by Max Barry

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by The Kingdom of Outer Sparta. . 158 reads.

The Beautiful Game - 2022 World Cup

Part 1 – 2022 World Cup

We head over to Japan where the 2022 World Cup is being held from June 14 to July 15. The original host nation Qatar was disqualified after more of their corruption and bribery was revealed. Japan was one of the nations that bid and they got the nod, meaning the US, Canada, and Mexico will still host in 2026. Here are the group stages:
A: Japan, Algeria, Mexico, Croatia
B: US, Egypt, Finland, England
C: Netherlands, Argentina, Australia, Portugal
D: Spain, Ghana, Canada, Switzerland
E: France, Uruguay, South Korea, Poland
F: Germany, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Denmark
G: Belgium, Colombia, Iran, New Zealand
H: Brazil, Nigeria, Malaysia, Italy

June 14

To kick-off the World Cup, host nation Japan gets the opportunity to play Croatia, the 2018 runner-up, at Tokyo National Stadium. Croatia goes up 2-0 with two goals from Rebic and never looked back as they crush the host nation by a score of 4-1.

June 15

Mexico makes its Group A debut against Algeria in Tokyo. Jimenez strikes first to make it 1-0 for Mexico. In the second half, Mahrez equalizes for Algeria beore Alvarez knocks in the eventual game-winning goal as Mexico beats Algeria 2-1. The US gets ready to play Finland, a country that has never participated in a World Cup till this year. Expectations are high for this US squad loaded with youth talent such as Pulisic, McKennie, Dizgovzy, The Champions League, and Outer Sparta. Kickoff starts at 1 P.M. local time at Yokohama. The Americans mount an early attack against Finland. Sparta lobs the ball to Diz but he just misses the header. “Damn it, damn it, damn it!” shouts Diz in frustration. A few moments later, the US launches a counter with Pulisic. He gets a pass from TCL, dribbles the length of the field past the Finnish defense and then passes it to Diz with the open shot. Before Diz can shoot, a Finnish defender commits a rough foul on him in the penalty area. In the 24th minute, Diz converts the penalty and the Americans celebrate. Before the first half is over, Teemu Pukki managed to get past the US defense and score to tie the game up. The second half was dominated by America with goals from Pulisic and McKennie. The US gets three points with a win over Finland. At the same time in Osaka, Egypt and England play one another. Kane strikes first but Salah equalizes with a stunning free kick to the corner that Gor nacho couldn’t reach. However, England went back to top thanks to Dele Alli’s goal and they beat Egypt 2-1.

June 16

We get the first Group C games starting off with the Netherlands and Portugal in Saitama. For the Dutch side, all eyes are on their two young stars, Rivierenland and South St Maarten. Portugal opens up the scoring in the 18th minute with a Bernardo Silva strike. Eleven minutes later, the Netherlands get a corner kick and Riv heads it in to tie the game. The Dutch side can’t celebrate Riv’s goal for long as the Portuguese go back on top thanks to a Ruben Neves strike in the 35th minute. In the 2nd half, Quincy Promes gets an assist from Riv to score in the 63rd minute to make it 2-2. The Netherlands threaten again before stoppage time with a corner. “de Jong is there to take the corner with Portugal having eight defenders squared up in the box. There’s the kick, and it’s IN!!! VIRGIL VAN DIJK WITH THE LEAP AND THE PRECISION HEADER!!! STUNNING TO SEE HIM GO OVER FIVE DEFENDERS!!!” shouts the commentator. The van Dijk header lifted the Netherlands on top of the group with a signature win over their fellow European rivals. In Sapporo, Argentina and Australia square off. Although Argentina got up in the 51st minute thanks to a Dybala goal, the rest of the match was rather boring with not much action.

Towards the evening, we finish off the day with two Group D games. Canada starts off their second ever World Cup appearance with a game against Spain in Kashima. The Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth is the star for Canada and he is the main reason the Canadians got a chance to play in Japan. Spain has high expectations and we get to see Alienage make his debut. “He’s dubbed as the next Messi if Messi played for Spain. This kid has a bright future ahead of him, so he needs to take it one game at a time and impress the world with his skills,” says the commentator. During the game, Alienage scored the first goal seven minutes into the match. “And there you have it folks, a beautiful moment for the young Spaniard as he nabs his first ever World Cup goal.” Thiago made it 2-0 for Spain in the 19th minute, Asensio scored near the end of the game to put Spain up 3-0 with a resounding win over Canada. While Alienage had a great debut, Poliet struggled against the Spanish front. “We mustn’t give up. It’s only one game,” says Poliet in his post-game address to his teammates. “But let’s face it, we have tough competition ahead of us, so let’s go out there and do our best!” The Ghana-Switzerland game in Niigata caps off the day with Libertandonien making his debut for the Swiss. He’s another one of those Swiss players with Balkan lineage. Although Ghana had nice opportunities in the first half, they couldn’t convert any. Shaqiri got a nice pass from Xhaka but couldn’t convert as his strike sails wide of the goal. Serefovic eventually scored in the 67th minute and his goal was enough for Switzerland to get the three points.

