France wins, Russia gains
France head coach Didier Deschamps, who became only the third in the history of the sport to both lead a team and coach them to World Cup successes, was rather cryptic when contending that they would be ensconced atop the football world for the next four years
France head coach Didier Deschamps, who became only the third in the history of the sport to both lead a team and coach them to World Cup successes, was rather cryptic when contending that they would be ensconced atop the football world for the next four years.
To him it hardly mattered that France was not a beautiful champion, as it is being reckoned by all those who follow the world’s most popular sport. Perhaps, therein lies the fact that despite their second title triumph it will be one hell of a job for Les Bleus to convince all and sundry that they were in no way inferior to the extraordinary dexterity that some of the teams had in a rich measure but had lost the plot midway through.
At a time when it is ‘Ole, Ole’ all over France and with its President Emmanuel Macron due to hold a massive reception to the national heroes, one should remember that the tournament produced only a handful of exceptional players, some who rose to the pinnacle of glory and away from the shadows of their ‘superstar’ teammates and a few who lived up to their reputations, including the 19-year-old sensation Kylian Mbappe, N'golo Kante, Harry Maguire, Domagoj Vida, Denis Cheryshev, Thibaut Courtois, Paul Pogba, Harry Kane, Jose Maria Gimenez, who all outshone the likes of the large-than-life charismatic talismans Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo (despite his goals) and Luis Suarez.
Somehow, it was not a World Cup that can be remembered for anything extraordinary except for the emergence of Croatia, Russia and Belgium into the big league; Video Assistant Referees (VAR) making a controversial debut; individual lows outnumbering highs and a couple of giant-killing acts that saw the defending champion biting the dust in the league stage.
The much bigger news, and a more celebratory development than that scripted by France, was the fantastic rescue of an entire team and coach, who were trapped in Thailand’s dreaded Tham Luang cave for 18 days and were brought from the throes of death, literally. That clearly was more spectacular than a majority of the 63 matches that were played during the two fortnights.
It was perhaps the best organised edition but it certainly was the not the most fascinating spectacle on the ground. The eventual champion was neither flamboyant nor elegant at any stage of the theatre of dreams. It was more of a mechanically mundane approach that yielded the desired results for the team, whose players could never dish out the flair of either Michael Platini or Zinedine Zidane.
Its mediocrity was similar to the 1983 Indian cricket team, which was neither the best around nor did it boast of players who were ODI specialists but still managed to win the World Cup from under the nose of more fancied outfits like two-time defending champions West Indies and champion-in-waiting Australia.
The standouts from Moscow were the way predictions and expectations were thrown asunder and Vladimir Putin cashing in on the golden opportunity to present a hitherto unheard of positive side of Russia.