Host nation Qatar and the much-discussed Ecuador opened the 22nd FIFA World Cup on Sunday. The opening match is the first in a series of 64 matches, and the final on December 18th. Brazil is the favorite for the overall win, followed by Argentina’s Lionel Messi. Orange is one of the many strangers.
Rarely has there been as little information about football in the run-up to the World Finals as there has been in recent months. A dark shadow of human rights violations and corruption hangs over the Qatar World Cup. Qatar received less criticism when Max Verstappen raced there or the World Championships in Athletics, Cycling and Gymnastics were held there. But soccer is the greatest sport on earth. Qatar is now only in the spotlight. All of this attention has led to improvements, but there is still a long way to go, according to human rights organizations.
But on Sunday the ball finally got rolling, after a spectacular display of perhaps the most beautiful fireworks in the world. Of the eight world champions who have competed in 21 editions of the World Cup, only Italy remains missing. Five-time world champions Brazil have strikers to enjoy, but they are also favorites because, after being eliminated in the quarter-finals against Belgium in the 2018 World Cup, they have only lost three times in fifty matches. After the defeat in July 2019 against Brazil, Argentina has been unbeaten for over three years.
Louis van Gaal’s orange brigade is an outsider, just like France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and England. The last time Brazil won the World Cup was in 2002. Since then, a European country has ruled the football world. Italy won in 2006, followed by Spain in 2010, Germany in 2014, and France in 2018.
Messi gets a fifth and final chance at a world title with Argentina. Stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema will not be in the United States, Mexico and Canada in four years. Can they shine again on the highest platform?
Will Messi be the World Cup star, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar or Cristiano Ronaldo, who fell to Manchester United? Maybe there will be a new hero? Louis van Gaal’s last World Cup final with the Dutch national team will not go unnoticed. You can leave a little noise and commotion for him. The 71-year-old is aware that he does not have the best footballers in the world. But the Amsterdam-born also believes he can put together the best team. “We have a better squad than in the 2014 World Cup,” he said. “And then we were already in third place.”
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