June 17

The day kicks off both Group E matches and the first Group F one. South Korea make their debut against Uruguay in Oita. South Korea is another team to watch in the tournament as they have a plethora of young talent in Lee Kang-in, Lee Seung-woo, and Apabeossie, the 19-year-old teenager dubbed as the next Son Heung-min. Speaking of Son, this is his last World Cup tournament. Uruguay doesn’t have Suarez and Cavani up front, so this is a new era for them. The match was overall boring as both sides couldn’t get much going. South Korea had the edge in possession and shots but couldn’t convert any of their opportunities. Apab made his debut as a substitute in the 75th minute. Unfortunately, he put his shot wide right of the goal, a missed opportunity for the youngster. The game ended in a 0-0 draw and both teams take a point. In Kobe, France and Poland squared off. The defending champions have a lot of weight placed on their shoulders to do well while the Polish squad looks better than their 2018 one. Lewandowski is still their leader and he is playing in his last World Cup. Poland has youngsters like Jozwiak, Kownacki, and The Kingdom of Denmark, the young Bayern star dubbed as the next Lewandowski. The beginning of the game was dominated by Poland with Lewandowski scoring a magnificent free kick in the 16th minute. However, the French didn’t let their guard down and Mbappe helped them equalize with a goal in the 30th minute. After that, the two teams were very physical and evenly matched when it came to possession. Poland eventually broke the deadlock with a Jozwiak goal in the 74th minute and they hold on to shock the defending champions. “Sacre bleu! Les Bleus perdent contre Pologne!” read the front cover of L’Equipe. The sports section of Le Monde read “Kurwa! Les polonais battent nous!” Senegal and Saudi Arabia kick off the first Group F game in Sapporo. The match remained scoreless until the 78th minute with Sadio Mane’s strike. Senegal eventually won 1-0.

June 18

We are in Tokyo with the second Group F game between Germany and Denmark. This is a highly-anticipated matchup with Germany out for blood after their premature exit in 2018 and Denmark looking to do even better. The Danes have a new weapon by their side: Laver Island. The young midfielder from Man United take the field and plays alongside his idol Christian Eriksen. The game starts off with the two teams trading possession and fighting for the ball before Denmark’s Yussuf Poulsen knocks in a free kick in in the 37th minute. At the start of the second half, Germany immediately went after Denmark and got a key interception that eventually led to a Leroy Sane’s goal in the 49th minute. Denmark got another key opportunity with Eriksen passing the ball to Laver. Laver gets tripped up in the penalty area, and Eriksen soon converts the penalty to put Denmark up 2-1. Germany could not find the tying goal as their World Cup start isn’t what they hoped for. The next game takes us into Group G with Belgium and New Zealand in Niigata. The Belgians have high expectations after their splendid 3rd place finish in 2018 while New Zealand wants to show what they have to offer. Yahlia makes his World Cup debut today. This game was all Belgium’s, with Romelu Lukaku scoring in the 5th minute and even scoring a penalty kick (which was Yahlia’s foul that led to it). Before the first half ended, Kevin De Bruyne knocked in a superb strike to make it 3-0. The game ended in 4-0 Belgium as Eden Hazard scored in the 60th minute. In Kobe, the Iran-Colombia game is taking shape. The game is expected to be in Colombia’s favor, but it didn’t look that way as Sardar Azmoun scored in the 38th minute to put Iran up 1-0. In the second half, things looked worse for Colombia as defender Yerry Mina accidentally headed the ball into his own goal. Colombia was out of sorts today as the Iranian side notch home a signature win. Following the game, the Colombian newspaper El Espectador had their front-page headline as “El desastre colombiano!”

June 19

Group H action finally gets underway and the first game is between Malaysia and Italy in Fukuroi. It is Malaysia’s first appearance in the World Cup and they got Republic of Satherland to thank, the young Liverpool midfielder who carried them in the qualifiers. Italy is back in the World Cup with a slew of young stars, with one of them being Regnum Italiae, a Juventus striker. Malaysia had one good attack where they scared the Italian defense but ultimately were thwarted early on. Regy scored the first goal of the game with a nice strike from distance. Moise Kean followed that nine minutes later with a strike of his own to put Italy up 2-0. Jorginho scored the final goal of the game later in the second half as Italy crush the World Cup newbies. Sather and Regy go for a post-game hug and the two share words of encouragement and swapped their jerseys. Brazil and Nigeria played in Osaka. The Brazilians go up in the 34th minute thanks to Roberto Firmino and they double their lead with a Gabriel Jesus strike in the second half. Nigeria couldn’t muster much offense against the tough Brazilian front and Brazil takes the victory with a 2-0 win. Before the day ended, we head back to Group A with Croatia playing Mexico in Toyota. The game wasn’t that interesting apart from a Duje Caleta-Car goal as Croatia won 1-0.

