It is regarded as the most popular and most watched sporting event in the world. It comes every four years, making it even more special. Hundreds of millions of people across the world gather together rooting for their favorite country in hopes they carry that golden trophy when it’s all over. It is the World Cup, the biggest sporting event known to mankind. Soccer is the most popular sport across the world. There are people who follow it religiously and swear by their favorite team. They look at their favorite players as idols, or even God-like. People who are not accustomed to soccer mania might find this behavior odd, but if you ask any soccer fan about it, they would not have it any other way. When it is time for the World Cup, things only get wilder and crazier. Cities shut down just to watch the game. People wave their flags around, cheer when they win, and weep when they lose. It is a part of the month long event. All of this happened this year as well, when the World Cup took center stage yet again.
The World Cup this year took place in Germany. With a team as strong as the Germans, as well as having the home field advantage, it was pretty obvious that the Germans went in to the World Cup as one of the heavy favorites. The number one favorite, though, had to be Brazil. The team was filled with superstars and was the defending champions from the 2002 World Cup. They are known for playing the “beautiful game” and this World Cup was supposed to be a display of that, which was expected to lead to a beautiful victory. Although the Brazilians and Germans, the two finalists from the 2002 World Cup, were expected to reach the finals yet again, other favorites included Argentina, England, and Portugal. Teams like France and Italy were expected to do well, but not reach that far. What an unpredictable World Cup we had this year.
During the pool play of the Cup, Argentina looked very impressive and people started jumping on their bandwagon. Germans and Brazilians looked solid and people still were siding with them as well. Italy did well, but still nobody took them seriously. France, on the other hand, struggled mightily and limped its way into the round of 16. Everyone thought they were done and captain Zinedine Zidane would have to retire with a shameful performance by his country. When it was time for the round of 16, it was a whole new ball game. Brazil looked great and headed to the quarterfinals with ease. England and Portugal also pulled off impressive victories, which set up a clash between the two teams in the quarters. Argentina looked vulnerable, even though they won and advanced to the quarterfinals. A meeting with Germany in the quarters was highly anticipated, and people felt the winner of this game would reach the finals for sure. The team nobody believed in, France, pulled off a surprising victory against Spain, a team known for playing impressively during pool play, but fading when it comes to elimination games. They had a date with the Brazilians in a match nobody thought they can win. But when the actual game took place, the impossible occurred. The French, with their superior defense, absolutely shut down the Brazilian’s beautiful offense and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent World Cup history. People were in a state of shock. Ronaldhino, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, and the rest of the Brazilian team had to exit the tournament with their heads down, after tasting victory in the last World Cup. Ronaldhino, regarded as the best player in the world, really had a disappointing World Cup and this is what led to the failure of the Brazilian team. With the Brazilians eliminated, it was anybody’s cup to win now. The England-Portugal showdown turned out to be an emotional one. England striker Wayne Rooney, who came back from an injury just to play in the Cup, got into a scuffle with club teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, and it got him a red card, which led to his exit from the game early. It only got worse for the English, as captain David Beckham suffered an injury, and had to watch the second half from the sidelines. The game went into penalty kicks, and without their two best kickers, the English had no chance, and Portugal advance to the semifinals for a meeting with France. Portugal’s inability to beat England even when they were short handed led people to finally favor the French. The team everybody discounted was now being favored to make the finals. As for the Argentina-Germany match, it also went to penalty kicks. But the Argentine coach took out his best strikers earlier in the game when he thought they had the game won, and when it came to penalty kicks, they just didn’t have enough. The Germans advanced, still being favored to make the finals against an Italian team who cruised to the semifinals, but still was looked down upon.
All the thoughts of Portugal not being strong enough to make the finals were true, as they were defeated by France. The Germans, because of home field advantage, were heavy favorites against Italy. But the unthinkable happened, as Italy scoring two goals in overtime, defeated the Germans, and headed to the finals. So, now the final match up was between France and Italy. Two teams no one gave a chance to win the Cup. Everyone was so shocked at these teams making the finals, that they couldn’t even think who would win this match up. All bets were definitely off. The sentimental favorite had to be France because of it being Zidane’s last game, and they would like to see him ride off to the sunset as a winner. Everything started of well for the French and Zidane. He scored a goal in the opening minutes on a penalty kick, giving France the lead. Italy eventually tied it, and then no team would score. The game went to overtime, and during the second overtime, the most shocking thing happened. An Italian player, Materazzi-the goal scorer for the Italians in the game, started taunting Zidane. Zidane, at first, played it cool, but when Materazzi wouldn’t stop, Zidane went up to him and gave him a head butt. This gave him an automatic red card and his brilliant career finished on a sour note. After this the game went to penalties, and without their captain, the French had lost their mojo. The Italians won it in penalty kicks, capping off one of the most unpredictable and entertaining World Cups in recent times. One would feel sorry for Zidane for contributing so much to the game, and then having to leave the way he did. A player of his caliber should be given the highest of honors in his farewell game. What happened happened, and there is nothing anything can do about it. Congratualtions to Italy and its entire people for winning the World Cup. I am sure they are still celebrating the victory as we speak. Yes the World Cup is that big that it takes over a nation even after it is all over.
It is a known fact that 32 teams qualify to participate in the World Cup. But one thing some might not have noticed is that out of the 32 teams, never have we seen a South Asian country make the Cup. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, have yet to make a World Cup. Why is that? Is it because they do not have any talent and cannot compete against the rest of the world? I do not believe this. I think there are far weaker teams who make it to Cup over the South Asian countries. Then what could it be? Well in India’s case, they were not allowed to qualify in the World Cup because they wanted to play barefoot. That means they do have the talent and the money to make it, it’s just them not following the rules that is preventing them. We get the Indians some cleats and they too will be in the World Cup soon. But what about the rest of the countries. I think their main problem is money and promotion. They do not have the funds do compete in such big tournaments, nor do they have the backing of strong and important people that can lead them to get a chance. Whatever may be the case, I think all these countries deserve a chance to perform in the biggest stage. Soccer is the biggest sport in all these countries, even surpassing cricket, and they deserve a chance to play the biggest soccer games of their lives. Let’s hope in 2010, we can get at least one of these countries in, and then another in the next cup, and so on and so on. This World Cup proved the impossible can happen. Let’s hope it happens again with these countries getting the chance of a lifetime.