Best World Cup Ever

I’ve been typing this blog post for like 2 weeks. I wanted to post it before the Round of 16 started and then before the Quarterfinals but I failed both times. So I decided to wait until the final match was over. Now that the World Cup is done and dusted I can give my thoughts. France – who I picked to win before the tournament started – defeated Croatia 4-2. Croatia’s Luka Modric was crowned Player of the Tournament and France’s Kylian Mbappé was named Best Young Player.

The first World Cup I watched was in 1994. The United States hosted the competition and that’s when I started watching soccer. I watched again in 1998 and only remember the Finals of 2002. In 2006, I was able to watch most of the World Cup and Zidane’s headbutt is what’s remembered most. By 2010 I was a fully into the sport and watched every match I could. In 2014 the World Cup was in Brazil. That was supposed to be the World Cup that made fans in the United States “fall in love” the sport. In the end, all US fans remembered was Tim Howard made a bunch of saves. This latest World Cup topped all of the previous ones I’ve watched.

We saw great goals, VAR decisions, the exit of 2014 World Champs (Germany) during the Group Stage and tough L’s by Senegal and Nigeria. In the Round of 16 we saw both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi sent home. Russia pulled off a huge upset when they beat Spain via penalty shootout. Speaking of penalty shootouts, England finally won one at the World Cup as they knocked off a James Rodriguez-less Colombia and Belgium ran a fast break that would make Magic Johnson proud to beat a tougher than expected Japan squad. England wasn’t able to bring the cup home but they did put a spin on a classic song by Earth Wind & Fire. “Woah, England are in Russia / Woah, drinking all the vodka / Woah, England’s going all the way!”

We were also blessed with the presence of Diego Maradona seen above. This picture sums up how I spent the past 4 weeks. Well minus the “wine”.  This World Cup started with the greatness of Cristiano Ronaldo against Spain during the opening matches and continued from there. I’m not sure what drew me to France but I ended up learning a few things about the Country in the process. France as it has been well documented during the tournament had 15 players with African roots. Two of those players, Kylian Mbappé and Paul Pogba scored goals in the final on Sunday. N’Golo Kante – another player with African roots – was also important to France’s success throughout the World Cup. He was the Player of the Tournament in my opinion. Much like the United States, France has struggled with immigration and the social issues that surround the topic. If you can deal with subtitles I recommend checking out Les bleus : une autre histoire de France 1996-2016 on Netflix or YouTube. This was the Best World Cup Ever and a part of me is sad to see it go. Somehow sports is able to bridge gaps in ways we can’t imagine. It’s unfortunate that those good feelings can’t be bottled up forever.

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