After 64 matches contested in just 28 days, the 2022 World Cup reached its conclusion in Qatar on Sunday night as Lionel Messi and Argentina bested holders France on penalties to become champions for the third time.
With thrills and spills aplenty, the tournament was capped off by one of the greatest, most enthralling finals of all time but the previous group stage rounds also featured their fair share of action.
Every single millisecond of that endeavor was captured by the multitude of photographers on duty throughout the competition, with all of the most impactful scenes, plays, goals and protests preserved for posterity.
Here is our pick of the very best still photography to emerge from the 2022 World Cup with a plethora of excellent, moment-encapsulating images plucked from the group stages all the way through to the grand finale in Lusail.
Messi lifting the trophy
Lionel Messi finally gets his chance to partake in one of the most iconic images in sport as the Argentinian captain hoists the World Cup trophy above his head while surrounded by his teammates as fireworks and ticker tape rain in the background. Messi was given a Qatari bisht to wear for the occasion — a ceremonial gown traditionally bestowed on royalty, dignitaries and victors.
Saudi Arabia celebrate winning goal against Argentina
Argentina’s campaign got off to a dreadful start when the pre-tournament favourites slipped to a shock 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia in their opening group game. As you might expect, the winning goal from midfielder Salem Al-Dawsari was greeted by absolute pandemonium in the Saudi section of the crowd.
German players cover their mouths
Germany began their tournament with an on-pitch protest, using their team photo to show their disdain over FIFA’s decision to ban captains from wearing the “OneLove” armband during the World Cup. The players covered their mouths in unison to show that they had been effectively silenced by the powers that be.
One of the most controversial goals scored at the World Cup was the one that settled Japan’s shock comeback victory over Spain in the group stage. After falling behind to an early Alvaro Morata goal, the Blue Samurai fought back in Al-Rayyan, though not without Ao Tanaka‘s clincher somehow surviving a lengthy VAR check despite the ball seemingly going out of play in the build-up.
South Korea narrowly made it through to the knockout phase but only after enduring a tense wait on the pitch after their last group game against Portugal. Son cut a visibly nervous figure as he awaited the result of the Ghana-Uruguay game amid a huddle of his teammates. Thankfully a 2-0 win for the latter was enough to send South Korea through on goals scored.
Though France fell just short of retaining their title, Mbappe enjoyed another marvelous tournament as the young forward scored eight goals in seven games to claim a consolatory Golden Boot award. Mbappe proved the difference for Les Bleus on several occasions and was rightly held aloft by his strike partner Giroud after scoring twice against Poland in the round of 16.
Morocco proved to be the surprise package of the 2022 World Cup, winning hearts and minds along the way as Walid Regragui’s resilient side finished in third place. The wonderful image of midfielder Boufal dancing with his mother on the pitch after beating Portugal in the quarterfinals is almost certain to endure.
Neymar comforted by teammates
Despite looking like potential world-beaters in fits and starts, Brazil suffered an underwhelming World Cup as their run was ended by Croatia in the quarterfinals. Neymar was utterly heartbroken after losing on penalties and was almost inconsolable as his teammates did their best to comfort him.
Messi confronts Van Gaal
Tensions ran high when Argentina met the Netherlands in the quarterfinals amid reports of cross words exchanged between the camps both before, during and after the game. The Albiceleste eventually won on penalties which led to captain Messi visibly confronting Dutch boss Louis van Gaal and his staff on the touchline.
In what is almost certain to be his final World Cup as a player, Cristiano Ronaldo was forced to provide back-up support when Portugal played Switzerland in the round of 16. The veteran forward offered several wry smiles as he sat on the bench while his team won 6-1 without his assistance. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was then only introduced as a second-half substitute in the next round as Portugal were eliminated by Morocco.
Mbappe scores from the penalty spot vs Argentina
Mbappe was understandably keen to instill a renewed sense of urgency in the France side after scoring from the penalty spot in the final against Argentina. He then scored again less than 90 seconds later to make the score 2-2 as Les Bleus dragged themselves back from the brink in remarkable fashion.
Emiliano Martinez does his dance during the shootout against France
After making a string of key saves throughout the tournament, Martinez again proved an influential presence for Argentina in the final shootout as the goalkeeper’s antics, time-wasting, and even his dancing served to disrupt France’s focus.
Our favorite photos from a historic 2022 World Cup