The 2018 World Cup is almost here! Its time for all of us here at BitterandBlue to cheer on our favorite nation, or for the casual observer, just enjoy the spectacle. Tomorrow at 11 am eastern standard time, Russia will host Saudi Arabia in the opening match.
While tomorrow’s match isn't the greatest show on earth, there still are many intriguing story lines heading into this World Cup. Could this be the last World Cup to host 32 nations? With FIFA’s proposal of 48 nations by 2026, possibly as early as 2022 for Qatar, the entire platform could be headed for a makeover. Qualification processes are due to change, more tournaments are also being proposed in the middle of World Cup cycles. United Nations for UEFA and CONCACAF and CONEMBOL adding onto the Copa America success, possibly a merge of the regions as well.
And as for the stories for teams in the World Cup this year, none is bigger than the nations that didn't make it. No Netherlands, Italy or USA. For Americans, this hurts the wallets of the American corporations more than the game itself. FOX had bought the rights to the next two World Cups for viewing rights in USA. Now that the Americans are out, and in dramatic fashion, FOX is now left with burning holes in their pockets. For a nation still struggling to grasp Soccer as a major sport, not having a World Cup is a big blow to ratings. Die hard fans will still watch, causal American’s, not so much. As for Netherlands and Italy, two historic nations with a lot of success in international competitions. From a global perspective, its for sure disappointing to not see two star studded nations with loads of talent not in the biggest competition in the world.
Mohammad Salah had one of the best statistical seasons in Europe, but he is racing for fitness due to a shoulder injury he sustained in the Champions League final against Real Madrid. For Egypt, there is no one more important to their success, Salah might be the most important player to any of the nations competing. Without Salah, Egypt would surely suffer and for casual fans, not seeing one of the best goal scorers surely would be disappointing. Spain has had an interesting 48 hours. Their manager Julen Lopetegui accepted the Real Madrid manager role, vacated by Zidane, only to see himself get sacked a day later by the Spanish Football Federation. Talent wise, they are one of the best teams in the world, and undoubtedly are one of the favorites to win the World Cup. But news like this, especially with the World Cup starting tomorrow, could affect team moral. Can Spain overcome this obstacle and still triumph in Russia?
This World Cup could also be the last time we see Ronaldo and Messi suit up for their respective countries. Ronaldo won his first major international competition two years ago when Portugal won the Euro 2016, but Messi has still yet to reach international glory, failing to win any major competition with Argentina. Not even the Copa America, has Messi won. For Ronaldo, this certainly looks like his last World Cup, but Messi, we still are not sure. He’s 3 years younger than Ronaldo, but there’s been rumblings that this will be his last World Cup. Can Messi finally break through for Argentina and carry them to glory? Can Ronaldo triumph one more time for Portugal?
Finally, Brazil and Germany. The two powerhouses and rivals are clearly the two best teams talent and experience wise. Brazil will be looking to overcome their 7-1 massacre to the Germans at the last World Cup. Brazil to most experts is the favorite, and they look like a much more solidified team than they did in 2014. Can Brazil restore glory to the country with the most World Cups in history, which hasn’t been won for them since 2002? The Germans are as deep and loaded as they are talented. To many, they are the favorites, and talent wise and from their recent history, why would they not be? But even for some of the greatest teams ever, repeating at the World Cup is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. It has only been accomplished twice; the first by Italy in 1934 and 1938, then by Brazil in 1958 and 1962. The Germans raised eyebrows when they passed over one of world football’s brightest young players in Leroy Sane, which left us City fans perplexed, but I guess when you have won so much, and with how talented your roster pool is, you can make these types of choices. Can Germany repeat and continue their dominance atop the international stage?
What’s your take blues fans. Who do you you have winning the World Cup?