World Cup: From Russia with love

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 14 Jun 2018 09:17:52


 

MOSCOW,

GERMANY will aim to be the third country to successfully defend their crown while other traditional powers Brazil, Argentina, Spain, France will also fancy their chances when the 2018 FIFA World Cup starts here on Thursday.
Precisely 1,432 days after Mario Gotze scored in extra time of the 2014 final to hand Germany their fourth World Cup title, the 32 qualified nations are all set to write yet another chapter in the storied history of most popular game on the planet.


Hosts Russia and minnows Saudi Arabia will set the ball rolling when they clash in the tournament opener in front of a packed Luzniki Stadium here.
Brazil, who lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 1958 and 1962, were the last team to retain their title. Italy were the first to achieve the feat when they won consecutive titles in 1934 and 1938.


But Germany, probably the most consistent team at the World Cup have the ability to match that feat.
Having reached at least the semi-finals of every major tournament since Joachim Loew took over as coach in 2006, the Germans will be a confident bunch in Russia.
The world’s top ranked team have the ability to make strategic adjustments while facing different opponents. They have the ability to make the transition between the 3-4-3 and 5-3-2 formations which allowed them to beat Italy for the first time in a major tournament at Euro 2016. A lot of the attention will be on five-time champions Brazil, the most successful team at the World Cup.


Given their proud history and superb recent form, it comes as little surprise that Brazil will be among the favourites.
Brazil had to endure a difficult qualification campaign and were languishing in sixth place of the South American qualifying group at one stage.


Former coach Dunga was sacked after the team failed to reach the knock-out phase of the 2016 Copa America. Current coach Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, better known as Tite, has managed to transform the team to some extent.
Since then, Brazil have won nine consecutive World Cup qualifiers, thus becoming the first team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. They had also reclaimed the world No 1 spot for the first time since 2011.


Argentina are the other giants from South America who are title contenders in every World Cup they play in.
The two-time World Cup winners have lost in the finals of three consecutive major tournaments in recent years. They were runners-up at Brazil 2014 besides losing in the Copa America finals of 2015 and 2016.


Their fate in the tournament will depend on the form of their attacking talisman Lionel Messi. Russia 2018 will probably be his last chance to show that he has the ability to live up to the massive weight of expectations that comes along with the famed Argentina jersey.


Spain meanwhile, will be reeling from the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament. He was at the helm of the Spanish squad since 2016, and was unbeaten in 20 games.


France, on the other hand, will gun for glory a full two decades after lifting the World Cup on home soil.
They have a talented squad but will be keen to avoid the infighting and internal fissures that have proved costly on occasion. France coach Didier Deschamps will be keen to avoid the embarrassment of the 2002 World Cup, when players refused to train and the then defending champions had to face an embarrassing early exit.


Apart from the major traditional powers, reigning European champion Portugal and two-time World Cup winners Uruguay may be considered as outside challengers.
Uruguay meanwhile, will depend a lot on the partnership between star forward Luis Suarez and the veteran Edinson Cavani. They have several other stars well, including experienced Atletico Madrid defenders Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin.


The promising Rodrigo Bentancur of Juventus and Lucas Torreira could be the ones to watch out for in midfield.

 

 


 

 

WORLD CUP FOOTBALL FACTS


The winner of the 2018 World Cup in Russia will get $38 million. Runners-up in this edition will get $28 million.

Germany picked $ 35 million, while the runner-up Argentina received a cheque for $ 25 million in last edition played in Brazil four years ago.

The World Cup Trophy weighs
6.142 kgs (13.54 pounds). The trophy is 36.8 cm (14.5 inches ) high, made of solid 18 carat (75%) gold. The base contains two layers of semi-precious malachite while the bottom side of the trophy bears the engraved year and name of each FIFA World Cup
winner since 1974.

32 teams are participating in the 21st World Cup finals in
Russia which runs from June 14 to July 15.

64 matches, 48 in the first round league, 16 in the knock outs, will be played in 12 stadiums. The final will be played at Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow on July 15.

Brazil have won the World Cup on five occasions. They quali
fied for the final seven times. Italy and Germany are the
second with four World Cup titles each.