It is fair to say the World Cup has provided a number of considerable upsets so far this summer, despite the tournament being just over a week old.
Argentina, Germany, Spain and Colombia are just four of football’s powerhouses who were expected to comfortably navigate their way through to the latter rounds of the competition without breaking much of a sweat.
However, as Nationalelf, alongside the aforementioned others have discovered, the greatest celebration of the game does not offer a comfortable 90 minutes. Unlike the challenge several of the nations’ players face in their respective domestic leagues on a weekly basis, no opposition outfit will simply roll over and accept defeat.
This World Cup has already been labelled by some as ‘the worst in history’. A lack of high-scoring contests coupled with, in some instances, a complete absence of talent has paved the path for cynics to disregard this summer for what it truly is – the epitome of football.
However, should we not be celebrating the lack of one-sidedness which became so mundane in many of Europe’s top leagues during the 2017/18 campaign?
The Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and La Liga all served up entertaining, yet uninspiring terms last time around, with Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona strolling to their respective league titles with ample time to spare under no significant threat.
While some of the football played was nothing short of sensational throughout the campaign, each championship-crowning race offered little drama, with only Serie A providing anything of a two-horse battle – and even that failed to stretch the entirety of the 38-game calendar.
The outcome of matches in certain instances almost became foregone conclusions before a ball was kicked as the deficit in quality widened across the leagues, with Manchester City’s 19-point advantage over second place and a 33 better goal difference to anyone else in England’s top-flight a testament of that.
In truth, watching on as a supporter of none of the four clubs mentioned above, each week almost became laborious. Admiration was present, but the excitement which takes football to another level around the globe compared to any other sport seemingly took a 12-month hiatus.
However, with this year’s World Cup, amid the complaints of tedium, we have so far been afforded a return to what makes the game great; competitive football.
The Russia-hosted tournament has already served up on of the competition’s most scintillating matches in its history, with Spain and Portugal claiming a point apiece following their exhilarating 3-3 draw in the first round of outings.
Meanwhile, the likes of Denmark, whose pair of showdowns with Peru and Australia were as gripping as any other domestic 90 minutes played out in the past year, Croatia; arguably offering one of the most surprising upsets in the last 12 months as they overcame Argentina 3-0, and, last night, Serbia and Switzerland playing out a quality-packed, nail-biting contest until the final whistle.
And then, of course, we come to England, whose young blood, masterminded by Gareth Southgate, are well on the way to capturing the attention of a nation in a similar way to their predecessors of Euro ‘96 and Italia ‘90.
So, as of yet, even though the 2018 World Cup may not have lived up to the sensationalised needs of the modern-day fan, the competition’s ability to make each 90 minutes as compelling as the last is by far and away a much greater testament to the beautiful game.