It would be a futile thing to try and name every exciting prospect for this year’s World Cup; it’s an endless list. But for all the excitement and expectation, what are the main elements we all love and would want to be part of the imminent and eagerly anticipated drama that will be the 2018 World Cup?
An underdog story
The story of the underdog is a stereotype that seems to have attached itself to all the major tournaments in football. From Cameroon’s 1990 inspirational run to the much more recent Costa Rica side who, in the last campaign, reached the quarterfinals for the first time ever.
The underdog nation is one of the most exciting parts of any international competition. There is something very special about watching a team defy all the odds to overcome a tournament favourite. There seems to be at least one that emerges in every such competition. The game, for many, is to try and predict who that will be…
Senegal, Egypt, and Iceland have often been mentioned as the teams to keep a close eye on in the build up to Russia. But perhaps the beauty of the underdog story, is that, by definition, it cannot be predicted nor anticipated by anyone.
A rising star
An underdog story would not be complete without a single player also emerging from the un-noticed depths and announcing himself to the World on the biggest stage of them all.
The World Cup is undoubtedly the best chance a player will ever get to perform in front of every footballing mind on the planet. Beyond having the chance to represent and perform for his country, there is too the chance for such a player to earn a big money move; one which they could, hitherto, only have dreamed of.
James Rodriguez of Colombia is probably the most famous prototype here. His incredible 2014 tournament prompted his move to Spanish giants Real Madrid in that same summer. (He now plays for Bayern-Munich, on loan since July of 2017.) Who might follow in his footsteps this year?
A game-changer: VAR
The subject of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has become one of the most divided and debatable topics in the history of world football. Refereeing mistakes have provided the tournament with some of the most influential moments in the entirety of what we know as the beautiful game. The “hand of God,” Frank Lampard’s goal-that-wasn’t, and Geoff Hurst’s goal-that-wasn’t-and-then-was, are all cases that will be forever remembered (and likely endlessly debated as well) as a result of controversial refereeing decisions.
Whether you love it or hate, whether you think football needs it or doesn’t, there is certainly an element of the unknown and expectation surrounding VAR’s involvement in Russia as the technology is implemented into the World Cup for the first time ever.
A kick from 12 yards
The knock out stages of any tournament adds considerable pressure to any team and creates suspense and tension for their respective supporters: it creates an overwhelming atmosphere of excitement and entertainment.
Nobody likes a draw but there inevitably tends to be quite a few during the group stages of the World Cup. Yet only one team can prevail from the round of 16 onwards which, in turn, shines a spotlight on the (sometimes) infamous penalty shoot-outs.
It’s fair to say – unless you’re England and you happened to be up against Germany – you are excited to watch the ball being kicked from 12 yards repetitively until someone misses. There is something so captivating about watching the nervousness and conflicting emotions that are all experienced during penalties.
From Roberto Baggio’s decisive miss in 1994 to the agony Asamoah Gyan and Ghana suffered in 2010, the penalty kick is something that often provides any World Cup with some of the most memorable moments.
And the World Cup final
It goes without saying that the final of any tournament is the most anticipated match of the competition. The exhilaration of watching two countries contest to be the world’s best is an occasion too wonderful to miss.
In years gone by, we have been spoilt by some wonderful finals: Italy’s penalty kick victory over France in 2006; Argentina’s 3-2 win over West Germany in 1986; and England’s 4-2 triumph over West Germany in 1966.
The elation of footballs biggest competition ends with one match. The game is impossible to predict. The intensity is immense. The rewards are immeasurable, and the failure, unbearable.