‘There’s a game to be played’

Stephen Reynolds

The football world prepares to swap their club colours for their country’s, as the club season
is put on hold for the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The competition will be held during the Northern hemisphere’s winter for the first time, given the climate in the host nation. 32 teams will once again battle it out for the sport’s most prestigious honour, however, what’s actually going to happen on the pitch hasn’t as much of a topic as tournaments gone by, with constant controversy being the topic of conversation surrounding the finals.

When Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup in 2010, the whole world was left scratching their heads as to how . It was later reviewed, that FIFA committee members were bribed by the Gulf state in exchange for their support for the Qatari bid. Questions were swiftly raised about the climate which subsequently led to the tournament being moved to the winter.

Throughout the last decade, there’s been constant debate over Qatar’s human rights records, with 6,500 migrant workers reported to have died in Qatar since they won the World Cup bid. The last couple of weeks in the lead up to the first game, has been an interesting watch to say the least.

Qatar has released videos of paid actors as fans for each country and have now banned the sale of alcohol in and around the stadiums. To remind everyone, Budweiser are the tournament’s sponsors. A contractual headache for FIFA.

Despite the controversy, the debate and everything that’s come with a decade long build up to this tournament, the players are arriving in Qatar and we will have a World Cup. So, to what we all wish we were focusing on, the football. Can France defend their crown, is football (finally) coming home or will it be Messi’s final crowning moment?

When looking at the different teams throughout the tournament, it definitely feels like a ‘new era’ for many of the teams. Yes, the stars of the 2010’s are still there, despite the fact they are entering the twilight of their careers, but we are seeing a new generation of stars who are keen to make a name for themselves.

This year’s favourites and record holders, Brazil, boast a wealth of talent, with their star man Neymar keen to cement his legacy. Brazilian coach Tite remained loyal to certain stalwarts who’ve served him well, including 38 year old Dani Alves who’s in line to play in his 4th World Cup.

The holders, France have been hit with key injuries, with the likes of Presnel Kimpembe, Paul Pogba and Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema, all ruled out of the World Cup.

Euro 2020 finalists, England will look to go one step further after two deep runs into major tournaments in recent years. They’re also a team who again will benefit from continuity, with many of the starters from the last world cup, in line to open for England against Iran on Monday.

Germany, Spain, Portugal expected to go far but may lack that fire power of others.

The fan favourites, Argentina look primed for a deep run, with the horrors of 2018 forgotten with the new crop, under the stewardship of Lionel Scaloni, come into the tournament Copa America champions and determined to give it their all for their inspirational and extraordinary leader, Lionel Messi, who’s legacy and standing in Argentinian folklore, rests on this tournament in Qatar.

Messi will be determined to repeat the late Diego Maradona’s miracles in ‘86 and stick himself firmly on football’s throne.

Despite the controversy, the drama and everything that’s happened over the last decade, it’s all set up for another memorable tournament. The world awaits for another champion, perhaps new, another story and another hero. All our focus is on the football, for now.

Stephen Reynolds