The 2018 World Cup has had more than its fair shares of glorious upsets and violent delights. Defending world champions Germany crashed out of the World Cup after a shock 2-0 loss to South Korea, courtesy of two stoppage-time goals. Such an outcome barely seemed possible at the start of this month, when it selected a squad so loaded with talent that a cache of genuine world-class stars were omitted.
Brazil, the giants of World Cup football, were toppled by the tiny country of Belgium, who played a masterfully strategic game. Close rivals Spain and Portugal, who were also contending favorites, and clashed with each other in an epic first-round match, got knocked out by Russia and Uruguay respectively.
To add to the drama, underdogs Croatia also beat host country Russia, to snatch their spot in the semi-finals. The most goals ever scored by one player in a World Cup match is an impressive five, by Oleg Salenko of Russia, so the country will be devastated by their recent exit.
In the aftermath of the time the quarterfinals, legends of the modern game like Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar have all bit the dust.
Out of 32 starting teams, just 4 now remain in contention for the exalted FIFA World Cup trophy. For the very first time since 1958, Italy was not part of the FIFA World Cup. Some teams did not make it to the World Cup regardless of their soccer skills. Zimbabwe was expelled by FIFA from qualifying in the World Cup Russia 2018 because they did not pay their coach. Then Indonesia was expelled by FIFA for participating in the qualifiers because of its government’s interference in the game.
The semi-final matches will be over by today, with France defeating Belgium 1-0 yesterday, and England playing Croatia today. Apart from France, these teams would have been all outsider bets at the bookies at the beginning of the World Cup.
That said, France is by no means clear favorites, as all as England and Croatia have risen to the occasion, applying some superlative soccer to overcome their opposition. It’s going to take passion, belief and skill for each team to rise to the occasion and win the final.
Like England in 1966, France also won the World Cup on their home soil back in 1998, which may give both teams a motivational edge. Somewhat remarkably, all the semifinal teams are European. In today’s very international game, this means that some fans will be watching players they usually support at the club level, but playing for the other side!
3.2 billion people (almost half of the world’s population) tuned in to watch the 2014 World Cup, making soccer, or ‘football’ as most nations call it, the planet’s most popular sport. Like the Olympics, it only comes round once every four years, making it an exceptional sporting event.
The World Cup has been played 20 times, Brazil holds the most titles with five. Italy and Germany are close behind with four each. Though, all of these teams have lost their chance to reclaim the title this year. We will have to watch and see who writes the annals of football history in 2018.
It’s not unusual to see the final games of the World Cup to be decided on nail-biting penalties- if you want to learn what this is all about then check out this blog.
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