The International News Coverage on the 2022 FIFA World Cup4. January 2023
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has now come to an end, with Argentina beating France in the final and becoming world champion for the third time.
This competition has certainly been different than previous ones, with it taking place not in the summer months as usual, but in the two months leading up to Christmas, being fraught with many controversies long before it began and thus dividing people’s minds on whether it should even be followed or not.
Accordingly, the news coverage of the World Cup was almost omnipresent in the countries that qualified for it, and we followed this news coverage all throughout the competition. If you’re interested in how different countries reported on the competition, what keywords they used and if they focused on the political controversies at all, this article is just for you!
The data we used for this analysis are all taken from our tool, with the filter settings differing depending on what exactly we looked at. The settings most used, though, were:
KPI Dashboard → Mobile Visibility Overall
- Date Range: November 14 – December 19 2022
- Granularity: Days
- Competitors: Top 5
- Ranking Types: News Box (Headline, Text, Carousel), Video Carousel, Publisher Carousel, Other Carousel
- Keyword Sets: General keyword set
- Categories: Sports
- Interval for Tables: Full date range
Keywords and Rankings
Let’s first have a look at the keywords that were used by different countries to report on the World Cup. In order to examine this, we filtered for the Sports-category in each country for either a specific week within the competition, or the whole time-span from November 14-December 19, and extracted the keywords that were specifically about the World Cup.
Let’s have a look at the results:
Week-by-week overview for each country
Here we can see the number of keywords among the top 100 sports-keywords that were about the World Cup in each of the ten different countries we measured. We split the total running-time of the competition in five weeks to get a better overview of the course of the process.
Since the competition’s very first match was on November 19th and the other countries’ respective kick offs were set in the week from November 21 to November 28, it comes as no surprise that this week included the most World-Cup-related keywords in the majority of the examined countries. Accordingly, the preliminary news coverage turned out much lower in terms of topical keywords.
Let’s now have a closer look at the rankings that resulted in using those World-Cup-related keywords in two of the countries above. For this, we simply took the number of rankings for the topical keywords in the top 100 and put them in relation to the total number of rankings of the top 100 sports-keywords.
Here’s what we found:
The world champion Argentina unsurprisingly reported on the topic of the competition most frequently. As can be seen above, the second week was not only the one with the most keywords on the topic, but also the most rankings. Out of 44.764 total rankings for the top 100 keywords in the sports-category, 38.945 rankings were listed on World-Cup-related keywords. That’s 87,02% and therefore a massive portion of the rankings, considering there are other popular sports in Argentina besides football. Week 4, which marked the week leading up to the grand finale against France, also showed a high number of rankings in Argentina, however, the second week was on top by far.
Let’s now have a look at the U.S.A., a country where football (or soccer) isn’t nearly as popular as other sports like American football or basketball, but that was still part of the competition. How drastically different will the numbers be compared to Argentina?
Here we can see that there was an exceptionally smaller number of rankings on the World Cup in the U.S. than in Argentina – which was more or less to be expected. Nonetheless, weeks two and three did show a large percentage of rankings being on the topic with them accounting for a share of more than a quarter of the total value each. What should also not be disregarded is the fact that the U.S. exited the competition after their 3-1 loss against the Netherlands in week three, while Argentina stayed in the competition until the very end. So it’s only natural that publishers would focus their articles more on other topics after their country was no longer part of the competition.
Overview of the whole time-span
Let’s now look at the bigger picture: How did the distribution of World-Cup-related keywords look for the entirety of the competition?
We will do a more detailed inspection of the following four countries: The two finalists Argentina and France, quarter-finalist Brazil and Canada, who were among the first countries to be eliminated from the competition. Note: the highlighted games mark the matchdays for each country. Argentina and France each had seven matches, Brazil five and Canada three.
The date range we used differed depending on how long the respective countries remained in the competition, plus the preliminary-week for the two finalists. For Argentina and France we therefore used the date range from November 14 to December 19, for Brazil November 25 – December 9 and for Canada November 23 – December 1.
Let’s see what we found out:
The news coverage on the topic seems to have been quite stable throughout the competition, with there only being slight outliers upwards before the first match on November 22 and the final on December 18. Looking at what we previously found out about the news coverage on the World Cup in Argentina, this comes as no surprise.
