The unpredictability and uncertainty nature of football was on full display at the ongoing World Cup football tournament in Doha, Qatar.
With the lineup completed for the semifinals,the way the tournament has trended so far,we cannot rule out more shocks and unexpected results. Defending champions France looking forward to back-to-back World Cup titles face dark horse Morocco for a spot in the final. Likewise 2018 World Cup runners up Croatia makes another bid to win the trophy. They are up against Argentina in the other semi final. We might see two unexpected finalists vying for the planet’s biggest football honor.
Who knows? The quarter finals were absorbing, ferocious, thrilling and evenly fought in terms of competition and marked by upsets galore. Football goers across the globe were kept on the edge of their seats throughout as they watched the intriguing,nail biting and highly charged spectacle with endless twists and turns. There was no shortage of heartaches, tears,celebration,joy,outrage,jubilation, controversies,finger pointing and poor quality of refereeing.
Off the field there were contrasting emotions of ecstasy and agony for fans over their teams victory and defeat respectively.They were literally overcome with unprecedented joy and grief. Undoubtedly,Morocco's phenomenal run in the competition has been the talk of the world following their history making quarterfinal win over Portugal. They became the first country from the African continent to reach the round of four in the history of the World Cup. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they are contenders and no more pretenders.
You never know- they might end up as the first African country to win the World Cup. Not too long ago legendary footballer Pele had echoed the same sentiments.Could this be the year?We will have to wait and see. Morocco’s success is a huge shot in the arm for Africa.We might see their representation increase at the World Cup. Top seed Brazil’s unexpected defeat at the hands of Croatia in a penalty shootout was a shocker. The goal scored by Neymar was an absolute goal but they could not hold onto the lead and crashed out of the tournament eventually. While Lionel Messi led Argentina barely survived against the Netherlands in a duel marred by frayed tempers, controversies and foul play. Messi’s World Cup dream lives on after Argentina prevailed over the stubborn opposition in a tiebreaker, largely due to heroics from Argentine’s custodian Martinez.
In the semi-final they face a very physical and dangerous Croatia for a place in the final.It is a wide open match, and they have to be at their best to stand a chance. I expect a compelling, enthralling and riveting game. Arch rivals France and England were involved in a ding-dong battle with the former emerging winners. Ace striker Harry Kane, who converted the first spot kick to level the score,missed the second to seal the deal for the defending champions. France face a defiant and surging Morocco who now believe that they can win the trophy.Certainly, a fascinating matchup is brewing and in the making.
Morocco's giant killing act continued unabated.They produced another shocker by eliminating Portugal to end one of the greatest footballers of our lifetime,Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup dream. I strongly feel Coach Fernando Santos' decision to bench a highly experienced player of Ronaldo ‘s caliber in the first half of a crucial match was a blunder and backfired eventually.
The round of 8 will be most remembered for Morocco's upset win over Portugal, Brazil’s shock loss to Croatia, Kane’s spot kick miss against France, Argentina’s custodian saves in penalty shootout against the Netherlands and Ronaldo and Neymar’s sobs.
By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA, USA
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