The game of football is filled with surprises at every turn – and with favourites Brazil and Uruguay out of the running, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be flying back home with the trophy. But one thing’s for sure: The FIFA World Cup will stay in Europe.
The emotions are clear from the tears that trickle down from his eyes: He may be regarded as one of the most celebrated footballers currently in the game, but there’s no masking the grief of 26-year-old Neymar Jr. – and his teammates – after their loss to Belgium.
Brazil may have only lost the match by one goal, but it made all the difference in the world. They were sent home packing post-match – a pity, considering they outdid the Belgians on all fronts: ball possession (59 per cent to 41 per cent), shots on goal (27 to nine), and pass accuracy (88 per cent to 80 per cent).
However, in the end it was the second goal – the one that Kevin de Bryune propelled past goalkeeper Alisson and into the far corner of the Brazilian nets – that took Belgium into the semi-finals of this year’s FIFA World Cup.
The loss also marked the end of South America’s World Cup dream – a dream that had been hanging in the balance for 12 years! And the fans out at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) for the Oman World Cup Festival were faced with the prospect of waiting patiently for another four years. Football is a
Shaukat Ali, a Brazilian supporter at the Oman World Cup Festival tells us: “This has to be one of the most disappointing games in this rather disappointing World Cup. All the best teams have been knocked off and all those remain are the European teams.
“And even then, the only team worthy of taking the trophy home now is France,” he adds.
This further asserts the European teams’ dominance in international football, but it’s still far from a cake-walk for those teams left in the running.
Belgium – who were placed among the favourites – had to take on a sturdy France, while the Croatians had to take on a rather lucky English team led by Gareth Southgate.
Termed as a recap of the 2004 FIFA World Cup, save for the early exit of Brazil and Germany this year, the competition is now giving countries such as England, Croatia, and Belgium a hope for glory.
As we progress closer to the finals of the cup, it’s still too soon to tell who could take it home – right now, it’s anyone’s guess. But as responsible football enthusiasts, what we can do – and rightly so – is recap where the South American countries went wrong.
Old isn’t always gold
Let’s begin with the most obvious advantage the European teams had over the South American and Asian teams this year: age. Staggeringly, the average age of the players in the Argentinian team was 29.3 – and don’t forget that their trump card Messi is now 31 years old! Mexico are no different, coming in at an average age of 29.4, while both Brazil and Uruguay came in at 28.1.
In retrospect, teams such as France and Germany came into the championship with young teams averaging at 26 and
Football analyst and editor of Koooora Wa Bas magazine, Fahad al Tamimi, says: “Young players mean faster legs in the game. These boys are hungry for winning and will do all it takes to send the ball into the nets.
“Aside from the Brazilian team, I think most South American teams lost out on speed, thereby giving the opponents a good chance to open the field up and try for a goal,” he adds.
There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’
Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., Cavani, Coutinho, Luis Suarez, Marcelo, and Sergio Aguero were some of the big guns from South America that made appearances in the World Cup matches this year. And while that should’ve spelled well for their teams, it didn’t – not even a little bit!
In fact, the teams were left crippled by the lack of chemistry between players. For instance: There were moments when Marcelo was seen advancing with the ball while the strikers and mid-fielders were laying low.
This was also the case with Argentina, when Lionel Messi was caught out dribbling by opposition defenders due to the lack of backup offered by the Argentinian mid-fielders.
Sure, there were moments of magic here
and there, but in the end, it showed us that World Cups aren’t won by individual performances alone.
Ball possession amounts to nothing
We’re not playing football in kindergarten, so keeping possession of the ball for longer doesn’t amount to much but a pat on the back. That said, the obvious benefits of ball possession are tremendous, but somehow it didn’t translate to many goals in this year’s World Cup.
Attacking and risk-taking has been the order of the month, and teams such as Belgium and France, which had a possession rate of under 41 and 39 per cent, respectively, proved our points right with wins over Brazil and Argentina.
Fahad tells us: “It’s hard to pin-point what went wrong with Brazil – they did take risks in the final game and they played well. But there’s also the luck factor, and Brazil were denied multiple times by Belgium’s
“Also, the last penalty that the referee didn’t grant Brazil can be put down to Neymar. His immature actions on the field – the diving and the unnecessary actions – in previous games meant that the referee was quite harsh on him.
“If I’m being completely honest, they probably would’ve tied the match if they’d been granted
“But that’s what they say: You win some and you lose some,” he shrugs.
Catch the final matches live!
They said that a World Cup final without Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and Portugal wouldn’t amount for much – but, they were wrong! Two games await you this week – the third-place play-off and the highly-anticipated finals.
You too can join the action live and interact with fans at the largest screening of the World Cup games at the Oman World Cup Festival presented by Ooredoo, on now at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC). The matches are screened in English and Arabic, and you can catch them on seven of the largest screens in the country that present viewers with a 360-degree experience.
Tickets are on-sale online at tickets.virginmegastore.me or on-site at the OCEC and at Virgin Megastore – Seeb City Centre and Oasis by the Sea. For more details, visit www.theagency.co.om/sae-worldcup.