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16th of July 2018

Sport



Oral Tracey | Best World Cup ever?!

We are just past the halfway stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals, and already it is being touted as arguably the best of the 21 editions of the king of all single sport events. Things could, and might still, go wrong, and the excitement and intrigue on the field could conceivably suffer a dramatic decline. Stranger things have happened, but certainly, if all things remain on the same trajectory, Russia is on its way to staging the best World Cup ever.

The actual coordination of the logistical and physical components involved in staging this massive event has been perfect. Hundreds of thousands of fans continue to flock to the various stadia across the vast Russian landscape, while billions of television viewers across the world have been treated to a spectacular and picturesque show by the Russian hosts.

There was, conspicuously, none of the usual pre-tournament uncertainty relating to stadia and infrastructure construction, and neither has there been any report of any instances of racism or any other discriminatory acts by Russian spectators, which have been guilty of such acts in the past. By all reports, the Russian people have been at their cordial and efficient best in delivering a flawless event thus far.

BRILLIANT DRAMA

The intrigue and the drama of the performances on the field of play have been even more brilliant. Certainly, the phenomenon of the so called ‘weaker teams’ closing the gap between themselves and the traditional powerhouses has been the most conspicuous feature of the first half of the tournament. This has generally not happened at the World Cup, and has given rise to an unpredictability that has added significant intrigue value to the still unfolding spectacle.

The quality of the football itself has been as good as it has been exciting. We’ve seen it all: brilliant play, spectacular goals, exciting skills, drama, and surprises. In terms of overall technical play, while there might not be a dominant or significantly superior team on show, the overall standard of the football has been outstanding.

Another aspect of the spectacle that normally incurs widespread criticism is the performance of the referees. No such issues in Russia 2018. Outside of the unwarranted grumblings about the newly adopted Video Assistant Referee system (VAR), the officiating has been brilliant, with an apparent emphasis on allowing the game to flow. A report coming out of Russia stated that at the end of the first round, the game officials have a correct call rate, inclusive of the use of VAR, of over 99 per cent. Very few teams, if any, can complain that they have been victims of bad calls. That, in and of itself, is an index of good, efficient officiating.

One of the first and most striking signs of things going wrong in an international event of this magnitude, is the emergence of controversies before and during the event. It is either that the Russians are the greatest at covering up controversies and managing negative news, or the World Cup has so far been incident and controversy-free. Almost all the big talking points have been positive and football-related.

The tournament is not yet over, and as it progresses towards its grand climax, there will be bigger, more high-profile and high-pressure games to come. However, without the absence of a credible working crystal ball stating otherwise, if all things remain equal and run true to form, based on the trajectory of the execution and the quality of the entertainment thus far, Russia 2018 could go down as the best World Cup ever, and none of us saw this coming. 

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