June 20

The host nation gets to play again and their opponents are Algeria in Kashima. All in all, it was a very boring game as neither team could score. England and Finland play in Tokyo as Gor and Suomessa look to propel their respective teams to win. The first half wasn’t too amazing but the second half had some action. England’s Raheem Sterling converted a penalty kick in the 67th minute. Finland’s hopes were over as Marcus Rashford knocked in a goal in stoppage time. The US plays Egypt in Saitama, looking for another win to put them firmly in the driver’s seat. Paul Arriola takes a pass from McKennie and scores in the 32nd minute. The US made it 2-0 when Champions League headed the ball from a corner in the 75th minute, and the Americans held on to win.

June 21

We go to Fukuroi which is the site for the Australia-Netherlands match. The Dutch were in control for most of the game despite the lack of scoring in the first half. The scoreless game was broken with a Gini Wijnaldum strike in the 61st minute. Frenkie de Jong put the Dutch up 2-0 after the Australians lost possession. At the same time, Portugal and Argentina play in Oita. The match started with Nicolas Gonzalez putting Argentina up a few minutes after it started. Renato Sanchez answered back in the 12th minute. Dybala put Argentina up 2-1 with a nice free kick. However, Argentina couldn’t walk away with a win as Bruno Fernandes eventually equalized in the 60th minute, where the game would eventually end in a 2-2 draw. The last match of the day took place in Sapporo with Canada and Ghana. Most of the match was a boring, scoreless affair until Poliet scored his first World Cup goal for Canada in the 80th minute. The Canadians could not escape Sapporo with a win as Jordan Ayew got past the Canadian defense to tie the game up at the 90th minute. Poliet was in shock as Canada could not hold on to victory.

June 22

Tokyo is the place for the Switzerland-Spain game. The two youngsters to watch for in the match are Lib and Alienage. Spain dominated possession as they went back to their traditional tiki-taka and eventually Asensio found the back of the net in the second half assisted by Alienage. The Swiss tried to net an equalizer but their best efforts failed to overcome the Spanish defense. Later on in the afternoon, Yokohama is the site for the Poland-South Korea game. The Poles went aggressive early on with Lewandowski and KoD working on an effective attack, but their efforts were stifled by South Korea. Eventually, Poland got an opportunity in the 32nd minute for a penalty kick; Lewandowski easily converts it to put Poland up. Son Heung-min equalizes for South Korea before the first half ended. In the second half, Krzysztof Piatek put Poland up 2-1 in the 51st minute. Apab went on as a substitute for the second half due to a minor injury sustained to starting midfielder Lee Seung-woo. He scored his first World Cup goal and found an opening to the Polish defense. Poland would soon get the upper hand with KoD heading in a cross from Lewandowski and they would go on to win 3-2. After the game, Apab and KoD congratulate one another. In Toyota, France and Uruguay play their second group stage game. France’s Ndombele starts off the scoring; however, Raphael Varane made an uncharacteristic own goal to put Uruguay on the scoreboard. The French weren’t deterred and Thomas Lemar scored to put France up 2-1, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

June 23

Denmark and Senegal play in Osaka. St Scarlett is in the stands as she attends every England and Denmark game. She cheers on Laver’s home country. Denmark gets a really nice opportunity in the 12th minute, Eriksen passes the ball to Laver with the youngster converting the open look. “YEAH!!!! GO LAVER! MAKE ME AND DENMARK PROUD!!!” enthusiastically shouts Scarlett. The game was uneventful until the 72nd minute with Andreas Christensen scoring to put Denmark up 2-0 over Senegal. Scarlett posts on her Instagram account with a caption that says “Very proud of Lavie today! He scored his first World Cup goal! Love you bb.” She soon heads to the train station to catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo to watch the England-US game in a couple of days. In Saitama, the Saudi Arabia-Germany game goes on. Aside from a Serge Gnabry goal for Germany, there wasn’t too much action. Finally, we finish the day with Colombia and Belgium in Kobe. Belgium were rattled when James Rodriguez put Colombia up in the 17th minute. In the second half, Lukaku equalizes and puts Belgium on the scoreboard. The two teams battled hard until Jason Denayer broke the draw in the 82nd minute as Belgium come back to defeat Colombia 2-1.

