It’s been a while since I have written or read anything substantial. Part of the blame goes to a general sense of lethargy. Procrastinators like me find it to be their second nature. But another, substantial part, has to be attributed to the ongoing FIFA Football World Cup (soccer for American friends).
I’m an avid football fan and I follow almost all the major European leagues and the UEFA Champions League throughout the year.The World Cup, coming as it does once every four years, is a different beast. One can talk football even with those who don’t usually watch or follow the sport. The general air of excitement and interest of watching the best teams in the world dazzle and slug it out for the trophy is similar to other sports’ world cups/grand slams, only with a substantially larger fan following.
At the outset, I was rooting for three teams- Brazil, Spain and France, plus England to some extent, although, given England’s history of underachievement in major competitions (except ’66), I wouldn’t say that I had any high hopes from them.
In their loss to Russia, Spain were either bewitched by the sheer organisation of the Russian citadel, or bewildered to such an extent that their high number of completed passes (1000+), frustrated us, instead of wowing. It felt sad to see so many of my favourite players fall at the second hurdle, but Spain, of course, only have themselves to blame.
Kylian Mbappe is someone whose devastating displays I’d mostly watched highlights of, but in his team’s win over France, he made sure people like us got a compelling viewing, live.
I think Brazil would edge it vs Belgium, quite comfortably, hopefully. And I’d love to see Luka Modric dominate the pitch again vs Russia. Harry Kane is already top of the Golden Boot chart but the business end of the tournament starts now. He must carry England to at least the semis or his (likely) Golden Boot win would look as hollow as that of Oleg Salenko (although, every Golden Boot counts, so… 😀 ).
The wonderful thing about Russia 2018 is the fact that a lot of the games have had late, late goals (think Kroos vs Germany or Mina vs England), as also that no one team can lay claim to be the clear favourite. South Korea’s win against Germany was a truly heartwarming moment for me (cheers to Asian football, apologies to Germany fans). In the same vein, the most heartwrenching moment was Japan’s last-gasp loss vs Belgium. Maybe their game management wasn’t as good as it should have been, after being 2-0 up with an hour on the clock. But here’s hoping players like Honda, Inui and Kagawa will inspire the next generation of Asian stars, and hopefully, we’ll have a first Asian winner of the cup in the next 3-4 World Cups.
I have to make another apology. Like many fellow Indians, I am more familiar with European club teams and South American national teams than I am with the Indian national men’s football team. Hopefully I, and others like me, will go on to shower some of this spontaneous love and attention on my own country’s team. Hopefully we’ll have an Indian team at the World Cup finals soon.
Just watch this video and feel the passion (hat tip to Iceland!)
I am excited for the next round of matches and beyond. Are you?
All images credit : Google Images.
Thanks for reading.