Overall, 75 out of the top 100 Sports-related keywords from November 14 – December 19 were about the World Cup. Those could be topically grouped as followed:
- General: 9
- Names: 26
- Countries: 31
- Encounters: 9
Here are some examples for keywords in each group
– General: ‘copa mundial de fútbol’ (football world cup)
– Names: ‘lionel messi’
– Countries: ‘argentina’
– Encounters: ‘argentina francia’ (argentina france)
What’s most noticeable here is the clear superiority of L’Équipe over the other top 5 publishers. Though none of them come even close to their curve, their number of rankings is still impressive, meaning that the World Cup seems to have been an overall successful topic for publishers in France. What’s more is that for France’s fourth match on December 4, which they won 3 – 1 against Poland, there seem to have been especially many rankings for most of the examined publishers.
Overall, 71 out of the top 100 Sports-related keywords from November 14 – December 19 were about the World Cup. They are grouped as followed:
- General: 7
- Names: 23
- Countries: 41
Quarter-finalist Brazil had to say goodbye to their chance of winning their sixth world-title on December 9, when they couldn’t manage to beat Croatia. Leading up to this, the rankings on the World Cup were quite even for the top five publishers. Globo and UOL can be seen as clear winners, though, with their curves running above the other three.
Overall, 69 out of the top 100 Sports-related keywords from November 25 – December 9 were about the World Cup, them being grouped as followed:
- General: 5
- Names: 20
- Countries: 37
- Encounters: 7
Last but not least, let’s have a look at Canada, where football is not the most popular sport, but where publishers still seem to have diligently reported on their country taking part in football’s biggest competition. Here we can clearly see when Canada was about to have a match, even if there were only three in total before they were eliminated. Rankings go up when it’s matchday and stay low when Canada does not play.
Overall, 30 out of the top 100 Sports-related keywords from November 23 – December 1 were about the World Cup. They are grouped as followed:
- General: 6
- Names: 3
- Countries: 20
- Encounters: 1
How about we do our own little awards ceremony for the keywords that were most used internationally in different categories!
- Player: The player that was most reported on internationally was Argentina-captain Lionel Messi, with the most popular keyword used for him being ‘messi’. He is closely followed by Portugal-captain Cristiano Ronaldo, with the keyword being most often used for him being ‘cristiano ronaldo’. This battle between the two does seem quite familiar…
- Country: Here, the winner is, true to the competition, Argentina. Second place goes to Brazil, and third to England, who made it to the quarter-final this year.
And here’s one more question on the general coverage of the competition in relation to other sports:
Where was ‘world cup’ the number one keyword in the sports-category?
The answer is: Barely anywhere! Only Canada and Brazil had ‘world cup’ and ‘copa do mundo’ listed as their overall top keywords. In most other countries though, it could be found in second or third place, after other sports-related keywords – okay, admittedly, in some cases those keywords were still somehow related to the World Cup, like for example ‘messi’, which was number one in Argentina. In the football-loving U.K., though, ‘world cup’ it is only fourth place and even in France, the finalist’s country, ‘coupe du monde’ could not beat the number one keyword ‘ligue 1’.
Coverage of Political Topics
Due to the ongoing situation in Iran, where thousands of people risk their lives everyday protesting against their regime that was responsible for the death of 22 year old Masha Amini and many more after her, the world was looking at the Iranian football team in particular for this World Cup.
After the players openly refused to sing along with their country’s national hymn at their first match against England, the government threatened their relatives with imprisonment and torture. So, for the next game against Wales and the following one against the U.S., they did sing along.
Furthermore, thousands of Iranians that were faithful to the regime were reported to be on site looking out for possible protesters; some of these “critical fans” were even reported to have been removed from the stadiums prior to Iran-matches.
Before their third game against the U.S., things got especially heated, since the rivalry against the two countries goes far beyond sports. Accordingly, the news coverage leading up to that game was filled with articles on Iran around the world.
Here are some other interesting facts we found out about the coverage on the topic:
- The keyword ‘iran’ is among the top 100 sports-related keywords in all 10 countries we measured.
- In every country except Australia, there were >1000 rankings for the keyword (Australia: 589).
- The country with most rankings on ‘iran’ was Switzerland with 3097 in total.
- The most rankings overall could be observed in week two (the week leading up to the match against the U.S.); the least in week four (December 5 – December 12).
