This summer there is something particularly appetizing on the horizon, the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The 32 teams from six different continents will battle it out in Russia to determine who holds supremacy in world football. What can we hope to see in Russia this summer as we watch the greatest game and the greatest tournament on Earth?
The World Cup begins with the group stage, 32 teams divided into eight groups of four will play a series of matches, each team receiving three points for a win and one point for a tie. The two teams with the most points will advance to the round of sixteen.
Typically, there is one group dubbed the “group of death” the group with more than two powerhouse teams, thereby ensuring that one great team will not advance to the next stage of the tournament. This year nearly every “big nation team” only has one other serious rival in their group and there is no traditional group of death. This likely means that the round of sixteen will be incredibly exciting with the best teams going head-to-head for a spot in the quarter finals.
If there’s one group to watch this summer it is group D. Iceland, who showed their underdog brilliance two years ago at the Euro 2016 in France. Argentina and their star player Lionel Messi seek to redeem themselves after their loss to Germany in the final of the last World Cup. Nigeria and Croatia hope to demonstrate their footballing prowess and their impressive squads of young talent.
It is difficult to watch the World Cup and not be moved to emotion, for it is the most beautiful game on the planet and has the power to heal and inspire billions of people. One only has to watch the beginning five minutes of a game to appreciate the magnitude of the scene. Players are often moved to tears at the playing of their national anthem, knowing that they are representing millions of their countrymen, in doing the thing that they love most in the world.
Nowhere else in sports do you have rivalries that span 100 years. Only in football can you get a grudge match between Germany and England, two countries who have been pitted against each other in two world wars in the last century.
The potential for upsets in the World Cup is always high. National teams are comprised of world star players that play globally, but only play as a team occasionally each year. It is not always the most star-studded team that is victorious but the team who plays best together. Last world cup, Costa Rica triumphed in their group eliminating England and Italy, two teams that were both contenders.
More than a billion people watched the World Cup final in 2014, and that number is likely to be even higher this year. While the United States is not in the tournament this year, every American should tune in to the tournament. It is the biggest event on the planet characterized by beauty, love, passion and competition the best things human civilization has to offer. Fans, players and countries come together for one month, once every four years to celebrate the beauty of football and you should too.