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Football fans are only 90 minutes away from knowing who will win the World Cup and be crowned World Beautiful Game Champion. Well, given the performance of the refereeing at the tournament in Qatar, it will probably be 90 minutes plus a few more. Even then, an extra 30 minutes could be added if the game is tied at this stage. And if it's still balanced afterwards, penalties await.

The penalties are unbearably tight. If, like me, you'd rather take your eyes off the drama on the pitch at this point, here are three of The Conversation's best World Cup articles to distract you from those tense moments.

Messi the GOAT? Wait, don't forget Maradona!

On December 18, 2022, Lionel Messi is set to take his final steps on a World Cup football pitch - he could end his international career by lifting the trophy he has coveted in five tournaments, his first being in 2006.

An outstanding performance in the final will cement in the minds of many football fans that Messi is truly the greatest player of all time.

Europe Against South America (again)

As at every World Cup since the start of the tournament in 1930, the two finalists come from one or two continents: Europe and South America.

Szymanski, in turn, has a theory as to why: football suffers from what economist call “the middle-income trap”.

“The idea is that developing countries start to catch up with developed countries, but then they hit hurdles,” he explains.

Certainly, the teams from Africa and Asia are doing better than before and have gained new respect in the global game.

A Turning Point for Africa?

Morocco had a really great tournament. They beat Belgium. They defeated Spain. They also beat Ronaldo's Portugal. OK, Morocco lost to France in the semi-finals, but losing to the defending champions is no big shame. It also made Morocco the first African nation to qualify for the last four of the World Cup. A remarkable feat for a team that few could convince before the start of the tournament.

And that wasn't the only recent breakthrough in African football. As Howard University's Chuka Onwumechili noted, 2022 has been quite the year for football fans in Africa. The CAN, the African Cup of Nations, got the year off to a flying start by showcasing the best of the continent.

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