June 24

The day’s first game starts with New Zealand and Iran in Oita. Yahlia gets to play against some of his fellow teammates and rivals during his club days in Iran. The Iranians know Yahlia well and see him as a familiar face, particularly Tractor teammate Reza Shekari. The Kiwis get going and Yahlia scores in the 20th minute to put New Zealand up, but Shekari answers back six minutes later with a stunning free kick. Majid Hosseini put Iran up 2-1 in the 53rd minute. Chris Wood answers for New Zealand heading in a Yahlia cross. It is Iran that came out on top with a goal from Mohammad Mohebi in the 85th minute. After the final whistle, Yahlia meets up and congratulates his Tractor teammate and the two do a jersey swap. Group H action kicks off with Italy and Brazil in Tokyo. It’s a nice, physical game between some of the best footballing nations. Regy assisted Nicolo Barella’s goal to put Italy up 1-0, but Neymar answered before the first half ended. In the second half, both teams ramped up their physicality and there were plenty of fouls. Regy got booked for a yellow card after a hard tackle on Firmino. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. In Fukuroi, we have the Malaysia-Nigeria game. Nigeria’s Iwobi put his team up 1-0 and it would stay that way until Sather equalized in the 56th minute with Malaysia’s first ever World Cup goal. “History is being made today, folks! Sather scores Malaysia’s first ever goal in the World Cup. He sure is making his country proud,” says the commentators. Although Nigeria took the win thanks to an Ahmed Musa goal, Sather has made Malaysia proud and his home country is going nuts even though they lost.

June 25

We get into the final group stage games starting with Group A. Mexico beat Japan in Sapporo to secure their spot in the knockout rounds with a goal by Jimenez and a goal by Lozano. Croatia drew with Algeria 1-1 in Kobe, but they still won Group A. The day wraps up with the last two Group B games. In Kashima, Finland and Egypt played one another. Suomessa scores his first World Cup goal in the 26th minute, but Finland couldn’t get the win thanks to goals by Trezeguet and Salah for Egypt. Although Finland did better than expected, they couldn’t notch a single point. In Tokyo, the England and US game gets underway. There isn’t too much action since both teams clinched a spot, but both teams still play hard to win the group. Scarlett is present in the stands as she watches her home nation play against the Americans. Jadon Sancho scored the match’s first goal in the 30th minute. The game stayed 1-0 until Sparta equalized in the 81st minute. The US won the group on goal difference because they tied England in points.

June 26

Group C action is wrapped up starting with the Netherlands and Argentina in Yokohama. The game’s only goal was scored by Quincy Promes as Argentina could not get a win they sorely needed to advance. In Toyota, Portugal dominated Australia with two goals by Andre Silva and a goal by Joao Cancelo. Australia managed to score a goal thanks to Aaron Mooy. With that being said, the Netherlands win Group C with Portugal coming in second. In Group D, Switzerland plays Canada in Oita. The Swiss go up 1-0 in the 33rd minute with Granit Xhaka’s strike. Lib scored his first World Cup goal in the 65th minute. Poliet tried to lead Canada to come back but the Canadians couldn’t mount any pressure as they lose 2-0. Spain and Ghana played in Saitama, with the former resting their stars after they clinched a spot in the knockout round. The game ended in an uneventful 0-0 draw. Spain wins Group D with Switzerland coming in second.

June 27

Uruguay and Poland play their last group stage game in Niigata. Poland has already secured their ticket for the knockout rounds, so they are resting Lewandowski and other key starters. Dawid Kownacki scored the game’s only goal as Poland sends Uruguay home. In Tokyo, South Korea and France gear up to determine who gets into the knockout round. France took an early advantage with a goal from Jonathan Ikone. The French could have gone up 2-0 before the half ended but Mbappe sent his free kick attempt flying into the stands. Lee Kang-in scored for South Korea in the 52nd minute to finish a counterattack. France’s defense made a bad pass and it got intercepted by Son in the 59th minute who made them pay for their mistake. France could not convert their opportunities for the rest of the game (Varane’s missed header, Griezmann’s shot hitting the crossbar, and Kante’s shot going wide). “That’s it! The final whistle has been blown and the World Cup Curse continues for France! Not only that, but it’s the second consecutive tournament that South Korea has eliminated the defending champions!” The Oriental Empire's heart melted afterward. She cannot believe that France just got knocked out. “H-h-how??? How is this even possible?” sobs Orient. She heads back to her hotel mired in sadness. Newspapers also reacted with shock. L’Équipe’s front-page headline read, “Apocalypse ! Le monde a fini ! “Le Monde’s front-page headline read, “Le deuil national. Nous pleurons.” which translates to “A national mourning. We cry.” The mood is different in South Korea. Hankyoreh’s front-page headline reads “한국이 해내다!” which translates to “Korea strikes again!”

