Golden feet — 2018 FIFA World Cup

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins in Russia in a flurry of excitement. That there is no single, overwhelming favourite to win the trophy has only added to the appeal of what is cracked up as the world’s biggest sporting event. Brazil, the most successful World Cup team of all time, appears revived after a humiliating semifinal loss on home soil four years ago. Tite, the manager, has made the world fall in love with the Selecao again, shunning the dull style of his predecessor Dunga and helping produce some captivating football. Germany, the reigning champion and the side that inflicted a 7-1 defeat on Brazil in Belo Horizonte, has looked far from its best in its last few friendly matches. But this is a world-class side with gifted, young players and is supremely organised. Spain, revitalised after two poor tournaments, sacked its manager Julen Lopetegui for signing on as manager of club powerhouse Real Madrid. With a squad featuring several Madrid and Barcelona players, the decision was made to retain team cohesion, which helped it sail through the qualifiers. France comes with a roster full of frightening, jaw-dropping talent, but that alone — as the Euro 2016 final demonstrated — is never enough. Then there are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, widely regarded as the greatest players of the modern era, who could well be appearing in a World Cup for the last time.

Messi has recently endured much heartbreak on national duty, Argentina finishing runner-up at the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Copa America. In the last of those finals, Messi missed a penalty in the shootout, after which he announced his retirement. But the little magician from Rosario was persuaded to return. It is flawed to contend that Messi needs a World Cup win to be considered among the best of all time. Football, after all, is not an individual sport; but there is no denying that such a triumph will immortalise him in the hearts of Argentine fans. Ronaldo, fresh off Champions League glory with Real Madrid, continues to spearhead Portugal’s challenge, displaying a phenomenal level of fitness and skill even at 33. For host Russia, the tournament is an opportunity to showcase itself to the world at a time when its relations with the West are severely strained. Its sporting reputation needs repairing too after a massive doping scandal. The decision to award the 2018 FIFA World Cup to Russia eight years ago was by no means a popular one. There were allegations of corruption, even if a report by FIFA’s Ethics Committee cleared the Russian bid team of wrongdoing. But all that could well be forgotten if the country delivers a successful World Cup. With the award of the 2022 edition to Qatar also under sustained spotlight, much is at stake for FIFA too.


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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 12:07:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/golden-feet/article24156734.ece

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