The biggest sporting event in the world is right around the corner.
The arrival of the 2018 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup has been long awaited by soccer fans across the world after Germany’s triumph in the 2014 World Cup. Russia will host the tournament for the first time in mid-June. The top 32 countries are bound for a highly competitive tournament ahead of them.
The World Cup first began in 1930 with Uruguay as the host, and coincidentally the winners of the tournament that year. Since then, the tournament has occurred every four years, besides in 1942 and 1946 due to the second world war. Brazil is the only team to participate in every World Cup, winning five championships – the most by any country – and they hope to continue their streak this year. Germany and Italy are the only countries close to Brazil’s astounding success, with four championships each.
The tournament is set to be hosted at various stadiums in Russia. One of the 12 stadiums to host the World Cup has failed to meet one of the FIFA requirements to hold at least 35,000 spectators. This challenged the architects working on the Ekaterinburg Arena to come up with a creative solution, and they solved this issue by building a stand outside of the stadium. The construction has been successfully completed and the arena is ready to host the largest competitive sporting event in the world.
Italy will not be competing in the World Cup this year, after losing their qualification match to Sweden with a score of 1-0 on aggregate (based off of the results of two matches). Italy was favored alongside Spain to qualify from their group. Spain and Sweden played to their fullest potential in the past couple of months, and it was no surprise that they qualified from their respective table. Italy, who has not failed to qualify for the World Cup since 1958, and nicknamed the tragedy as the “Caporetto” of football (referring to the humiliating defeat of the Italian Army to the Hungarians in the first world war), was in mourning due to the tragic event. “It’s one of the darkest pages of our sporting history,” Andrea Monti, editor of La Gazzetta Dello Sport, wrote in a front-page editorial. “[It was] a brutal slap beyond the incalculable harm for a country that lives and breathes soccer,” mentioned Monti. This defeat subsequently led to the retirement of World Cup winner and Italian Captain Gianluigi Buffon.
Some other teams who were favored to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but were unable to, include Chile, The United States, Wales, and The Netherlands. A run of bad games and nervous play caused these teams to miss their opportunity to qualify for the 2018 World Cup Tournament.
The United States, with countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Panamá, Mexico, and Honduras arguably had the easiest qualification group. The United States didn’t qualify for the first time since 1986, which triggered rage amongst US soccer fans, as all they had to do was tie with Trinidad and Tobago, unfortunately they unable to do so.
Wales, Chile, and The Netherlands had a run of bad games and poor team chemistry that prevented these talented teams from making it to the World Cup this year. Wales is stacked with various world-class players, yet failed to maximize their potential and lost a spot in the prestigious tournament. The Netherlands has always had success in the World Cup, reaching the finals in 2010, but have relatively old players on their team that were unable to keep up with the athleticism of the younger teams that they faced. Despite Chile winning the South American Cup the last two times consecutively, the team played different than usual and that cost them their ticket to the 2018 World Cup.
The 32 qualifying teams have been through rigorous training sessions within the past couple of months, in order to prepare them to perform their best at the prestigiously renowned tournament. France has a strong team for the tournament and are favored to win the World Cup. The team is coached by Didier Deschamps, who is well known for his personal take on soccer, “The key thing is knowing how to adapt,” he told The Guardian Sport. However, the unpredictable style of play and unmatched form of the Spanish national team rivals the success of the French team. Other honorable mentions who have a great team and high spirits entering the tournament include: Germany, Belgium, Croatia, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Morocco, Portugal, and England. Whatever the case is, one thing is for sure: the anticipation of the tournament will keep soccer fans satisfied worldwide.