It’s time to get excited about the World Cup

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The 2018 World Cup looks set to be a cracker. Much negativity has surrounded the event due to Russia being the host nation. Politics seems to be the dominating the World Cup headlines following the recent struggles between England and Russia not to mention Vladimir Putin’s constant political machoness.

The Sun recently published an article about Borris Johnson who insinuated that Putin’s motives are similar of that to Adolf Hitler’s back in 1936 where Berlin hosted the tenth Olympic Games. However, as a football fanatic I think it’s time we start looking at the most important ingredient to the summer’s biggest sporting event, the football.

There are so many questions to be answered in the World’s biggest country throughout the summer. Can Lionel Messi finally get the coveted Jules Rimet trophy? Who will win the Golden Boot? How will VAR go down? Can England finally reach the Holy Grail again? Who will be the overachievers of the tournament? The list is endless.

In terms of favourites to win the title, Joachim Low seems to have the healthiest selection headache a coach could ask for.  What an achievement it would be if he was to lead his German side to back to back World Cup wins especially after a disappointing display at Euro 2016.

Brazil now face the dilemma of Neymar’s injury scare. Having had surgery in his native land, the Olympic Gold medallist always seems to show up on the big days for the South Americans.

Perhaps the injury is a good omen? Brazil won their first title 60 years ago. Their superstar player Edson Arantes do Nascimento, more commonly known as Pele, missed the start of the tournament due to a knee injury sustained while wearing the black and white of Santos. I’m sure the Brazilians may hold on to that superstition as the games progress.

Spain also look a side to be reckoned with as do France and Belgium. The latter have probably got the best side on paper with Premier League stars like Courtois, Alderweirld, Vertonghen, Hazard, Lukakau, Dembele, and De Bruyne. Should the team gel together, they would have to be considered the favourites. France will be determined to right the wrongs of their Euro 2016 defeat. Players like Mbappe, Greizman and Pogba could all be potential players of the tournament.

Personally, I know who I want to see lifting the Jules Rimets cup. No man deserves it more than Lionel Messi. He has been of great service to the Argentinian national side and is always a joy to watch. This will surely be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last chance to get his hands on a World Cup medal also.

What will the next chapter of this sensational rivalry bring? Could it be the deciding moment in history where one finally takes the title of GOAT? (Unlikely when you compare Ronaldo’s form to that of the God like Messi).

Every tournament seems to see one side appear from nowhere and upset a few odds. The last World Cup saw Costa Rica reach the quarter-finals where they lost out only on penalties to a talented Dutch side.

Who will be this year’s Costa Rica? Panama, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Senegal or Japan only have to look back at the 2014 event as well as Iceland’s great run in Euro 2016 to find some proof that if a team sticks together it can achieve beyond its wildest dreams.

The idea of VAR at a World Cup is a hot topic at the moment. Many have criticised FIFA’s brave decision to try and guarantee that all refereeing calls are correct. Ironically, English pundits have come down particularly hard on the initiative despite them being huge World Cup victims. Who can forget Maradonna’s “Hand of God” or Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany?

Perhaps the only possible difficulty with the VAR at a World Cup will be communication issues. Each fourth official could be speaking a different language for all we know meaning that the delays could be very long when VAR is called upon. At least we know there won’t be a poor refereeing call deciding who wins the 2018 World Cup.

The Golden Boot race has to be one of the most exciting prospects of the tournament. Messi looks to be in the form of his life as is Mohamed Salah. Kane and Neymar however may struggle in front of the posts due to their recent injures. Ronaldo will also look to outdo everyone as that always appears to be his main target anyway. Mbappe, Greizman or Lukaku could all be the dark horses of the Golden Boot race.

All in all, the 2018 World Cup is jam packed with attacking flare, managerial astuteness and defensive resilience. Here’s hoping that these are the main topics of conversation come the summer. As we know, hooliganism will take place but let’s hope the Russians have done their utmost to keep fans as safe as possible as this of course is always the most important part of any sporting event. At least, I know I’ll be watching this summer.

By Luke Gannon

Photo credit Photo credit Dawn Huczek via Flickr 

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