Well, the curtain has fallen on the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The fans have gone home, Russians go back to their normal routines, and the venues will sit empty in solitude until their host clubs resume domestic duties. And let’s not forget France, who are now back celebrating their World Cup triumph with their fans in Paris, 20 years after winning it there.
It’s sad to see the World Cup officially over. For me, it always fills that one month of my summer with pure radiance! Now, I must wait until 2022 when Qatar will have the honor Russia just did.
Before the World Cup started, I prayed that there would be some surprising matches along the way. And surprises I received. Mind you, some of those surprises weren’t good ones, but I guess that’s why it’s called ‘surprises’.
I took notes of everything that happened during the four weeks of the tournament: goals scored, cards given, etc. And yet some interesting things came out of this World Cup, which I’d like to point out in no particular order:
- We Did it! Uruguay and Belgium were the only teams to win all of their group games!
- You’re Fired! The coach of the Spanish team, Julen Lopetegui, was fired two days before the World Cup began after accepting the manager position with Real Madrid. Some will argue this caused La Roja to ultimately go home early after losing on penalties to Russia.
- Everybody Scores! Every team scored at least one goal! Long time since that’s happened!
- What? No Goals? Although every team scored at least one goal, there was one goalless draw in the group stage between France vs. Denmark.
- Going Home Empty-Handed. Egypt and Panama were the only teams that did not earn a point. In other words, neither earned neither a win nor draw.
- Curse of the Champions. Pre-tournament favorites Germany, who won the tournament four years ago in Brazil, went out in the group stage. In fact, this was the third time in a row that the defending World Cup champion failed to qualify for the knockout stages! What’s worse for Germany, was this was the first time in history that they went out in the group stage.
- All European Final Four. All the teams in the final four were European, the fifth time in the tournament for this to happen (1934, 1966, 1982 and 2006)
- No Red! Not one red card was issued for a violent tackle. This surprised me the most as I was expecting a plethora of them throughout the tournament. Don’t ask me why.
Which one surprised you the most?
It’s also worth noting the final between France and Croatia was the first final in 16 years that didn’t need to be settled in extra time. Well, I’m done rambling, so now back to the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!
Here’s a little random fact about me: I love soccer! I watch Spanish, Portuguese and English league soccer during the season, I played competitively in high school until I got injured during my senior year, and my dad was a professional back in England for a couple of years. Soccer is in my blood; it’s religion for me. And you can bet I’m eagerly awaiting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which begins next week.
So what’s it all about? Every four years, 32 of the best footballing nations compete for soccer’s ultimate crown. This year it takes place in Russia, and sadly many of perennial soccer nations won’t be there: Italy, Netherlands, Chile, Ivory Coast and the USA. With the United States not in it, you might think the World Cup isn’t worth passing up baseball games, BBQs, etc. However, the World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events on the planet! It seems the world stops for the beautiful game. Sports Illustrated claims “the Super Bowl will never match the World Cup for global attention, no matter how many games the NFL plays on other continents.” Pretty interesting if you ask me!
Interested in watching the World Cup? Not sure who to support? I suggest my five picks (feel free to take or leave):
- Spain – winners of the World Cup in 2010, Spain return after a disappointing performance four years ago in Brazil. Spain qualified in a group featuring Italy. They come with a youthful players from Real and Atletico Madrid. With a strong desire to make up from their early exit in Brazil, Spain will look poised to go all the way to the final in Moscow. They will be in Group B with Portugal, Iran and Morocco.
- France – Finalists at Euro 2016 and World Cup winners in 1998, France are a good bet. With players like Griezmann and Mbappe will likely go far in the knock-out stages. Their group features Peru, Australia and Denmark.
- Argentina – They’ve won the trophy twice, and made it to the final in Brazil only to have the title snatched by Germany. They will be hungry for revenge, and with Lionel Messi as their star player, who would bet against them? They will take on Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in their group.
- Germany – The Germans come to Russia as defending World Cup champions. Last year, they won the Confederations Cup in Russia, thus proving their worth as favorites for this year’s tournament. They open their group with Mexico, followed with Sweden and South Korea. With players such as Muller, Ozil, Hummels and Ter Stegen, Germany will be a potential soccer juggernaut in Russia.
- Colombia – If you’re familiar with James Rodriguez and Cuadrado, you’ll know that Colombia will be no pushovers. They already proved that by reaching the quarterfinals in the last World Cup. And they’ll be ready to go further this year. Colombia plays with heart and won’t go down without a fight. Their group includes Poland, Japan and Senegal.
So who do I think will win? Hard to say. Every team that’s made it will offer something special. We will also see a few surprises, and that’s what makes the World Cup so fun to watch. Of course, I will be supporting Spain, England and Egypt. Wherever you are, whoever you are supporting (even if you’re just watching the game for the hell of it), enjoy the beautiful game!
So tomorrow will be the beginning of what I consider to be the greatest tournament in the world: the FIFA World Cup. Some people love it, some like it to a certain degree, while others have little to no interest in it at all. I intend to watch as many games as I possibly can, even if that means I have to miss out on a class or two. I’ve anxiously waited for this during the last four years, and I absolutely get into the madness of it all. I follow soccer year-round, from my beloved Real Madrid, World Cup qualifiers and UEFA Champions League – I could go on! This World Cup is particularly interesting because it will be hosted by Brazil. Brazilians seem to be masters at the game, especially as they have won the title five times. Just about every Brazilian loves the game and will look forward to seeing the tournament being played in their own backyard.
As I am in Spain, avoiding World Cup fever is impossible. Everyone is talking about it and some are hoping Spain can lift the cup again in Rio as they did four years ago in Johannesburg (we shall see).
No matter your interest, here’s five reasons why YOU should watch the World Cup:
- It’s the world’s game. Every country on the planet knows it, so every country will be interested in it, even if they are not actually participating in the tournament.
- It’s a great excuse to have a longer lunch break, or even skip work. Perhaps, your boss is soccer fan and will let everyone watch a game or two at the office since most of the games will be on during day (depending on where you are).
- The World Cup is full of drama, excitement and controversy. Every game is full of surprises, so you never know what is going to happen.
- Everyone around the globe seems to forget their daily grind and come together to enjoy the beautiful, insatiable game. As I like to describe it, “The world stops for one second during the World Cup.”
- It only comes once every four years.
32 teams and at the end of it all, only one team will be crowned champions of the world. While there are many favorites to win this year, anything can happen. So don’t just watch the “big” games, watch as many games as you can. So do like me and enjoy the beautiful game!