- In Germany, most rankings could be found in week four, while in all other countries except Switzerland, ‘iran’ wasn’t even part of the top 100 keywords for that week.
Another controversial incident at this year’s World Cup was the plan of some players to wear tolerance-supporting armbands for their matches, to rebel against the homophobic government Qatar was known and criticized for by many western countries and to set a sign against homophobia, racism, antisemitism, misogyny and for human rights.
To achieve this, players like Germany’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and England’s captain Harry Kane announced they would be wearing armbands that stated ‘One Love’ for their matches, which should show their support. The FIFA, the international governing body of football, did not allow this and threatened with penalties or even exclusions from the competition for the players.
Considering all this controversy, it hardly comes as a surprise that this topic was heavily discussed in many news-outlets around the world. Let’s see what we were able to find out:
- In all of the ten observed countries except Argentina and Mexico, keywords surrounding the One-Love-affair were ranking during the time-span from November 14-December 19.
- The country with the most rankings on the topic was the U.K. with 800 rankings for ten different keywords on the topic.
- The country with the largest amount of different keywords used was Germany with 13 in total, but with less total rankings than the U.K. (466 in total).
Of course, not everything that publishers reported on was political and sporty topics were also obviously part of the news-coverage.
By daily checking one of our latest additions of our tool, the Topic Inspiration, we were able to get an in-depth overview of what was happening with the World Cup throughout its entire running-time. We used it for three countries: the U.K., the U.S. and Germany, tracking the keywords ‘world cup’ and ‘wm’. Before getting into our findings, let’s first have a quick look at what the Topic Inspiration feature can do:
The Topic Inspiration feature is part of our Keyword Manager in the News Dashboard and provides inspiration for keywords from Google News, Google Trends or your own, individual manual keywords. It shows which keywords also currently rank for the existing rankings in the News Boxes on the Google SERPs, in Google News and Google Trends. If you want to learn more about the Topic Inspiration, check out our blog post.
Alright, back to business!
With the help of this feature, we were able to pick out a few other things that happened throughout the competition and that were heavily discussed in media. What was particularly striking is that the Topic Inspiration showed that the news media coverage put its main focus on the sports part of the World Cup, at least in the three countries we examined. Mainly, keywords relating to soccer players like ‘messi’ or ‘ronaldo’ ranked. But in the first week, at least in Germany and the U.K., there was news media coverage of the One Love armband (“one love binde”, “armband”) and the protests in Iran (“iran”, “protests”), seemingly the most heavily discussed political topics, as we already discussed above.
An example of our findings in the Topic Inspiration feature can be seen in the screenshot below, which was taken on December 14, and which concerns itself with the U.K. news coverage of the keyword ‘world cup’:
As we can clearly see here, on this day the number one topic was that of Argentine captain Lionel Messi announcing his retirement from the national team – quite shocking news for the world, especially considering that he was on the road to winning their first world-title with them this year.
And here’s another example of what we found out with the Topic Inspiration-feature. This screenshot was taken on December 15 and concerns itself with the news coverage of the keyword ‘world cup’ in the U.S. on that day.
Among more general keywords like ‘world cup 2022 live’ or ‘argentina world cup’, we can clearly see that publishers were reporting on a Moroccan girl, which became viral after giving an ecstatic interview after Morocco won against Portugal, bashing Cristiano Ronaldo for having lost and gaining a lot of online-hate in response.
Additionally, on this day there were clearly talks about the American sports-journalist Grant Wahl, who suddenly died while being at the World Cup in Qatar and stringing up many controversies of his death not being as accidental as it was made seem to be.
That was a lot of info, but the next World Cup is still four years away, so there’s plenty of time to digest.
What our tool was able to show is that even though the amount of news coverage differed from country to country (e.g. Argentina and the U.S.), there was still news coverage in every one of the ten examined countries that participated in the competition. Sure, publishers in the U.S., Canada and Australia still have their go-to sports they reported on more than they do on football, but if they did report on the World Cup, the rankings they received were all quite decent to say the least.
What we also found out is that, even though the FIFA World Cup is a highly anticipated sports-event, many of the ranking keywords concerned themselves not only with sports-topics, but were critical and politically tinged due to the many controversies surrounding the competition. Essentially, though, the majority of reports were still on the sport itself.
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