The 2018 Russia World Cup will undoubtably be remembered as one the best in the tournament’s history with countless great goals such as Messi’s against Nigeria and Pavard’s against Argentina, the shock exits of Germany, Spain and Argentina and memorable moments such as England’s penalty shoot-out victory against Columbia and Belgium’s last-minute winner against Japan. With such a plethora of spectacular moments scattered throughout, some may not realise the wider impact this tournament will have on world football and the importance that the last month of football may have in the coming years. With breakout stars and underdog stories, we may look back on this World Cup as the catalyst of a change in the football landscape for many years to come for various different reasons.
It showed a change of the guard of the world’s best players
For the last decade, Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo have been by far the two best players in the world with very little challenge from any others. However, with both men aging and coming to the end of their football careers, many in recent years have questioned who will take up the mantle of being the world’s best player and really establish themselves on the global stage. And the man who most people thought this would be was Neymar, so this World Cup was expected to be his coronation at the summit of world football, especially considering he was playing for pre-tournament favourites Brazil. However after a string of bad performances and an early exit for his nation, it was in fact his PSG counterpart who really lit up this summer’s football. Kylian Mbappe has really cemented himself as the true new-age superstar in world football, after the nineteen year old helped France win the whole thing with four goals, including one in the final against Croatia, and collecting the best young player award for the 2018 World Cup. With Messi and Ronaldo both having poor tournaments, with their respective countries getting knocked out in the second round, and Neymar having a disappointing summer with many deriding the Brazilian for how much he dived, therefore ruining his chance to make this his standout World Cup, this summer may be looked back on as the time where Mbappe really stepped up his game and showed everyone that he will be the best player in the world for many years to come.
It presented the positive side of football fans
Before this summer’s World Cup began the main talking point wasn’t the football, but instead the host nation. Russia was a very unpopular choice to host it with them receiving it in controversial circumstances, with many people worried that fan violence and moral issues would overshadow the whole tournament. But instead, a huge talking point after this World Cup has been the positive atmosphere that the football has created not only in Russia, but around the world. Reports from Russia have all suggested that the fans have been suburb, with the Peruvians and Australians particularly being welcomed by locals due to the positive atmosphere they created. The fan parks in Russia would be filled with fans of all different nations and instead of there being similar reports to those that came out of Euro 2016, people were talking about how well everyone got along and made it an enjoyable experience. The Japanese fans were spotted cleaning up the stands after their games against Columbia and Senegal, again showing that not all football fans are hooligans trying to start fights, and this World Cup really showed off the culture of all this different nations. And it wasn’t only in Russia where the effect was felt. In England for example, there has been a month of optimism and joy as we watched our team progress to the semi finals and this brought the nation together, showing that even through difficult political climates and issues in the country, football can bring people together and this summer has been a prime example of that.
It has brought back the underdogs in international football
One criticism that could be levelled towards international football is that it is always the same teams who win major tournaments and it gets repetitive. With the favourites before the tournament being five-time winners Brazil and holders Germany, no one predicted just how different the landscape of this tournament would be compared to previous editions. The semi finals of the 2018 World Cup were France vs Belgium, and England vs Croatia, so they included three sides that between them have only lifted the trophy once. Many people downplayed England and Croatia getting to these latter stages due to the seemingly easy run that they had, however all this shows us that smaller nations do in fact have a chance against the giants of the international game. Apart from the victors France, all of the traditionally big teams were knocked out early, with Argentina and Spain going out in the second round, Brazil in the quarter finals, and Germany not even making it our of the group. So this does give hope to the underdog in the coming tournaments because they know that they can go and beat one of these big sides if they know their system and work hard constantly throughout the match. If you look back at previous major tournaments, there are very few examples of an unexpected team winning it, with the only real examples being Greece and Denmark winning the European championships, and in World Cup history you have to go back more than half a century for West Germany’s shock win against Hungary in 1954 and Uruguay beating Brazil in 1950. But this summer’s World Cup will give hope to countries like Croatia, Belgium and England that it is possible that in the next few tournaments we could see a shock winner on the cards.
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