In 1895 when Englishman Rudyard Kipling wrote:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

I am pretty sure he was writing about the World Cup. 

Okay, it’s a long bow to draw considering Uruguay would not host the first incarnation of what we now know as the World Cup Finals for another 35 years. 

However, I’m pretty sure old ‘Kippers’ had the game of football in mind as he whacked away inspirationally on his iPad.

The polar opposite emotions about which Kipling wrote will no doubt, be present in Russia.

Someone will miss a penalty. A goalkeeping howler will bring a nation to tears and as painful as it is to say, a retrospective VAR decision could potentially infuriate millions.

Fans will be hoping and praying that their team avoids all of the above. Yet for every Baggio-like bungle, Karius clanger and inexplicable decision, there will be moments of sheer artistry and brilliance that will live eternally in our minds.

It is impossible for any World Cup to disappoint and be remembered as a ‘dud’ event. There is just too much quality on display, history at stake and too many people involved for the month to be anything less than spectacular.

Throw in a sense of the controversial and dramatic and each and every version of the tournament produces something unique.

Here is what I would like to see in Russia, things that might make it the greatest ever World Cup.

#1 A Messi masterclass

At 30 years of age and having already dabbled in international retirement, the sight of Lionel Messi walking from the pitch, forlorn, as Argentina crash out at the group stage doesn’t befit the man. 

Watching the great one in all his glory for potentially one last time at the World Cup is a footballing pleasure we all deserve. 

Personally, I haven’t seen anything like him and may never witness his freakish talent in any other player in the future. His form looks good leading in with a recent hat-trick and the idea of a footballing maestro producing the astonishing as something of a goodbye, has a fitting justice and poetry about it.

Messi’s challenge, considering his tendency to perform the extraordinary, will be to find a way to top his catalogue of brilliance one last time.  

#2 A roaring lion

Images of fanatical English support are part of all our footballing memories. Both the good and the bad.

The British Empire stretched far and wide and colonisation, conflict and exploitation became common experiences for those whose land came under the microscope of the mother country.

There isn’t a nation on earth that remained unaffected, directly or indirectly; British rule and the political ramifications of its influence reverberate to this very day. Hence, everybody bar the English themselves enjoys watching the Poms sent home early from the World Cup Finals.

However, there is something profoundly stirring when the English are up and about. The passion in the anthem, the chorus of support and the sheer arrogance of the ultimate imperial bully is a moving sight. 

Stiff upper lips everywhere, warm pints, muffins, tea and doing it for Queen and country; all so very English and the reasons for such celebration when they fail. 

The collective, “ha ha” when they bow out, echoes around the globe and the English fans remember 1966.

I would love to see the lion roar in Russia. After all, it is something we haven’t seen for so long. Opposition fans will hate it and the English would jump on the wagon in droves. 

Can you imagine a Raheem Sterling winner on July 16 that sends the Cup to England for the second time? It would annoy the heck out of most of you but it would be thrilling to watch.

#3 Fresh blood

In a similar vein, I would love to see the traditional footballing powers challenged. Whilst I love a German bratwurst and a Brazilian Carnival as much as the next man, it would be great to see a new player on the scene.

The fairy tale that Iceland wrote at the 2016 European Championships captured the world’s imagination, as did Portugal and its well-groomed captain, who rode their luck all the way to a stunning victory over France.

To see a new contender such as Belgium or Poland, an Asian surprise packet, or a strong performance deep into the tournament from an African or Central American nation, would add much to the spectacle. 

One feels that the competition has never been as intense, with danger matches prevalent in most groups and the potential for a Cinderella story as strong as ever.

Let’s hope a little convict settlement down south* has some role to play in it.

Apart from an incident free tournament where players, officials and spectators are kept safe throughout, these are the things I would love to see. 

Along with Socceroo wins against Peru and Denmark. Surely that it isn’t too much to ask?

Except for Adelaide

What would you like to see at this year's World Cup? Let us know by entering here and we'll give the top ten answers (as judged by our team) a complimentary copy of Andrew Howe's A-Z of Socceroos - World Cup Edition. We reserve the right to publish the responses. Entries close on June 12 at 8pm AEST.

Categories: Opinion | Football Life | World Cup

#russia2018, 2018 world cup, lionel messi, england, three lions, competition

You might also like: