Football fans around the world always crave for the World Cup and this is the year that will satisfy our thirst one more time. The 2018 Russia World Cup is already in focus due to many on- and off-field controversies. Despite all these, surely, we are going to have some exiting times ahead of us.
Starlet Lionel Messi dragged Argentina to the World Cup virtually on his own and provided a strong riposte to his critics who said he is just not good enough for the Albiceleste
. His magnificent hat-trick brought Argentina back from the depths of despair as they beat Ecuador 3-1 to qualify for the greatest show on earth.
In contrast, four-time world champion Italy, following their play-off defeat against Sweden, failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in over half a century. Italy declined to play in the introductory tournament in 1930 and will miss out on the event for only the second time in history. And that disaster had consequences as it spelled the end of the international career of veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the most capped Italian player with 175 caps. Seeing a tearful Buffon not only broke the hearts of Italy fans but also football supporters in every corner of the world.
With a population of just 3,35,000, Iceland advanced to the World Cup as the smallest ever country, beating Trinidad and Tobago, which has a population of 1.3m.
There were also many off-the-field incidents but the most serious one was perhaps that of ISIS, who released a “sick” poster of Messi crying blood in captivity in what turned out to be a chilling Russia World Cup 2018 threat. There were also a few more activities by extremists which spread fear ahead of the mega event.
And finally, a very balanced World Cup finals draw paved the way for the year to end on a good note, thus setting the tone for the new year. Arguably there is no “Group Of Death” and most of the groups are really open.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who won his fifth Ballon d’Or to equal his arch-rival Messi, will face a familiar foe as Portugal and Spain were grouped together. Argentina once again have to play against Nigeria while the presence of Croatia and newcomer Iceland will make Group D quite interesting.
Holder Germany can expect to face some tough fight from Mexico and Sweden in Group F. All-time favourite Brazil will be challenged by rising European superpowers Switzerland and Serbia in Group E while the other two Euro giants, Belgium and England, were potted in the same group.
Every year, we, the football fans, have so many leagues and tournaments to enjoy but a World Cup year is really the cherry on top. Here’s hoping for a great World Cup!
Did you know?
Because of World War II, the World Cup was not held between 1938 and 1950. As a result, Italy were the reigning World Cup champion for a record 16 years (from 1934 until 1950).