2022 has been a year where all corners of the globe have enjoyed a magnificent year in football. It began with Cameroon and ended with a spectacular finish in Qatar.
It was a year where it felt like the sport truly got back up and running after multiple years of disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and what better way to celebrate than by closing the year out with the sport's biggest tournament, the FIFA World Cup.
Before we look back on that, let's take it back to the start of the year and the postponed African Cup of Nations tournament hosted by Cameroon. Running for a month from early January into February, 52 matches culminated in a tense final between Senegal and Egypt. It was particularly intriguing as two of Africa's most prominent players and Liverpool teammates, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, faced off against each other to be African champions. One hundred and twenty minutes of football ended in a deadlock. Pushing the teams to a penalty shootout, Mane scored the winning goal securing Senegal's first-ever AFCON win in history.
It was another big night for Salah and Mane in May, as Liverpool were in their third Champions League final in five years. Facing Real Madrid in Paris, just as the clubs did in 1981, the game was overshadowed by poor policing and treatment of fans before the game. Once the match eventually got underway, Liverpool struggled to defy the heroic performance of Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Brazil winger Vinicius Jr scored the crucial goal to hand Madrid a 1-0 win at the Stade de France and secure a record 14th win in the competition for his club.
Liverpool also lost out on the last day of the Premier League title race to familiar domestic foes Manchester City. Later in the summer, City strengthened their squad further by dipping into the transfer market and signing one of Europe's hottest prospects, Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland.
He's been a revolutionary signing, but as the league paused this season to make way for the World Cup, City still has work to do to retain their title in 2023. As it stands, it's Mikel Arteta's Arsenal team who are top of the Premier League by five points. It's a good omen, as over half of the teams who have been top of the table on Christmas Day have gone on to win the trophy.
The women's European Championships were brought to British shores when summer rolled around. England enjoyed the chance to host its first international tournament since 2005 exclusively. After a semi-final finish in the World Cup in 2019, the Lionesses were desperate to build upon that in front of their home crowd, and they delivered.
"The way England won the Euros - at Wembley in front of a record crowd and against Germany in extra-time - made the achievement more special," revealed BBC journalist Emma Sanders.
"It had been years in the making, and England had always come close but never far enough, especially with such a talented group. Finally, they won the Euros, and there was a national outpouring of appreciation from thousands of new supporters of women's football. The achievement itself was incredible, but the legacy it will have on women's football is even greater."
"Crowds have already improved in the Women's Super League, viewing figures are up, and investment has increased. It's important that their win is built on now." Emma concluded.
The year ended on a high for international football as the men's World Cup took place in the winter for the first time in its history.
After 12 years of preparation, Qatar's moment finally arrived as it became the first country to host the tournament in the Middle East, welcoming the entire world to the region. And boy, did they put on a show. Sixty-four games of spectacular football saw Morocco become the first Arab side to reach a semi-final. Japan defeated Spain and Germany to top their group, and Australia made it out of the group stage for the first time in its history.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar will be remembered for the most gripping final in history. An epic match was played in a showdown between reigning champions France and two-time winners Argentina. In regulation time, Argentina's 2-0 lead vanished in a heartbeat in the final 10 minutes of the game, thanks to a brace from Kylian Mbappe.
In extra time, Lionel Messi thought he'd won the game for his country, only for Mbappe to strike again. The tournament had to be settled based on who could hold their nerve in a penalty shootout, and Argentina won the game and the World Cup title. It was particularly significant for Messi, who finally got his hands on the trophy he has craved the most during his illustrious career. The Argentine captain hasn't ruled out a return to the international stage and could make an appearance at the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
So, the year has been full of victories and heartbreak, which is why the sport is loved the world over. If 2023 can bring us anything close to the drama and emotion we've experienced in 2022, we're in for quite the year.