Well, what a four weeks it's been!

While it's not all over yet - with the appalling 3 / 4 play-off on Saturday (our Sunday) and the Final on Sunday (our Monday) - 62 of the 64 games are done and dusted. It's fair to say that the World Cup on the field has both met and exceeded expectations.

'Met', because when it gets down to it, the teams in the final four are not so unexpected - Belgium (ranked 3rd in the world just days before the World Cup kicked-off); France 7th; England 12th; and Croatia 20th. Considering the rankings go down to 211, 20th is pretty darn good.

'Exceeded' because, even though they are ranked 20th in the world, Croatia is still so small in country terms. 4.2 million at last count, excluding their sizeable diaspora around the world, particularly in Australia. They may not be the smallest country to make the World Cup Final (Uruguay has that honour), or even the smallest at the World Cup (ditto Uruguay), but it's still such a good story - made more sobering by the fact, as one of our readers observed to us today (anonymity requested):

“Today's thought: 12 years ago, Australia drew with Croatia at the World Cup and knocked them out at the group stage. Australia went to the round of 16. In 2018, Croatia made the final of the World Cup. Croatia is a tiny country with a financially struggling league with only two “big” clubs, no national youth development plan, a federation riddled with corruption, that only hired its coach - who had no big time coaching experience - last October.

Since 2006, Australia, on the other hand ...”

The other reason the World Cup has both 'met' and 'exceeded' expectations for so many? Russia. This isn't a surprise (though it may have been for some). It is, of course, part of the 'grand plan' of sport and soft diplomacy, just as it will be in four years and four months time when #Qatar2022 kicks-off. 

And finally, there's the Moo Pa (Wild Boar) football club. Like the rest of the world, we were transfixed by this possible awful tragedy turned into a great triumph of resilience, determination, courage, strength and love.

We wrote about and sent tweets to the Asian Football Confederation suggesting the boys and their coach be invited to the Asian Cup in the UAE in January. Perhaps you could too? (If not, UAE, are you reading this??)

This is an extract from our e-newsletter sent to subscribers on 13th July. If you would like to subscribe also, please do so here.

Categories: News | World Cup

2018 world cup, #russia2018, #qatar2022, wild boars

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