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A Sexy World Cup …..

Soccer: World Cup-Germany vs Mexico
The Mexicans celebrate Hirving Lozano’s goal against World Champions Germany, yesterday. Mexico won 1-0, their greates-ever World Cup result.
Witters Sport-USA TODAY Sports

…. that’s how it’s shaping up eleven games in, at the conclusion of the first weekend.

We’ve had shocks, surprises, brilliance, colour, pomp, ceremony, and of course Cristiano Ronaldo. You just cannot keep CR7 out of the headlines.

He’d never scored before against Spain. Now he’s got three! Add to that he’s now registered goals in 4 Finals tournaments. Didn’t you just know he was about to convert that sumptuous free-kick as Friday’s wonderful Iberian derby clash approached its conclusion?

Soccer: World Cup-Spain vs Portugal
CR7 celebrates after scoring against Spain .....
Sipa USA-USA TODAY Sports

Mexican Joy ...

People were already talking about “game of the tournament”, but we had another contender for the crown within 48 hours, as Mexico boldly met the challenge of World Champions, Germany without fear or caution. The Mexicans’ fast, furious and precise attacking play shocked an imperious opponent that was unceremoniously cut down to size.

This wasn’t Mexico at their best. They were better than that! I’d never seen a Mexico team play so brilliantly. I was taken by surprise. Think we all were, including Herr Lwow.

It was the first time-ever Germany had lost to a CONCACAF nation in WC play, and put simply, it was the best result in Mexico’s long and chequered history, underlining their traditional passion and place at the pinnacle of the North and Central American region.

And, if you’re still unsure of how much it meant, check out again the reaction of Chicharito, a player with experience at two of the greatest clubs in world football, his Moscow tears of joy a sight to behold.

Heck, the bouncing that went on in Mexico City after the goal, registered activity on the country’s earthquake monitor! It was truly seismic.

ICELANDIC FAIRY TALE ....

I get a little annoyed at the criticism of Iceland, a WC fairy-tale if ever there was. International football is about playing to your strengths, which is what the tiny Atlantic nation (population 300,000) has taken to levels almost approaching perfection. Let’s read that again …. 300,000 people. More people live in Laval, for goodness sake!

Soccer: World Cup-Argentina vs Iceland
Something to tell the grandchildren about ... Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson saved Leo Messi’s pk in a fairy-tale start for the Norsemen, who are managed by a dentist!
Witters Sport-USA TODAY Sports

If qualification for their last two major tournaments is not a near miracle, I’ll never know what is. Add to that, debut matches in those two competitions, in which they faced the formidable forces of Ronaldo and Portugal AND Messi and Argentina, yet they still negotiated both tests undefeated.

And, they still have detractors. I don’t get it. People grumble about their style of play. I’ve even heard it from ungracious Italians who can hardly talk. Their national team for so long embraced the ugly spectre of catenaccio, despite having immensely talented players at their disposal; certainly more talent and depth than any resource ever available in Reykjavik or its surroundings.

So come on. Lay off! The World Cup is nothing if not a collection of conflicting styles, countries, cultures, and traditions. Success at international level is relative. The result, for reasons of national pride is all-important, it often doesn’t matter how it’s achieved, so long as it’s legal. Sure, it’s nice if it’s pretty football, but it doesn’t have to be.

Would people prefer if Iceland were Saudi Arabia, probably the worst team in the competition? The Saudis trouncing by the least effective Russian side in my living memory and beyond doesn’t augur well for the Asian Confederation, which along with CONCACAF, has in this writer’s opinion, one spot too many in WC qualification.

Soccer: World Cup-Russia vs Saudi Arabia
Lopsided: Russia v Saudi Arabia - plenty of goals but poor choice for opening match ...
Witters Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Already after just a few days, we’ve seen the same number of free-kicks converted as in the whole tournament four years ago. FIFA are really showing how VAR indeed should be used, and unlike in MLS, it’s been positive. There’s been no simulation to speak of. There’s been no red cards. We’ve had surprises. There’s been sparkling football …..

World Cup football is sexy again !!!!

FESTIVAL OF THE WORLD

I go to this tournament every four years. It’s the greatest event on earth, believe me! It’s THE Festival of the World. Your team doesn’t even have to be there (which is lucky for me). The whole world simply descends upon the host country. I’ve never seen trouble, you get to visit wonderful places; Cape Town’s Table Mountain, Christ The Redeemer Statue, Rio’s Sugar Loaf, Berlin and it’s Reichstag, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Rome’s Colliseum, and so it goes on ….

The football’s huge, but not the be-all and end-all. I feel a little for those who’ve never been to a World Cup. I really do. They just can’t know what they are missing.

What other event could attract 35,000 Peruvians to Saransk in the Russian Republic of Mordovia’s Volga Basin? Most of the red-sashed South Americans would never have heard of the city a year ago! Where else would you find a travelling army of red and white chequered shirts? Where else would you get Fan Fests and huge screens in every participating city, full of people from every corner of the world?

Peru v Denmark: Group C - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Peruvian fans have illuminated the early stages of the tournament
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

You gotta’ go, people, although for now at least, the best thing to do might be, bide your time and wait, since the Mountain’s coming to Mohammed in 2026. That’s, of course, if you don’t fancy joining the gathering in Qatar in 2022.