against every opponent they faced, barring Poland in the group stages.

    After he saw his spot kick saved by Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny, he decided to tweak his technique a bit and that has reaped dividends for Argentina in the knockouts. He has tended to favour a patient approach to penalty duty, waiting for an opponent to move between the sticks before picking his side. And against France, he bamboozled Hugo Lloris on both occasions by choosing to opt for timing and placement rather than power.

    Messi has been directly involved in 21 goals at the World Cup for Argentina (13 goals, 8 assists), the outright most of any player for any nation at the finals on record (since 1966).

    Moreover, his second against France was his 26th strike in major international tournaments for Argentina (13 World Cup, 13 Copa América), the most of any South American player in history across the two competitions, overtaking Brazil's Ronaldo Nazario(25).

    When the Emir of Qatar was dressing Messi in a traditional bisht during the award ceremony, it was kind of a coronation for the Argentine skipper after conquering the world. So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives his footballing reign.

    As players, managers and teams write themselves into the history books, their achievements will also be celebrated in a one-of-a-kind football jersey called the 'Shirt Of Firsts'. Consisting of 22 different national shirts, every patch on the Shirt Of Firsts is interactive and tells a story, so enter our virtual locker room and simply scroll over the shirt to discover more - the further into the tournament we go, the more there is to find.

    Visit theshirtoffirsts.goal.com to find out more