Group F games were also played that same day. Denmark played Saudi Arabia in Sapporo. Eriksen and Dolberg scored the game’s only two goals as Denmark goes on top of Group F. Senegal and Germany played in Tokyo. Timo Werner scored first in the 15th minute to put Germany up, but before the first half ended, Senegal’s Kalidou Koulibaly equalized. It was all smooth sailing for Germany in the second half with goals by Ilkay Gundogan and Serge Gnabry. Germany finished second in Group F.

June 28

Group G wraps up their games starting with Colombia and New Zealand in Niigata. Colombia first got on the scoreboard after a Duvan Zapata strike. They made it 2-0 with a James Rodriguez penalty kick. New Zealand left the tournament with zero points, but Yahlia shows us what New Zealand can be capable of. Iran and Belgium played in Tokyo to determine who wins the group. Yannick Carrasco struck first in the 11th minute. In the second half, Azmoun answers with a header. Belgium secures their win with a Divock Origi goal in the 83rd minute. Belgium wins Group G while Iran finishes second. Finally, we end the group stages in Group H. Nigeria and Italy played in Yokohama. Regy got Italy on the board with a free kick. Nigeria got on the board thanks to a Kenneth Omeuro goal in the 86th minute. Brazil played Malaysia in Saitama. David Neres and Phillippe Coutinho scored the game’s only two goals. Brazil took Group H with Italy finishing behind them.

June 30

The knockout stage begin with the Round of 16. We start off with Croatia and England in Yokohama. Gor gets ready to play, having been a steady hand for England as goalkeeper. Scarlett is excited to see England play, but she’s even more excited for the Denmark-South Korea game. England opens up the scoring with a Raheem Sterling strike in the 12th minute. The Croats answer back with a Kramaric goal in the 28th minute. The two teams had their share of opportunities; Croatia had some dangerous attacks but Gor warded them off to keep the score at 1-1. Eventually, England’s Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain broke the deadlock with a goal in the 66th minute. England would hold on to win 2-1 and send Croatia home. Scarlett is very happy to see England get one step closer to the finals. The other match took place in Osaka with the Netherlands and Switzerland. The only goal of the game was scored by Matthijs de Ligt who headed in a Maarten corner. Switzerland couldn’t convert their opportunities as Riv and Maarten’s Netherlands got the best of Lib’s Switzerland.

July 1

Today we start off the day in Saitama with a very big matchup: one between the US and Mexico. The two North American rivals have played one another many times in regional competition, but in the World Cup, this rivalry is one another level. Diz, TCL, and Sparta look to beat Mexico and make a deep run in the knockout round. The match starts off with the US producing an attack, eventually leading to a Diz goal. Mexico attempted to answer back but couldn’t get open opportunities; a Jimenez shot deflected off of TCL into the stands. In the second half, the US held off another Mexican attack and went on a counterattack. Sparta ran the ball to midfield and lobbed a pass to Pulisic which he would score in the 60th minute. Pulisic repeated his magic again scoring just seven minutes later. Mexico would get a goal by Jimenez in the 78th minute, but it was too late for them as the US dominated. The Spain-Portugal game taking place in Sapporo was yet another regional rivalry. Alienage is ready for the challenge. Portugal struck first with a Neves strike in the 19th minute. Spain would answer back in the 61st minute thanks to Alienage’s strike from distance. The two teams remained tied at 1-1 going into extra time. It was Isco who would put Spain up front after scoring a free kick. Portugal couldn’t find an answer and they bow out of the tournament.

July 2

Today is the third day of the Round of 16. In Osaka, we have yet another pair of regional rivals between Poland and Germany. Poland struck first thanks to a Kownacki goal assisted by KoD. The Germans immediately mounted a successful attack that ended in a Toni Kroos strike. In the second half, Krystian Bielik headed in a Lewandowski corner during the 57th minute. The Germans tied the game again with a Gnabry goal in the 74th minute. Extra time started with the two teams stuck at 2-2. KoD had a really good opportunity in the 114th minute but had his shot bounce off the right goalpost. No one managed to score in extra time, so we head to penalties. Lewandowski started off the shootout with a successful conversion. Timo Werner lined up for Germany and scored his. Jozwiak went up next and the youngster successfully scored. Ilkay Gundogan ties it at 2-2 with his shot. Jan Bednarek lined up for Poland and put his shot in the top-right corner. Germany’s Matthias Ginter tied it at 3-3 with his shot. Sebastian Szymanski put Poland up 4-3 but Sebastian Rudy fails to convert. KoD is up next. “The pressure is on his young shoulders…. Here’s the kick and he scores!!! Poland advances to the quarterfinals and shock Germany!!! KoD gets swarmed by his teammates and Poland’s dream run continues. “So proud of you my next Lewandowski!!!” Lewandowski enthusiastically says to him in Polish. In Tokyo, the Belgium-Italy game takes place. Regy lines up on the field, trying not to be intimidated by the front of Lukaku, Hazard, and De Bruyne. Belgium take the lead thanks to an Eden Hazard goal in the 33rd minute with the Italian side looking overwhelmed by their repeated attacks. In the second half, Regy tried to get the Italian side back in the game with a free kick opportunity; however, he pushed that one just over the goal. “Porca troia! How did I miss that?” shouts Regy in frustration. It didn’t go better for the Italians as Youri Tielemans scored in the 72nd minute. Belgium would go on to win 2-0, eliminating Regy’s Italy from the tournament.

