You know the thing about chaos? It’s fair.
One of The Joker’s several veritable quotes from “The Dark Knight” is ringing true in Qatar.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup continues to deliver with multiple miraculous upsets and astonishing storylines, but the drama is only going to intensify as the round of 16 approaches.
While some nations have basked in the glory of ruling as the underdog, the other side of the spectrum has countries boggled about what went wrong – particularly for some international powerhouses that are headed for the airports early in Qatar.
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Ahead of the knockout stage games, let’s look at the five teams that disappointed the most in this World Cup:
Back to back. No, that’s not referring to Drake’s 2015 single – it’s Germany’s second straight time being eliminated from the World Cup in the group stage. In 2018, Germany finished last in a group that comprised Sweden, Mexico and South Korea. In 2022, it finished third behind Japan and Spain and ahead of Costa Rica.
Manager Hansi Flick’s tactics on both sides of the ball should’ve seen the DFB overcome the hurdle that 2018 proved to be, but ultimately, the combination of his lineups, substitutes and the general calamity the World Cup can conjure in a split second saw his side go out. Germany’s lack of an elite No. 9 and leaky defenders also came into play, but it’s a team that should’ve – at the minimum – made it to the quarterfinals.
FIFA’s international rankings have been heavily scrutinized in recent years, and Belgium became the latest example to further demonstrate it doesn’t tell the full story. The Red Devils entered Qatar ranked No. 2 in the world, yet they bowed out in third place of Group F and should’ve been fourth had Canada converted its chances in their opening matchup.
Kevin De Bruyne did not dictate games as he does so often with Manchester City in England, Romelu Lukaku’s misses will haunt fans for years to come and the decision to rely on aging centerbacks in a back-three system ultimately saw Roberto Martínez leave his role as manager right after the finale against Croatia.
Belgium, on paper, had the quality to at least make it to the round of 16 – there was no way the squad could’ve replicated its 2018 third-place finish this year – but now it’s time for the federation to rebuild with its younger talent deserving of more reps and minutes.
If you don’t score goals, you don’t win games. The cliché saying caught up to multiple teams in the group stage that will emerge in this later, while some nations (the U.S.) have evaded that fate thus far. Denmark did not, though, as the 2020 UEFA Euro semifinalists came crashing out of Qatar in dead last of Group D.
On paper, Denmark should’ve challenged France for first place. The head-to-head matchup showed the Danish Dynamite could hang with the elite, but they ultimately didn’t have the explosive outlets up top to find the back of the net. A strong goalkeeper, solid backline and diverse midfield proved to be strong pillars, but it all came crumbling down as soon as they entered the final third, just like the nation in the World Cup.
One would think that a frontline comprising Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani and Darwin Núñez with midfielders like Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur would be lively in front of goal, but Diego Alonso’s setup and tactics were completely shocking. This has been a long time coming for Uruguayan fans that got accustomed to Alonso handicapping his star forwards throughout the qualifying rounds and international friendlies, but he didn’t change a thing in Qatar – and now his side is out.
Uruguay entered Matchday 3 with zero goals to its name, and though it eventually found two against Ghana, South Korea bumped the squad down to third in Group H and out of Qatar on – guess what?! – goals scored (four to two difference).
Gerardo “Tata” Martino knew his time was up as soon as the final whistle sounded against Saudi Arabia. That’s the perfect summary of Mexico’s time in Qatar – and Martino’s spell as manager of El Tri.
Similar to Uruguay, Mexico also looked like a shell of itself in World Cup qualifying action, with Martino’s squad call-ups and starting lineups all appearing puzzling. Yet again, his decision to leave off Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Santiago Giménez and Diego Lainez cost his team the ability to consistently create chances and score once they got in the final third.
Also like Uruguay, Mexico entered its Group C finale against Saudi Arabia with no goals. Again, despite getting two goals and all three points, Poland remained in second ahead of Mexico thanks to – guess what?! – goal difference (zero to minus-one). El Tri will also need to tear everything down and rebuild with fresh legs and more young talent coming through the ranks, as they will be one of three hosts in 2026.