Soccer

2018 FIFA World Cup: What a party Russia is throwing

The World Cup trophy appears during the opening ceremony in Moscow, Russia

The World Cup has had some interesting outcomes in Russia so far. Overall, it has been among the most entertaining and surprising tournaments in a long time.

Wow. What a tournament FIFA and Russia have going on so far! It has been a sight to see. Out of the eight countries that have actually won the world cup, only four remain. In fact, one of the past winners, Italy, didn’t even qualify for the tournament. The remaining champions are England, France, Brazil, and Uruguay. The most recent winner of this group was Brazil in 2002. However, for the latter, its been quite a while. France hasn’t lifted the cup since 1998 in Paris, England last lifted the trophy at Wembley Stadium in 1966, and Uruguay hasn’t won since 1950.

While the past winners are looking to add to their glory, the other four are looking to join the Pantheon of champions past and present. Those teams are powerhouse Belgium, hosts Russia, Croatia, and surprise team Sweden. Croatia, led by their outstanding midfield duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are poised to reach the semifinals, while Belgium tried to make the best out of a golden generation carrying high expectations.

Luka Modric Photo from Getty Images

Meanwhile, there is host Russia, who was ranked the lowest team at the start. For all the trouble, they managed to finish 2nd in their group and dispatched trophy favorites Spain on penalties. Then there is the Cinderella team, Sweden. Yes, the same Swedish team that plays as a team and doesn’t need the legendary goalscorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They won their group, the same group containing world champions Germany and a decent Mexico side.

After all the madness, the final eight that stand all deserve to be there. In a world cup where teams have been winning with last minute screamers and penalty shootouts, these teams won the game when it mattered most. Perhaps Neymar Jr’s antics during Brazil’s clash with Mexico in the Round of 16 left a bad image on the young star, or Germany’s lack of focus dragged them down, but nonetheless, what a tournament. Who would have predicted Germany adding to the cycle of champions flaming out in the group stages?

Photo property of marca.com

As a matter of fact, here is a fun fact for all those futbol fans. Since the 2002 tournament in Korea/Japan, four of the last five champions have gone home after group play has finished. France in 2002, Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014, and now Germany in 2018. The lone exception to this group is the Brazil squad of 2006. They made it to the quarterfinals that tournament.

Not to mention, Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, along with Lionel Messi and Argentina are both out as well. Will the world see them at the next world cup? Will Messi call it quits after his team failed once again? All interesting questions that will be answered with time after the tournament.

The insane part of this tournament is that there is plenty of drama and history waiting to be made. For example, while England is heavy favorites against Sweden, Gareth Southgate and company must not underestimate the Swedes. Brazil vs. Belgium is a classic matchup of pedigree vs. newcomer. Uruguay vs. France showcases stars determined to bring home the trophy. Perhaps it is even the matchup of the quarterfinals. Two former champions and soccer powerhouses go mano y mano! Finally, Russia vs. Croatia. Thinking in political terms, this matchup provides a look at how Croatia has become a good soccer nation after the breakup of the USSR and Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, Russia looks to channel some of their former Soviet glory days when the likes of Lev Yashin led the team to 3rd place once upon a time.

Photo property of soccerpro.com

Soccer, futbol, or the “jogo bonito.” All of these terms mean something to the world. For the eight finalists that remain, it’s party time in their respective countries. If your country has made it this far, congrats to them. Making the quarterfinals of the World Cup is hard and quite the accomplishment. The possibility of a former champion winning again is as likely as a new winner arising this time around. It’s about 50/50. In other words, a toss-up. Regardless of the outcome of these quarterfinals, expect last minute gasps, and perhaps unbearable heartbreak. After all, there can only be one winner.

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Eric Magana
Eric Magana
Hardworking, loyal, and passionate. I love the people that surround me because they allow me to be who I am. A lover of sports, video games, and life itself. I am a son, a brother, an uncle, and a person who holds nothing but love in his heart. I do this for Rosa Maria Magana and Edward Magana. A.k.a my folks in heaven. Music and sports keep me alive and well.
Houston, Texas.
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