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

It was 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 lore – to a whole host of issues off the field, there was so much to talk about. And or to write about us.

Whether it’s Lionel Messi’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Louis van Gaal’s attempt to attend Qatar in a wheelchair, or the early trend of 100-minute games, the athlete was with you every step of the way.

These are our 10 most read stories of the last 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 boost his country’s prospects when news of a bid first broke in 2017. Therefore, the Argentine captain’s decision to agree an ambassadorial deal with the Saudis is quite complicated, as Adam Crafton found out.


OK, yes, some of our pundits said Argentina would win the whole thing and it hasn’t gone to plan for them yet. But Spain lost their opening game against Switzerland in 2010 and went on to win the World Cup, so they’re not wrong yet…

3. Qatar has waited 12 years for the World Cup – but the first day did not go according to plan

Long queues, empty seats and a mere defeat – the first day of the tournament did not go as well as the hosts would have liked, either on or off the field.


One hundred players to watch out for at the tournament. Twenty-two writers have contributed to a project that has taken months to complete and will feature at least one player from each nation at the World Cup. We even singled out Salem Al-Dawsari, the top scorer in that wonder goal against Argentina.


Over the years, 79 nations have competed in the World Cup, wearing hundreds of different kits – some more memorable than others. The Athletics Nick Miller has already reviewed all the home and away kits that will feature at the 2022 World Cup, so in this article he takes a look at the best and worst World Cup kits of all time.


How have football tactics evolved in more than 50 years on football’s greatest stage? Era by era, chart by chart, Total football passing network by Pele ball possession value per 90 stats, John Muller provides his data history of the last 14 World Cups.


Louis van Gaal was diagnosed with cancer during Netherlands qualifiers for Qatar and underwent brutal radiation therapy. As they secured their World Cup spot, photos from the dressing room 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 figures.


This is perhaps the most complicated World Cup in history when dealing with issues related to migrant workers and human rights. And that’s before you get to football. We’ve answered some of the basic questions about this tournament.



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

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