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FIFA World Cup: What We Learned

For the 2nd time, France is World Cup champion! — by Luis Flores
For the 2nd time, France is World Cup champion! — by Luis Flores

As soon as 2018 hit, a new countdown began. It wasn’t for 2019, it was for the World Cup. The greatest sports spectacle (sorry Super Bowl) delivered and if anything, it’s superior to the 2014 edition. Apart from the wins and losses, so much more took place, on and off the field.

The Champions’ “curse” continues

Ever since the 1998 World Cup, the defending champion failed to replicate success. France won that year. In 2002, France was eliminated in the first round; having failed to at least score one goal. Come 2006, Brazil was eliminated in the quarter-finals. Italy scrapped the bottom of the barrel for failure, with a Group Stage elimination when 2010 came along. As part of Group B (2014), Spain was tossed around by Chile and the Netherlands, before securing a pity win over Australia. Germany had its chance to end the tradition and it failed miserably. After a loss to Mexico and barely getting through Sweden, all the champions had to do was beat South Korea. Instead, their god-given soccer powers disappeared and were replaced with utter confusion for their most humiliating loss.

Third Place match is pointless

On paper, the third place match is a final chance at partial glory after losing in the semis. In reality, it’s just a reminder that you couldn’t reach the final and if you lose, it’s your 2nd consecutive loss before you go back home. What England and Belgium were actually playing for was avoiding another loss.

Look at other tournaments. The Euro Cup doesn’t have a third place match. Portugal (2016) won, done deal. No one cared or remembers the teams that lost to them and France. In the 2017 Confederations Cup, we remember that Germany topped Chile. That’s what mattered. Was there any significance to Mexico vs. Portugal? No.

Only in the Olympics is a third place match acceptable, as the goal is to win gold, silver, or bronze. Those are the prizes for every competition in the games.

Getting used to the VAR will take time

For a really long time, the topic of using the video assistance referee (VAR) has been a subject of debates. The reasons to justify using this technology makes sense.

From the critic’s perspective, using the VAR takes away the “human element” from the game. That would make sense if the purpose of the VAR was to overtake the role of a regular referee. There is also the claim that it takes time away from the games themselves. That is also partially true, but they have to remember that we always see additional time once regular time expires. The review is not a long process.

In reality, the biggest critics are traditional soccer fans. Those are the fans used to quick pace games with no involvement of technology. Well, as the technology improves over the years this should no longer be of concern. The entire purpose of the VAR is for the sake of fairness. The use of the VAR should be called into question if reviews become an issue like in the NFL.

GOATS choke

Hands down, the greatest players in the world are Lionel Messi (Barcalona) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid). Every time they represent their respective nation, they don’t replicate the same success they do in UEFA. The highest level of success they reached were the finals of two Copa Americas and one World Cup final for Messi; and one Euro Cup victory for Ronaldo.

When it comes down to the World Cup, Argentina and Portugal are glorified punching bags, only known for being carried by two superstars.

Europe reigns supreme

France’s victory mark’s the fourth straight World Cup for a European nation. The trend started in 2006, with Italy topping France. Spain and Germany followed up. The last non-European team to win the gold was Brazil in 2002. This year, every South American’s team elimination occurred at the hands of a European team.

Out of all the European teams in this World Cup, only one underperformed; that one being the former champions. The other teams that reached the Round of 16 performed as expected before hitting a brick wall.

This article was originally published on @luisflores-ny