The season to go Football is here. In just the next few hours, the world’s greatest tournament on the earth is set to go live. Those who are upbeat may surely experience a skip in the heartbeat and those who are only waking up to realize the magnum opus of FIFA is here will be jostling with nervy excitement in every single dribble, in every faultless move, with every sensational kick, and above all- with each sterling goal scored.
But here in the Perestroika of awe and thrill, it will make for quite a sporting site to witness the focus of the attention gravitating toward a sport, sticking out of the realm of geopolitical affairs and international politics. For starters, the pure savage value of the cash money that is on the burner should drive any team to extract the very best from it’s skin. You know you’re up for something grand when a whopping $791 million is out there for the taking, this is, precisely $215 million more than Brazil.
While a sum of $400 million is to be disposed to the teams, the winner takes $38 million.It’s not everyday when icons like Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, Ozil among others make for headlines in a country that’s so used to Put-in(g) up with news resting with the head of the state.
While enthralled fans would surely expect the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be a titanic duel between arguably two of the greatest rivalries (and battles) on the face of the earth in Messi versus Ronaldo, both having not had the pleasure to lift a world cup for their nations, the odds seem to be heavily stacked in favour of Spain, England and, Germany. Should the 2018 FIFA World Cup be Messi and Ronaldo’s last, which means the two legends contesting with that mind-frame, it could be fireworks in the cool of Russia.
The classicists and romantics who feel Spain are hugely due for something special and hence the 2018 FIFA World Cup glory would reckon Andre Iniesta, Barcelona’s key strength will score the victory stroke. If you go by the math, then it will tell you that Iniesta scored the only goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup finals. This was the team that dominated back in 2008 up until 2012, the last when their form seemed ethereal. But now, there’s reason to believe that the camaraderie between the coach and some of the senior players, that are back in the international fold will work wonders for Spain, second best only to teams like Argentina and Portugal being singularly dominated by Messi and Ronaldo respectively.
Coach Julen Lopetegui has worked for 5 years as an REF man has been around to see the prominence of guys like Barta, Koke, Isco, Moreno, Saul, Muniain, Carvajal and so far, Spain have remained unbeaten on the coach’s watch. The question is, what will the 2018 FIFA World Cup provide?
The first thoughts about the legendary land of Pele are about the striking mid-field composition. But in order to bring up a moment of reprieve, experienced in their last campaign, Brazil will have to absolutely abandon the memories of the heartache suffered at the hands of Germany in Belo Horizonte.
Even as Augusto has arguably suffered a dip in form, it is the likes of Casemiro and Fernandinho that will offer invaluable support to Neymar. The side, nevertheless, forms an excellent troika of intelligence, defensive stability and consistency, the latter of which would be judged in the topmost echelon of Soccer this time around.
Not only young and vibrant but bolstered by the promise of several young talents that comprise a strong, capable line of defense including Adil Rami, Presnel Kimpembe and above all- their captain Raphael Varane. Whosoever wishes to take France lightly might be doing a misnomer akin to convincing oneself about the stunted height of Eiffel Tower. There’s reason to believe in France’s incredible abilities as recently they took things away twice from previous World Cup winners Germany and caused scintillation thanks to some devastating counter-attacks.
Amid the growing hype around the team, it’s time for France to add some silverware to it’s trophy cabinet and in Real Madrid’s thrice-Champions League-winning centre-back, there’s reason to believe France are in safe hands.
Arguably, among the fastest improving sides in all of Europe, Denmark’s presence may not send shivers down the spine of rival teams, but in holding an unbeaten record of 11 wins, since their losses in qualifying against Poland and Montenegro in 2016, enter the 2018 FIFA World Cup with some confidence.
But whether this confidence can translate into a silent surety depends on how well players like Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen play. The silent word about Denmark and France is that they will forge their path ahead successfully.
It’s not often that among the most keenly anticipated sides in a FIFA World Cup happens to the one that enjoys the smallest fan-base. With only 330,000 people Iceland’s support and representation may be the smallest at the magnum opus of Soccer but teams like England would remember the devastating blow they received in 2016, when Iceland knocked them out in the run to the Euro quarter-finals.
Qualifying ahead of Croatia and Ukraine meant that Iceland’s footballing dreams weren’t like a flash in the pan. Cardiff City’s Aron Gunnarsson may the lone attacking threat, albeit a truly inspiring force for a largely inexperienced side.
They are fortunate to be led by plenty of playmakers in Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and, Ivan Perisic, even as on paper they seem to be a tough team to beat.
There will be hopes and tons of them entrusted on the only African team to have qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but whether the John Obi Mikel-driven side can make it count would ultimately rest on the abilities of talents like Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and, Victor Moses. For starters, they’ve given a scare to Argentina in winning an international friendly 4-2 in Russia, especially having been 2-0 down. But can that feisty performance continue in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, we will have to wait and follow.
It does not seem whether qualifying for the quarter-finals looks an unrealistic dream for the European side whose real task, it seems, should be in proving that they are more than the sum of their parts.
Having a depth of experience in playing in World Cups, including a core-set of players who have been a part of the side since the Under-17 days, calls for some serious contention, maybe not for an ultimate win but for advancing to the latter stages? Maybe, their biggest woes in searching for a high-class defender have ended in Basel’s Manuel Akanji.
They might have impressed back in 2014, which was, well 4 years ago, but this is a side that’s been a regular in the FIFA World Cup for quite some time. In West Ham’s Javier Hernandez, they have a world class talent that can rub shoulders with the best in the game.
Every now and then, there comes across a dark-horse that can turn the tide of things and capture a global sensation by the power of its fist. Admirers of prodigal forces- Argentina and Portugal- will tell you that Belgium are a moving enigma, albeit a silent one at that. For a team that has a Romelo Lukaku up front, a genius in Eden Hazard- nevermind the surname rival teams- and a goalkeeper in someone like Thibaut Courtois, there’s hardly a doubt about talent and capability. But now is the time to deliver for a side that has capable back-up talents in Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
Could they be called the spiritual force of the world cup and a talent that can produce an earth-shaking performance of a high magnitude? Purely on past world cup form- yes! But can they likes of Toni Kroos, and an Ozil- if he’s fit and dandy- deliver the team from imposing threats all around- will decide Deutschland’s eventual fate. But it seems that the world cup defenders are in good shape particularly where the 2017 onward form stands.