Foregone is indeed, a month of sleepless nights and nail-biting moments. The world was behind a cup; no religion, no race, no caste, no nationalism, no language but only the heartbeat of football. From Russia’s win against Saudi Arabia to the victory of the Gallic rooster, the 2018 FIFA World cup was one of its kind. With a lot of spectacular goals and classic games along with the exit of defending champions Germany, this world cup had all the ingredients of a suspense thriller movie. Many hailed the traditional powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina while there was also a sizeable amount of other powerful teams like Portugal, Germany etc. However, most of the teams and the so-called star-players –Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo- all exited the tournament even before entering the semi-finals, to the disappointment of their fans all across the world.
This world cup also witnessed the rise of certain teams- like Russia, Croatia- who were not even ‘strong’ enough for several experts to enter the quarter, let alone the semi-finals and final. It is this unpredictability that makes football one of the most followed games on the planet. No other sport, be it cricket or hockey, has this kind of suspense and unpredictability towards the end of the 90th minute. A team’s fortune can change and the final tally can shift, favouring from one side to another; all in the span of a few seconds. In fact, this World Cup gave us the same lesson; that winning and losing are not permanent.
World Cup in Russia
The World Cup kick-started in Russia amidst political and economic uncertainties. Putin won another term and there was an alleged crackdown of opposition throughout the country before and after his election victory. Similarly, there was a cloud of economic turbulence owing to the fluctuating oil prices and American decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Russia was becoming more and more mysterious over the past couple of years for the outsiders and then came the World Cup, which opened up the country to nearly a million visitors from all across the world.
Then there was this grand opening where the Russian culture was portrayed for the world like one of those beautiful paintings hanging across the walls of Grand Kremlin Palace. Following the inauguration, the hosts played against Saudi Arabia and like expected, the Russian side won the game. As the games progressed, many fans and spectators across the world realized that this time, the tournament was not the usual. It saw the rise of some underdogs and the fall of several establishments in the football world.
The Saga of Russia, Croatia, and Sweden
While a football game at micro-level is all about a lot of uncertainties, the tournaments at their macro-level were somewhat predictable; at least until this world cup. Look at the past winners of the world cup. Brazil won five times, Germany and Italy winning four each, Argentina, France and Uruguay (all two times each) followed by Spain, and England (one each). This statistics itself narrates volumes about the homogeneity in the world cups so far; that three teams (Brazil, Germany, and Italy) together lifted more than half of the total number of world cup tournaments ever organized.
It was in this background that teams like Croatia, Russia, and Sweden emerged as the giant killers; who could shatter the dreams of several such established teams into pieces through their ‘never give up’ attitude and their rigour till the end of the match. In fact, the Croatian side amused the world by their come back in the game against England after trailing behind England until the 68th minute of the game.
As France won the World Cup and the Croatians left with the satisfaction of playing their first finals ever, the time has come to say goodbye to Russia and thank them for the wonderful tournament that they organized. 2018 World Cup concluded with lesser controversies and the event itself was organized. A month of celebration is also over; but as many die-hard fans say, only tournaments end. The spirit of the game shall survive and the mantra on the lip of every fan from now onwards would be “See you all in Qatar!”
Picture Credits: New York Times, nytimes.com