Bet your boots, the World Cup needs a first-time winner
Fresh champion will do wonders for this edition given the recent formulaic tedium of international football
By the time you read this the fate of some quarterfinalists will be decided.
That’s a good thing as the World Cup waded through the group stage and parts of the round of 16 with a frenetic pace that has left minds and bodies scarred.
However, with the shocks we’ve witnessed – such as defending champions Germany falling to the first-round exit curse that has afflicted every European World Cup winner since France were chewed up and spat out in 2002 – it’s about time the World Cup goes to a nation that hasn’t quite smelt the cheese.
This is an edition that is in need of a first-time winner.
With the formulaic processes that have pervaded international football recently, a fresh champion is a necessity.The last first-time winner (Spain in our South African backyard) was a pretty recent one eight years ago.
The football axis, though, at the time had tilted towards them in more ways than one. In the 2002 tournament, indifferent refereeing robbed them of a semifinal spot when they controversially lost to the Republic of Korea.
The football gods at the time decided that Spain’s emerging team could not get in the way of a feelgood Korean tale, and for all intents and purposes that was a good thing.
Four years later, magician Zinedine Zidane awoke from what looked like his eternal footballing slumber to catapult France to the final.Spain were his unfortunate victims in the last 16 but even in that tournament Spain looked like a team who could challenge further despite their noted lack of fight in knock-out games. After winning the Uefa Euro 2008 they finally delivered on their immense potential.
The other first-time winners were France in 1998, who rode on a wave of home emotion and élan to sweep Brazil aside.
Before that, you had to go back another 20 years for the other first-time winner in Argentina, who presented corrupt and vicious dictator Jorge Videla with the trophy under Daniel Passarella’s leadership.While football is a global sport, it is worth remembering that only eight teams have won the showpiece.
Brazil, Italy and Germany have won 13 of the 20 editions since 1930, with Uruguay (two), Argentina (two), Spain, England and France picking up the scraps.
The football gods have been nasty this year, with only five of the previous winners among the 16. The previous tournament had the same number of former champs at the same stage and four went to the quarterfinals.
The nice part of this year’s tournament is that France and Argentina will have to cancel each other out, while Brazil, Uruguay and England have difficult ties.Such has been the tricky nature of this Mundial, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the number of former winners is significantly reduced or only one remains standing.
After all, not even Paul the Octopus would have banked on the Republic of Korea blinding the Germans.
That is the magic of the beautiful game and one hopes it presents us with the gift of a new champion outside of the established order.
With this being Gianni Infantino’s first World Cup as Fifa’s president, maybe it could be the dawn of a new football era, or maybe I’m being wishful.