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A view of a pyrotechnic display from outside the Lusail Stadium after the World Cup final between Argentina and France on Sunday. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Fireworks lit up the night sky at the Lusail Stadium. The golden crucible, bathed in floodlights, stood proud as the Qatar World Cup wound down on Sunday (December 18) in a blaze of pyrotechnics. The singing, cheering and dancing reverberated in the stadium as Argentinians celebrated a World Cup win after 36 years. A proud moment for Argentina and Lionel Messi.

Away from the spotlights, Qatari officials must have been beaming with pride. Proud to have delivered a fantastic World Cup. The exhilarating final only served to burnish the tournament.

The first World Cup in the Middle East, the first in the Arab world and the second in Asia came with huge expectations. And fears. Can Qatar handle an event of this magnitude? After all, this is the biggest sporting event on Earth.

State-of-the-art stadiums

Qatar answered those questions with a memorable tournament. A $220 billion project transformed the Gulf nation with state-of-the-art stadiums, a new city, a new metro and much more. The result was a unique World Cup experience. Spectators went home gushing about the warm hospitality and the excellent facilities.

A World Cup in the Middle East had its own flavour, the Arab flavour. It was a boon to people in the region and the rest of Asia with easy access to Asia. So hundreds of thousands of people flew into Doha for the matches: 120 flights took off from Dubai World Central every day.

Expatriates in Gulf states too savoured the World Cup experience, a first for most of them. Among them were ardent supporters of Argentina and Brazil. So all the spectators in the blue and white La Albiceleste colours didn’t hail from Argentina. Several thousand were from the south Indian state of Kerala and working in the UAE.

Morocco's fairytale run

Qatar may have had a forgettable World Cup debut, losing all their matches. But the tournament was replete with upsets, and none more stunning than the fairytale run of Morocco, who became the first Arab and African nation to make the semi-finals. Japan and South Korea kept the Asian flag fluttering with their hard running and swift counter-attacks.

It was also Messi’s last World Cup. And he owned it with several magical moments to haul Argentina into the final. And what a final that was. Certainly one of the best. Maybe, even the best.

The Messi coronation was the icing. The ultimate prize in football was finally in his grasp. It was the moment when greatness descended on the little man. Qatar will be remembered for that too.

More importantly, Qatar delivered a World Cup to remember.