Finally, the World Cup is here

Published 4:06 pm Friday, June 15, 2018

It is here!  It is finally here!  After four long, agonizing years, the World Cup has finally gotten under way, and long-suffering soccer fanatics around the world could not be more thrilled! 

For folks like me, the countdown to the next World Cup begins the moment the final whistle blows on the current tournament.  We simply cannot satisfy our insatiable desire for World Cup soccer!  How much do we love the tournament?  Well, it is my understanding that countries around the world almost literally shut down when the tournament is on, and it is even more drastic when the country’s national team is actually playing!  From experience, I can tell you that my family, friends, and co-workers all know that they should not expect much from me while matches are on television.  I spend hours watching double and triple headers of soccer, and I love every second of it.  I simply cannot pull myself away from the action.  Many call this “World Cup Fever”, and if it is an actual disease, then I do, indeed, suffer from it!

So, what is it like to suffer from “World Cup Fever?”  Well, as I sit and compose this article on the day before the tournament gets started, I can only best describe it as the feeling that I remember getting each Christmas Eve as a child.  You know, the feeling of so much built up anticipation and excitement that you cannot even sleep. 

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You just cannot wait to discover all of the surprises the next day holds.  Well, that is the feeling that I have today – the day before the tournament begins.  As the tournament gets underway, it will be like several Christmas mornings over and over until the tournament draws to an end.  Each match will be like an unopened gift under the tree, and it will only be as the matches unfold before my eyes that I know if I have a dud on my hands (think of opening up socks or underwear on Christmas morning) versus an instant classic that I will cherish and remember for years to come (now think about a new bike or the newest game console).  Yes, this is what “World Cup Fever” is like.

What is so special about the World Cup?  Well, there are numerous responses to that question, but two come to mind quickly for me.  First, the best players in this world are on display in one tournament, so that is rather exciting.  Second, and more special to me, is the fact that the tournament can be so unpredictable.  You see, it is kind of like having a very large fish tank, and I am talking about a tank large enough to hold some great white sharks.  Within that huge fish tank you also have some little minnows.  Now, everyone knows that the great white sharks should devour the minnows within the tank.  However, in the World Cup, sometimes the opposite happens. 

Sometimes, the minnows in the tank show that they have the teeth and eat up the sharks.  That is always fun to watch (unless your team is the shark that is getting eaten by the minnow).

So, I suppose the next question may be which team will be favored to win the 2018 World Cup?  Well, as stated, the results are difficult to predict.  However, I have four teams that I feel are the front-runners, and I may be proven to be a bit foolish with these choices as when this article is published games will already have begun and my predictions may already be wrong before we can even get beyond the first few group matches.  Nonetheless, I say watch out for some of the usual suspects as well as a newcomer to the conversation.  Who are the usual suspects; the great white sharks if you will?  I say to watch out for Germany, Spain, and France for sure.  As for the newcomer, be aware of Belgium.

Why do I favor these for teams?  Well, each team is loaded with world-class talent, and they each have a nice blend of youth and veteran leadership.  What reservations do I have about each?  Germany makes me nervous because they won the last World Cup, and it is tremendously difficult to repeat as World Cup champions.  Spain crashed out of the last tournament incredibly early following their championship run in 2010.  Plus, their manager has just been named the new manager of Real Madrid following this World Cup tournament, so I wonder if that will prove to be too much distraction. 

With France, there is just always the chance that the players get into a row or absolutely lose their minds and experience a full on meltdown for the whole world to see.  Belgium is just totally new to the conversation of being mentioned as a true contender.  Will they be able to live up to potential and lofty expectations, or will the pressure get to them?  This remains to be seen.

Who else has a chance?  My son would be pretty upset if I did not mention his favorites to win the tournament – Brazil and Neymar.  Also in contention would be England as they are red-hot entering the tournament, and they have rather talented players on their roster as well.  I suppose you could also make an argument for Argentina and Portugal as Messi and Ronaldo, two of the world’s greatest players ever, will carry their respective teams as far as they can on aging legs and in what is likely to be their final tournament.  (I would strongly suggest that everyone watch these creative and exciting players in action during this tournament as their special careers draw to a conclusion.  Players like this rarely come along, and the privilege to watch them play will soon be gone.)   Then, again, you always have the minnows like Iceland that may come along and eat up the fierce great white sharks. 

Finally, yes, finally, the World Cup is under way, and I once again have contracted “World Cup Fever”.  Here’s hoping that others in our community are contracting it, too!