By 90Min
July 02, 2018

In Russia this summer, a number of nations have come under scrutiny for the quality of their play. The likes of Saudi Arabia, Panama and Egypt have all put in displays that some would argue are not worthy of being at a tournament as prestigious as the World Cup, and in some aspects, they'd be right. 

Additionally, with the expansion of the tournament from 32 teams to 48 teams, this debate has caught alight with the potentiality of seeing an increase in teams of lesser quality. 

Saudi Arabia and Egypt both failed to show any sort of quality on the pitch, losing 5-0 and 3-1 to Russia in embarrassing fashion; take note, the host nation aren't even full of quality themselves, and yet, they've dished out thrashings like that. 

Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

Mohamed Salah's Egypt failed to win a game at their first World Cup in 26 years, whilst Saudi Arabia won just once, incidentally against Egypt. 

Panama, more worryingly, rolled over in a 3-0 defeat to Belgium and also found themselves 5-0 down to England at half time on their way to a 6-1 defeat. Many have called for teams of this ilk to be banished from the tournament, stating that a competition so illustrious should not have such noncompetitive teams within it. 

However, on the topic of Panama, the nation's reaction to their short stint at their first ever World Cup was heartwarming and showed what football is all about. Albeit a mere consolation, their single goal in the defeat to the Three Lions was their first ever World Cup goal, and it was met with sheer jubilation. 

Even before a ball had been kicked, the Panama national team had sparked tears of joy from many back home by lining up to sing the national anthem alone. A video showing two Panamanian TV commentators in tears, one emphatically pumping his fists in celebration, whilst the other is in tears against a wall before they both come together in a passionate embrace has gone viral. 

That was just at the sight of their anthem being played at the World Cup. Just that alone sparked such emotion. Panama are one of few nations embarking on their maiden World Cup adventure, and despite their failings on the field, they are loving every second. 

After all, it is called the 'World Cup'. Whilst all teams have the chance to qualify for it, only the best in terms of resources and quality eventually qualify for the main event. It needs to become more inclusive.  

On the decision to increase the amount of teams at the World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: "It is the future. Football is more than just Europe and South America, football is global.

"The football fever you have in a country that qualifies for the World Cup is the biggest promotional tool for football you can have.

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"This football promotion, in many parts of the world where today they have no chance to play, was at the top of our thoughts."

This stance is admirable. We all know how significant an influence football has on a country when a major tournament is on. Just take one venture outdoors in England and you'll be met with houses draped in the national flag, cars adorned with flags and almost every pub, shop or restaurant showing some acknowledgement of football's greatest tournament. 

'Football fever' is precisely the term. It is almost contagious, impossible not to get swept away in the excitement it creates. For nations with poor footballing resources, it simply wouldn't be fair to exclude them from this footballing celebration for reasons out of their immediate control. 

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Some may argue that these lesser nations have their chance to qualify just the same as everyone else, and that the World Cup should simply be a collection of the best against the best in a battle for world domination. That is understandable, but it isn't true nor fair. 

They do not have the same chance as everyone else, player wise and in terms of resources. This effectively rules them out of contention to qualify before a ball has even been kicked if we were to talk about motivating factors. Perhaps, if you were to thrust the likes of Norway or Andorra into the World Cup group stages, their performances would improve drastically. 

Just think of the football mad children living in Latvia, Armenia, Belarus and so on. Think of how disheartened they feel not having a national hero on the biggest stage to look up to and imitate in the playground. 

If the World Cup continues to be a glamour fest for the world's biggest countries fighting amongst themselves every four years, interest in football globally will slowly wane. It is hard to fathom right now, but it is possible. 

Football itself is inclusive; it is a team sport. That extends from those kitted out on the pitch. Fans are just as important, arguably even more, and their interest in the sport globally is the most significant factor in sustaining football at the highest level. 

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