July 3

Denmark plays South Korea in Yokohama. Laver and Apab meet in what should be a great game. The first half didn’t stir too much entertainment. In the second half, Eriksen scored in the 68th minute to put Denmark up top. “Yes! Come on Denmark! Come on Laver!” shouts Scarlett. The Koreans would answer back with Son coming in clutch in the 86th minute with a free kick. “Ahh damn this is bad…” moans Scarlett. Extra time didn’t produce any goals, so we go to penalties. Eriksen converts to put Denmark up 1-0. Kim Seung-dae answers to make it 1-1. Christian Norgaard sends his shot wide. Kim Jin-su converts his shot to put South Korea up 2-1. Laver is up next to take his kick which he successfully drills the ball into the goal. “Let’s go Laver! You can do this Denmark! Let's come back!” shouts Scarlett. The next penalty is drilled in by Heung-min. Robert Skov ties it up at 3-3 and Kang-in puts Korea back up 4-3. Martin Braithwaite converts his penalty, so it’s all up to Lee Seung-woo. “This is Seung-woo for the win. He’s… done it!!! Lee Seung-woo takes South Korea to the next round! The Danes have been sent home while the Koreans celebrate!” shouts the commentator. Scarlett is frozen in the stands. She can’t believe what she has seen, her mind races, and her heart beats ferociously. She looks at Apab and the South Korean team all celebrating and then turns her attention to the melancholic Danish team and sees Laver, bursting into tears. “Why must Denmark lose already? My poor Laver…” sobs Scarlett. She can’t take it anymore and leaves the stadium. Laver himself is distraught and covers his face with his shirt to wipe his own tears while being consoled by Eriksen. “Yes, it’s tough to go out,” Eriksen says to Laver in Danish. “But you cannot let this define you. Use this moment to become stronger. You have a bright career ahead for both Man United and Denmark. This is my last World Cup, and even though we will still play alongside each other in the 2024 Euros, you’re still the future of Denmark. I am passing the torch to you.”

“I don’t know what to say. Thank you, those words were very encouraging,” says Laver in return. The two embrace in a hug. Images of Eriksen and Laver’s hug go viral, with many viewers reacting positively as a premier act of sportsmanship between a veteran and a youngster. The last match of the game is Brazil-Iran in Oita. Yahlia at this point is already back home in New Zealand, but he watches this game and roots for Iran. Neymar scored right before the first half ended. The Iranian attack failed to achieve much as Alisson and the Brazilian defense stifled their every move. Brazil wins 1-0 and knocks Iran out of the tournament.

July 6

All the teams that advanced have a couple of days to rest up before their next matches. The first quarterfinal match is between England and the Netherlands in Tokyo. “Well folks, this should be an excellent matchup. For England they have their big three up front along with a steady goalkeeper in Gor. The Dutch side has regained their brilliance with Riv up front and Maarten in the back. It’s anybody’s game right here.” Scarlett as usual is present in the stands every time England plays. England gets an early attack with Kane’s shot blocked by Maarten. The Dutch soon launch their own offensive only to have Promes and de Jong stopped by Gor. England strikes first with a goal by Rashford in the 29th minute. The Dutch had one last scoring opportunity before the first half ended, and Riv managed to get a nice strike to tie the game. The second half was mostly a contested affair until Trent Alexander-Arnold headed in a corner in the 75th minute. Riv and the Netherlands tried to find the equalizing goal, but Gor managed to stop their shots and the English defense prevented any real opportunities. Scarlett is a very happy girl, singing “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home!” along with the rest of the English fans in the stands. Maarten and Riv both walk off the pitch, disappointed that the Netherlands couldn’t make it to the end. “It will be okay Riv,” says Maarten. “We’re in this together and let’s get stronger the next time!”

