With the World Cup coming to a close this weekend we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge this greatest of sporting events. While in the U.S. soccer (we will be calling it football here on out) is not the cultural phenomenon it is in most of the world the excitement can be felt here to, even when the US Men's National team failed to qualify. Sports tend to universally bring out a passion that unites people unlike anything else in this world. Football is the most popular sport worldwide (I’m sorry America it’s true, move on) and watching people all over the world come together to celebrate its best is amazing.
763 players making up 32 teams are giving 31 days and up to 7 games to battle it out to see who gets to be the world champions for the next 4 years. Any football fan knows it is a sport of unexpected outcomes and this Cup has been not disappointed. Russia’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia opened the Cup with a bang that has echoed through the rest of the Cup. Superpower Argentina was unable to beat underdogs Iceland in their opening game, Germany continued the pattern of defending champs exiting in the group stage and Egypt failed to win a game. Even before the Cup stated there were surprises. Italy, four-time winners failed to qualify, as well as current COPA champs Chile.
For lovers of stats, this has been a good Cup too. Longest run of games with goals, 37, in fact, there has only been one scoreless game, the very annoying Denmark-France game. Most goals scored in second-half stoppage time, 23. Most penalties awarded and most converted, 28 and 21 respectively. Most own goals, 11. There have been lots of other ‘firsts’, ‘mosts’, and ‘not since’-es to make this Cup one to remember and talk about for a long while.
Final between France and Croatia this Sunday could be adding a ninth country to the elite club of World Cup winners (Uruguay: 2, Italy: 4, Germany: 4, Brazil: 5, England: 1, Argentina: 2, France: 1, and Spain: 1) if Croatia win. Spain’s 2010 win was the last time we got a new winner and while odds seem to be leaning France nobody sane is definitively putting Croatia in second place. Saturday's game with Belgium and England duking it out for third place should be a great game even if it is lacking the same glory at its close. It has been an insane Cup and even people who don’t love football, I think, can appreciate the ups and downs of this Cup.
The weeks after the Cup personally can leave me feeling a bit empty and strung out. After that much excitement and football, how is one supposed to just go back to normal life after that? Occasionally I wish the Cup was every year though that dies out pretty quick. Logistically it would be impossible to produce every year and it would lose its magic. I always end up excited for the next Cup as happily remembering the last.
If anyone read this far, I'm a bit surprised but thank you and I will see you in Qatar in 2022. And remember the Cup is moving to the winter, November 21st- December 18th, to keep the players from dying from heat stroke.