Lot lost, the prospects of Messi vs Ronaldo and Argentina vs Brazil still alive
If there is a trend this World Cup has set, one different from many of its predecessors, it has been the improbability of top sides, all of whom look so convincing. Yet are all beatable. It has certainly been an edition of surprises, but among the many surprises that Russia did provide, the biggest of them all was the shock elimination of champions Germany.
Joachim Loew’s side was along with Brazil the two hot-favourites in Russia but sensational defeats to both Mexico and South Korea meant, Germany were for the first time in 80 years heading home, straight from the opening round of matches.
But the surpises don’t stop here because what begins on June 30 is the knockouts, to sum-up in Andres Iniesta’s words – ‘the coming of something else.’
The Battle of the South Americans
The focus immediately shifts to Kazan Arena where European heavyweights France take on a dysfunctional Argentina – a team that sprung to the last 16 from the jaws of exit. But what steams for greater attention is the “Battle of the South-Armericans.”
Brazil and Argentina facing each other in a high-tensed game of a World Cup final is a treat all fans will want to savour but like most times, only one of the two can reach the summit clash and that will happen once they breach the semi-finals – where both Brazil and Argentina may face each other.
But that is only possible if the South American giants are successful in overcoming France, Uruguay, Portugal, Mexico and Belgium.
Although it looks highly improbable given the recent success of Belgium, this World Cup may still witness a mini El-classico when Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo face each other in the quarter-finals. If Argentina manage to scrap through the last 16 against France and Ronaldo once again inspires Portugal to a victory over the Uruguayans, the stage will be perfectly set for two of the greatest men to have ever put on a football boot.
Ronaldo and Messi and to a bigger perspective Portugal and Argentina will then come to blows and what a big contest it would promise to be.
The World Cup of the Underdogs
If anything, England’s defeat to Belgium in the final group game guaranteed that one of Colombia, Switzerland, Sweden, Croatia and England will be in the semi-final. One among them may also join the party in the final on June 15, or may have to counter the tiki-taka football of Spain in the semis.
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But because the defining story of Russia 2018 has so consistently been the fairy-tale of the dark-knights rising to crack the usual norms, this might just be the year when the world sees a new champion – a ‘World Cup of the underdogs’.
The heavier side of the Pendulum
Amidst all the surprises that Russia has so unprecedentedly displayed, one predictability certainly remains. It is that only one among Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Portugal, Belgium and Mexico can make it to Moscow on June 15.
The knockouts Pendulum this edition is heavier on one side and contains heavyweights of all possible means. The other side presents an opportunity for many nations to create history but on the left (see the picture above) it may be a lost opportunity for most countries to taste glory.
All the teams placed on the left, tackle fire at every step and everytime one moves ahead, another will return home dejected and to a certain extent dismayed.