“Still can’t believe we lost to England,” replies Riv. “However, they played well and I’ll give it to Gor, he’s got the steady hands that England have sorely lacked for a long time.”

The last game for today takes place in Saitama with Poland squaring off against Belgium. Both sides have what it takes to advance with lots of star power and young talent. Belgium pressures the Polish defense on several opportunities. “There’s Lukaku… he dribbles around and passes it to Hazard. Hazard goes back to Lukaku who shoots and scores! It is a great start for Belgium and Romelu Lukaku does it again!” The second half is when Poland started to wake up and have good opportunities of their own. KoD gets a pass from Jozwiak who passes it to Lewandowski. He brilliantly finishes his shot that beat a diving Thibaut Courtois to tie the game. We head to extra time tied 1-1. Belgium gets another nice attack with De Bruyne dribbling the ball past several defenders and scoring despite a tight window. “De Bruyne impresses for Belgium again! Now that is goal worthy of a world-class midfielder!” Poland soon runs out of steam as Belgium heads to the semi-finals. KoD collapses to the ground. “Ugh… wish we would have won that one,” he says in a dejected tone. “We were so close… had I made that header right before extra time ended we would have had a shot.”

“It’s tough to end our campaign in defeat. This is my last World Cup campaign for Poland, but I know you’ll take over the reins for Bayern and Poland once I retire,” Lewandowski responds to him. He walks KoD back to the locker room.

July 7

A new day approaches us with the last quarterfinal games. The first game takes place in Kobe between the US and Spain. The Americans have a real shot of making their second semi-finals appearance in history while Spain can keep on rolling with Alienage and company. The first half featured great opportunities for both teams. Diz put a shot wide to the left while Alienage whiffled while trying to strike the ball in mid-air. The second half featured a crucial American attack in the 63rd minute. “Here’s Pulisic who passes it to Diz and he fires a cross and Pulisic heads it in!!! The Americans are in business and Pulisic is a big reason as to why!” the announcers scream. The US holds on to beat Spain 1-0. Diz, Sparta, and TCL all walk up to Alienage and give him a post-match hug. “Thank you, mi amigos,” he says to the three American stars. “I wish you all luck in the semis.” The last quarterfinal game is played between South Korea and Brazil in Tokyo. The Brazilians struck early and often with Arthur Melo’s great strike in the 17th minute and Roberto Firmino following up in the 31st minute. South Korea was determined to come back and Heung-min’s goal in the 54th minute gave them hope. Brazil got into another attack twenty minutes later. “Here’s Firmino attempting to shoot but Apab trips him up! It’s a horrible moment for the young Korean star as he not only gets a yellow card, but Brazil have an opportunity to put the game out of reach!” shouts the announcers. “Firmino… and he gets the job done! Brazil is up 3-1 with thirteen minutes to go till stoppage time!” The final whistle blows as Brazil win 3-1. Son goes up to Apab and says to him, “I’m very proud of you. I’m very proud to call you my protégé. You have been very impressive and all of Korea is proud of you. You, Kang-in, Seung-woo, and the rest of the team will have a bright future.”

July 10

The first semi-final game between England and Belgium takes place in Tokyo. Scarlett cheers at the top of her lungs, “BRING IT HOME! BRING FOOTBALL HOME!” Most of the game was boring and uneventful with the two teams locked in possession battles. By the end of regular time, Belgium and England both had two shots on goal. Belgium gets an opportunity in the 99th minute. “De Bruyne… he passes it to Eden Hazard and… OH! He just nutmegged Trent Alexander-Arnold! De Bruyne has the ball once again, he shoots and he scores!!! Belgium are one step closer to reaching their first ever finals!” England had one last chance but Kane’s free kick attempt was saved by Courtois. “And it’s over! England’s coming home while Belgium goes to play in the final!” Scarlett is very disappointed and she wells up with emotion. “It would have been cool to see England play in the final, but alas, we are already sent home,” she sighs. Gor walks back to the locker room along with the rest of his teammates in a dejected manner.

July 11

The other semi-final match in Osaka is between the US and Brazil. Neither team could get much going in regular and extra time, so we head to penalties. Sparta goes up to take the first penalty. He has his eyes on Alisson before he winds up and kicks the ball. “Sparta’s shot is… SAVED by his Liverpool teammate Alisson! He can’t believe his eyes! The US already starts in the hole!” Sparta walks back to his teammates in disgust. Brazil’s Coutinho lines up for Brazil’s first kick and easily converts it. Aaron Long takes the second penalty for the US and he ties it up. Fabinho takes his kick and it goes into the back of the net. Paul Arriola goes up for the US and ties it again with a nice penalty. Next up for Brazil is Danilo and he makes it three straight for Brazil. Next up for the US is Pulisic. “Pulisic… and he shanks it off the crossbar! Advantage goes for Brazil!” It is up to Neymar now. He can finally put Brazil back in the finals. “Neymar can emerge as a hero for Brazil. He shoots… AND IT’S GOOD!!! BRAZIL ARE BACK IN THE FINALS! The Americans end their journey today as they have come so close, yet so far and were defeated at the hands of Brazil!” Diz, Sparta, and TCL are in shock with their hearts pounding and their minds racing. “We have come very far. We were so close to tasting the finals!” says Diz.

