These are The Athletic’s 10 most-read stories of the World Cup so far


It has been a remarkable first week of the World Cup. From shocks on the field — unexpected defeats for Argentina and Germany that will go down in tournament folklore — to a whole range of off-field issues, there has been so much to talk about. And or us to write about.

Whether it is Lionel Messi’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Louis van Gaal’s quest to take part in Qatar while wheelchair-bound or the early trend of 100-minute matches, The Athletic has been with you every step of the way.

These are our 10 most-read stories from the past seven days…

1. ‘He sold himself to the devil’ – Messi, 2030, and a very uncomfortable deal with Saudi Arabia

Argentina wants to host the 2030 World Cup. So does Saudi Arabia. Lionel Messi helped promote his country’s prospects when news of a bid was first publicised in 2017, so the Argentine captain’s decision to agree an ambassadorial deal with the Saudis is a rather complicated one, as Adam Crafton found out.

OK, yes, some of our experts said Argentina would win the whole thing and it has not gone to plan for them yet. But Spain lost their opener in 2010 to Switzerland and went on to win the World Cup, so they are not wrong yet…

One hundred players to look out for at the tournament. Twenty-two writers contributed to a project that was months in the making, and it features at least one player from every nation at the World Cup. We even picked out Salem Al-Dawsari, scorer of that wonder goal against Argentina.

Over the years, 79 nations have participated in the World Cup, and they’ve done so wearing hundreds of different kits — some more memorable than others. The Athletic’s Nick Miller has already reviewed all of the home and away kits that will feature in the 2022 World Cup, so in this article he looks at the best and worst World Cup kits of all time.

How have football tactics evolved on football’s biggest stage over more than 50 years? Era by era, chart by chart, Total Football passing network by Pele possession value per 90 stat, John Muller provides his data history of the past 14 World Cups.

Louis van Gaal was diagnosed with cancer and undergoing brutal radiotherapy sessions during the Netherlands’ qualifying campaign for Qatar. When they secured their World Cup place, dressing-room photos showed the former Manchester United manager in a wheelchair. Daniel Taylor tells the story of a remarkable year in the life of one of football’s great characters.

This is perhaps the most complicated World Cup in history to navigate, given issues around migrant workers and human rights. And that’s before you get to the football. We answered some of the fundamental questions surrounding this tournament.

(Top photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)


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