Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Oral Tracey | Already hung over from World Cup

Published:Monday | July 16, 2018 | 12:15 AM
France’s Kylian Mbappe kisses the FIFA World Cup trophy after their 4-2 win over Croatia in the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, yesterday.

The best-ever edition of the Greatest Show on Earth is now history. Intrigue, excitement, and unpredictability are but some of the boxes that the FIFA World Cup 2018 event ticked off so emphatically. France are, of course, worthy champions. No amount of pontificating and questioning of the format, and the nuances of tournament, can devalue the achievement of being crowned World Cup champions.

The fact that the French came into the final as big favourites against the lesser fancied Croatia, still meant the now two-time world champions had to get the job done. There have been enough conspicuous instances in World Cup history of big favourites faltering and falling short. Brazil infamously lost out to Uruguay in front of 200,000 shocked Brazilians inside the Maracana Stadium in 1950. The star-studded Hungary team, led by the legendary Ferenc Puskas, suffered a shock defeat to West Germany in the 1954 final, and who could forget the free-flowing and entertaining 1982 Brazilians led by Zico, Socrates, Junior and Falcao, getting outscored and eliminated in the second round by Paulo Rossi and Italy.

Didier Deschamps and his French team would have none of that drama, as he joins the elite band of two men to have won the World Cup as a player and as a coach. These are Brazilian legend Mario Zagallo and German legend Franz Beckenbauer. The fact that they won quite easily in the end is neither here nor there; France are worthy two-time World Cup champions.

 

THE DIFFICULT PART

 

While the French and their fans celebrate, the vanquished contenders will be licking their wounds as they ponder possibly for the next four years, "What went wrong?" For the general fans of football and the lovers of the World Cup spectacle like myself, the difficult part begins now: The daunting prospect of having to wait another four years to experience the piercing intensity and the incomparable emotions that only the World Cup final evokes.

The competing and contrasting thoughts range from the fact that we might never see the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the World Cup stage again, while pondering what the emerging stars, such as France's Kylian Mbappe, might produce on future World Cup stages. What direction will Neymar take Brazil in their insatiable quest for more World Cup glory? These thoughts, and more, are tugging away at my brain even as it struggles to process the highs and lows of the past 32 days.

The cut and thrust of the best players in the world sacrificing blood, sweat, and tears in pursuit of the ultimate prize in sport, in front of a captive global audience, is an incomparable experience. Over time, football fans globally will fall back into the routine of the weekly analysis and debates, involving our favourite club teams and our favourite European leagues, that will surely provide some excitement and entertainment, but it will not be the World Cup.

This is, however, the nature of the spectacle dubbed the Greatest Show on Earth. It's exactly because of its quadrennial cycle why so much value and prestige are attached to this event, and why the World Cup is the prize of all prizes in all of sport. Somehow, though, the Russian edition feels extra special, and as a result, it's harder to part with it.

It's been mere hours since the last ball of Russia 2018 was kicked inside the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, but already at least one fan is experiencing the hangover from the month-long orgy of Word Cup action. I am positively sure this hangover is real, because I AM THAT FAN.