The world stops to witness the greatest footballing spectacle

By Vijay Baskar C S (B.E I&CE, 2017-2021) and Sri Hari M (B.E SW Mech, 2014-2019)

As the 21st FIFA WORLD CUP awaited on the horizon, thirty two nations stood shoulder to shoulder, face to face, searching for victory and legacy, so that their flag may fly the highest. After a four year hiatus, the game we play, the game we love is back at the grandest stage.

Eleven players walk into the stadium as soldiers march into the battlefield, with courage, with determination, with fear, and most importantly with the hopes of millions of people on their shoulders. Every second promises a great game- one where every second, every tackle, and every goal matters. Every nation has a stake here- some looking to extend their legacy, some for redemption, whilst some are here to show that they too are a force to be reckoned with. A once in a lifetime opportunity for every single player to leave their mark, to repay their homelands, to put a smile on every citizen’s face. All the hard-work, all the sacrifices they have made, it all comes down to this. Every triumph resonates but so does every loss. It is time for the players and the nations to “LIVE IT UP”.

The official logo of FIFA WORLD Cup 2018

The History :

Every great story has a great opening line. Likewise, the story of FIFA World Cup started in Uruguay with just thirteen nations taking part. The four European nations which took part made a two-week odyssey to join the others. Unfortunately, their efforts didn’t bear any fruit as Uruguay won the first ever world cup. A National Holiday was announced to mark their victory.

The winning team from Uruguay – 1930  (Source: Wikipedia)

Following Uruguay, Italy laid their hands on the ‘Jules Rimet Trophy’, which post 1970 was replaced with the ‘FIFA WORLD CUP’. But the tournament had to take a twelve year break (1938-1950) due to the outbreak of the World War II, only to return in 1950 in Brazil. It has been held every four years since then.

The Canarinhos (or the ‘Little Canary’, ref. the iconic yellow Brazilian jersey) have been the most successful team with five trophies to their name and also being the last nation to  successfully defend their title. Germany and Italy aren’t far behind either. The current World champions and the Azzurris stand close behind with four apiece. Uruguay and Argentina hold two trophies each while England, France, and Spain all have one to their name.

The Twelfth Man:

Football fans share a universal language that cuts across many cultures and many personality types. A serious football fan is never alone. We are legion and football is often the only thing we have in common”. This quote by Hunter. S.Thompson perfectly captures the essence of every fan. Football is all about the fans. The players shed it all out so that the fans may rejoice, smile and celebrate. The roar of the faithful, the whistles, the songs, the boos- all these make the stadium lively and uplift the spirits of the players.

A true fan is much more than a spectator. He is someone who connects with the game and his team on an emotional level. He cries with them; celebrates with them. He is in a way the ‘Twelfth Man’. Football fans have been made a witness to every emotion there is. Pele notably deemed ‘the God who graced the ‘beautiful game’ ’ is a national hero in Brazil.

The awe in their faces when Maradona scored ‘the Goal of the century’ (topping off the infamous ‘Hand of God’) against England in the 1986 World Cup. The disappointment of a heavy loss such as the one Brazilians felt when their team lost 7-1 against Germany in  2014. Screams of joy when Beckham took the Three Lions (England) to the World Cup by scoring a remarkable free-kick against Greece during the final moments of their last qualifying game. A sense of failure when an underdog usurps a bigger team such as the time when a team of semi–professionals from the USA defeated the mighty England. Moments of brilliance from players like Zidane, Ronaldinho, Iker Casillas, Iniesta are just a treat for the fans. Moments of glory or moments of lowliness, we the football fans have endured it all just for OUR team. The fans are in this together- we fight together and we win together.

Brazilian fans in utter disbelief during their loss against Germany at Belo Horizonte  (Source: Reuters)
German fans creating a surreal environment (World Cup 2014)

Russia 2018:

This edition of the World Cup promises a plenty. The best of the teams are gearing up to face the new challenges. However, the fact that some of the old war-horses like Italy and the Oranje(Netherlands) have missed out along with the reigning Copa America champions Chile, came as a disappointment to some of the fans. France with their young side is looking to make it big after losing to Portugal in the final of  UEFA Euro 2016. Argentina too would like to turn the tides in their favour after losing a trio of finals (FIFA WORLD CUP 2014, Copa America 2015 and Copa America Centenario 2016). Brazil and Spain are trying hard to redeem themselves and to bring back their glorious days after some poor outings in the yesteryear editions(let’s talk on this soon). Belgium could well be the dark horses of this year’s world cup, with such amazing youngsters they can truly be the package that topples the giants. Portugal, Croatia, Uruguay, Colombia may surprise us but the chances of them winning seems a little bleak.