“That would have been a sight to see, but it’s clear that we just couldn’t edge out teams like Brazil,” replies TCL.

“It’s my fault. If only I had made my penalty, things would have been different. Although I love Alisson, getting stopped by your club teammate in the World Cup is a terrible feeling,” says Sparta.

“Our time will come. This is already our best result since 1930. Let’s use the offseason to strengthen up and prepare for what lies down the road,” says TCL. The three catch up to their teammates, walking together back to the locker room and will now focus on England.

July 14

We head over to Tokyo for the third-place game between England and the US. Scarlett, Feria-Alkaline, and Miharr are all in the stands rooting for their respective teams whilst hanging out with one another. “It’s such a beautiful day,” says Feria. “Who knew we’d all be here in the world’s biggest event rooting on the guys?”

“Unfortunately, Laver is already home since Denmark got knocked out in the Round of 16,” says Scarlett. “I wish to see my Laver really soon.”

“You will, don’t worry,” replies Miharr. “Anyway, let’s enjoy this atmosphere and watch our guys play! I can tell Feria’s wearing her Diz jersey.”

The game’s first scoring came from Harry Winks in the 23rd minute who got a good pass from Oxlade-Chamberlain to put England up 1-0. England had another good opportunity before the half ended but Rashford angled his shot too wide. The US went on the offensive in the start of the second half. Sparta gets a pass from McKennie and puts the ball away in the net. “Yeah! Let’s go USA! Let’s go Sparta!” chants the American girls in the stands. Fifteen minutes later, England got a free kick after a TCL foul. “Here’s Harry Kane out to take the free kick. He shoots… AND WHAT A STUPENDOUS GOAL!!! Harry Kane with the precision shot to put England back in the lead!!!” shouts the commentators. The Americans had one more chance before the game ended to tie it up, but Diz had his shot go over the crossbar. “Come on Diz,” sighs Feria. The final whistle soon blows. England has won third place in the tournament. “Let’s go England! You make me proud!” screams Scarlett in excitement.

“Oh well, we played our very best this World Cup. Even with our talent, people didn’t expect us to go this far,” says Miharr. The English players all congratulate one another for the win. The US squad all applaud their fans and get a standing ovation from them.

July 15

Japan National Stadium in Tokyo is where the finals take place between Belgium and Brazil. Belgium is looking to win their first World Cup while Brazil looks to take home their sixth. The game is expected to be a high-scoring affair despite two brilliant goalkeepers in goal. Belgium gets the ball and plays possession for the first ten minutes before mounting their strong attack. “Eden Hazard… passes it to De Bruyne who crosses the ball back to Hazard and heads it in! Belgium strike first in the finals!” Only twelve minutes later, Brazil are threatening the Belgium side when Firmino gets an open look and scores to level the game. In the 37th minute, Lukaku drives down the field and puts away his strike to put Belgium up again. During stoppage time, Richarlison ties the game yet again! The score is 2-2 by halftime. By the 65th minute, De Bruyne shoots and scores into the left corner to make it 3-2 Belgium. Eleven minutes later, Neres brings Brazil level again with a spectacular strike from distance. It wasn’t long before Belgium got a free kick. “De Bruyne takes the kick, he lobs it and it’s in!!! Batshuayi headed it in and Belgium go ahead 4-3!” The Brazilians mounted one last attack but couldn’t find the equalizing goal. “And it’s over!!! BELGIUM ARE FIRST TIME CHAMPIONS!!! THEIR GOLDEN GENERATION DELIEVERS!!!” The Belgian squad all celebrate their glorious victory while the Brazilian side lie in shock. The Golden Ball goes to Kevin De Bruyne. The Golden Boot goes to Romelu Lukaku. The Golden Glove goes to Alisson Becker. Diz gets the distinction of the best young player, and South Korea gets the Fair Play Award. The FIFA Dream Team of the World Cup features this roster:
GK: Alisson Becker
DF: Champions League, Marquinhos, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold
MF: Christian Pulisic, Kevin De Bruyne, Son Heung-min
FW: Romelu Lukaku, Roberto Firmino, Robert Lewandowski
With all that said and done, this concludes the 2022 World Cup.

The Kingdom of Outer Sparta