World’s eyes on Russia ahead of planet’s biggest sporting extravaganza

By | 13/06/2018

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is all set to begin on Thursday with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium (Reuters Photo)

For the next one month, whatever may be the time zone, the clocks all over the world are going to be synchronised.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is all set to begin on Thursday with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium. While the biggest sporting spectacle of the world will begin with much fanfare in Moscow, the two biggies Italy and Netherlands will thoroughly be missed.

Not just that, the World Cup is sure to miss the iconic figures of Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Gianluigi Buffon and Philipp Lahm.

Even as the world misses these huge stars, there will be some stars to look forward to while some may become bigger stars through the course of the tournament.

While the world will have its eyes on Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar, this is an opportunity for Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Marco Asensio and a few others to become much bigger stars.

FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 FULL COVERAGE

Hosting a World Cup is a matter of pride for any nation, as Brazil will tell but it may not be the best thing for the economy of a nation, again Brazil will vouch for that.

2018 FIFA World Cup Winner’s Trophy (Reuters Photo)

However, when the country is Russia, the problem is not of the economy but of the behaviour. Despite assurances from Russia that they will curb incidents of racism and violence, there is widespread fear that this World Cup will see regular such occurrences. Experts have asked travelling fans to be careful and always be attentive to any violent occurring around them.

Interestingly, even as the executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) anti-discrimination network Piara Powar told Reuters “I think it is a difficult environment but the World Cup we are sure will pass peacefully, we hope”, FIFA has already put safety measures into place.

In a first of its kind, matches can be abandoned over crowd discrimination. Apart from the acts of racism, Russia’s non-acceptance of the LGBTQ committee and anti-gay chants have also been troublesome, so much that FARE has warned the travelling LGBTQ supporters to not hold hands in public and just be careful in general.

On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin thanked FIFA for keeping politics out of the sport of football, perhaps hitting out at experts who have said that Russia hosting the World Cup in a political event, like it or not.

THE FOOTBALL

Leaving behind all the political and societal issues that the Russia World Cup is expected to bring with it, the football at display is what the fans are truly excited about.

32 teams are all set to battle for glory with hosts Russia in for a tussle themselves.

Russia’s form ahead of the World Cup has been woeful. Over the past five matches, Russia have recorded two draws and three defeats. Among the three defeats, two have come against Austria and Turkey, both of whom have not made it to the World Cup.

When Russia take the pitch against Saudi Arabia on June 14, they will have a point to prove. On top of that, they will be harbouring the pressure of entertaining their home fans and surely, there will be thousands flocking to the stadium for the same.

Apart from the hosts Russia, the second worst form ahead of the World Cup is that of the holders Germany. In the last five matches, Germany have not recorded a single win and in fact managed to lose 2-1 to Austria on Sunday.

However, Germany is a team for big tournaments and come the football carnival, one can expect fireworks. With big names like Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Ilkay Gundogan and many more, Germany are likely to be the horse for the long race.

Despite their struggles ahead of the World Cup, they are surely one of the contenders to lift the trophy once again.

Along with Germany, Brazil are the other genuine contenders for the Jules Rimet Trophy.

The haunting images of the 7-1 loss against Germany in the semi-final of 2014 World Cup is still fresh in the minds of the public. However, like Neymar said, it’s time Team Brazil get over it.

Brazil have looked a completely different team from the 2014 World Cup after Tite took over as coach. Even as they surely look a more creative team with Neymar on their side, they are not crippled without him.

Supporters of the Egyptian national soccer team (Reuters Photo)

With the feared quartet of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Willian, Brazil are set to kick the past away.

Spain, France, Belgium and Argentina also have a shot at the title.

While Spain have a brilliant mix of experience and fresh blood, France are a youthful but extremely talented team. Belgium’s golden generation wants to finally perform to their potential while Lionel Messi and Argentina will look to put the ghost of the 2014 World Cup final behind.

While the fans are all set to back their favourite teams to the hilt, there is one team that will surely have the empathy to a huge amount of people and that team is Egypt.

Mohamed Salah, who has had an exceptional season with Liverpool, is a rage and interestingly, even Belgium’s Eden Hazard said he would support Egypt only for Salah.

Russia will kickstart the World Cup with an opening ceremony to get the musical senses of the world going and will hope that is able to set the tone for the carnival to come.