For the Fresh Fanbase :

Anyone who watched the games of the group stage of this World Cup can certainly take their time to breathe out finally, after all the crazy happenings.The following points are to be enticed by all the fans who just started following ‘THE BEAUTIFUL GAME’. And don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the high points:

1) Germany Exits!:

Yes! ‘The Curse Of Champions’ has taken effect again here at Russia with ‘Die Mannschaft’ bowing out with a poor showing against Mexico, Sweden (a wake-up-call they never took seriously) and South Korea. The former champions France, Italy, and Spain have all shared the same fate before. Germany are always referred to as ‘The Team’ and ‘The Consistent Lads’, but it is to be noted that the same nation won the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 at Russia with a bunch of talents with no real international exposure.(Loew&Co couldn’t get away with the cold now).

2) Cristiano Ronaldo:

The FIFA WORLD CUP has always been famed for its then top scorer of all-time Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima. (For the newbies, you can recognize him as the ‘other Ronaldo’.) Ronaldo was always prolific at the grandest stage while Cristiano Ronaldo was never having a nice time at the intercontinental event. However, he announced his intent at Sochi with an ideal Striker’s Hat-Trick of a free-kick (a trademark Cristiano), a penalty kick and a goal from open-play. It’s left to Lionel Messi to rise to the occasion…

Touchdown Russia (Source: Reuters)

3) Harry Kane:

The English have always had wonderful strike forces in Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Wayne Rooney and goal-hungry midfielders in Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham. None seemed to settle at the World Cup though, having been jinxed at penalty shoot outs and crucial knockout games.’The Three Lions’ had a different approach this time though, with Gareth Southgate (capped fifty-seven times for the National Team) leading a youthful and not-so-starry team to Russia. The captain Harry Kane (with five goals already) has shone bright as a serious striker and promises only more.

4) The Dark-Horses:

If you haven’t watched Croatia and Belgium play, do follow them at the knockouts hereon. Two prime examples of a team with a flurry of starlets and lynchpin at attack. These teams assure you the attacking delight every new football wants to witness. Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne would be the ones to watch for as they’re the ideal mix-up of talent and experience.

5) The less efficient biggies:

Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, France, Spain, Uruguay have all qualified for the knockouts. However, they were tested too much though, with the coaches alerted of the contest on offer from the minnow teams. They can only look forward from here on and Neymar, Messi, James, Griezmann, Suarez are all expected to lead from the front with goals (and yeah, more goals).

The Format:

Well, let’s end the discussion with a recap of as to how the knockout games are played

a. Regular time of ninety minutes split up into two halves with added time on either half.
b. If teams end up with goal/goals apiece, they have to play through another thirty minutes split up into two halves with added time possible on either half.
c. Only three substitutions are permitted per game for the teams.
d. If a player picks up two yellow cards from any number of game/games, he is suspended for the next game.
e. Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is a monitoring panel that advises the match referee with some close calls of disciplinary action and foul calls for penalty (analogous to the Decision Review System of Cricket, except that here, only the referee can call for the system check and not the players/coaches).
f. If the teams still play out a draw, they are forced through a Penalty-Shoot Out which works as follows:
Five Kicks are awarded to each team who must list the five different players to hit the ball from eight yards against an indifferent opposition goalkeeper who shouldn’t move early to avert the strike. If still draw persists after ten kicks from the spot, ‘Sudden Death’ comes into effect as the team which lags the other team after even one iteration will lose.‘Sudden Death’ kicks will be taken by players apart from the first five.

FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 has been the right stepping stone for any serious recent-follower, let alone the die-hard fans, to start venturing into the following of a lifetime. Stay up for all the action and don’t doze off, for a fortnight at least!

VIJAY BASKAR C.S (B.E. I&CE,2017-21) is an aspiring writer ,with interests ranging from Cosmology to Football. With an inclination towards astronomy, he wishes to learn everything about the cosmos. A die-hard madridista, trying to find solace in writing. Basically an introvert trying to express his thoughts through words and punctuations.

SRI HARI M (B.E (SANDWICH) MECHANICAL, 2014-2019) is a simple reader of the books with an unbound love for ‘Uncle Pai’ aka Anant Pai and is an admirer of ‘Ezio Auditore’. He also wishes to commentate on a live-football game someday.

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