From the 32 teams who qualified to go to Russia for the FIFA World Cup, we’re now down to the finalists France and Croatia who will serve the honors on 15th July as world awaits to see the new world champions in football. At an estimated cost of $14.2 billion, it is the most expensive world cup ever. It is also the first world cup where VARs (Video assistant referees) have been used. And there’s no doubt as to why this year’s tournament looks like the best one ever in competition’s history. Here are the 5 reasons why:
1. The Teams
Of the 32 nations that qualified, 20 teams had competed in the 2014 edition. Panama and Iceland made their World Cup debuts with the latter being the smallest country in terms of population to reach the World Cup. Four time champions Italy failed to even qualify along with heavyweights Netherlands, Chile and Cameroon; which surely made this competition a bit more exciting than expected.
The excitement is very evident now, as we find Croatia playing France in the finals. No one would have expected Croatia to go that far!
2. The Matches
Unpredictability has been the highlight of this year’s edition. From Spain barely managing a draw against Morocco to Argentina only scoring once in their opening 2 fixtures and Germany suffering shock defeats against Mexico and South Korea, this world cup has had an unprecedented amount of surprises than any of the previous editions.
3. The Goals
Goals, goals and more goals. There have been 157 goals scored in in 60 matches, averaging 2.62 goals per match. Only one match has ended in a goalless draw. Harry Kane leads the charts with 6 goals to his name. Harry Kane also happens to be one of just two players to have scored a hat-trick in this tournament, the other being Cristiano Ronaldo. Eleven own goals have been scored in the tournament, breaking the record of six, set in 1998.
Thirteen goals across eleven matches have been scored in stoppage time, with both of Iran’s goals in the tournament being scored after 90 minutes of play.
4. The Players
We all know that transfers are common on the back of the tournament. One successful tournament can lead to that big money move. While James Rodriguez was the golden boy of the 2014 edition, this year’s world cup has seen a host of players making name for themselves. Ante Rebic, Juan Quintero, Emil Forsberg, Viktor Claesson, Benjamin Pavard, Alexander Golovin and Hirving Lozano all shone in their respective country’s campaign. For these mentioned names, the future only looks better. Watch out for that transfer market if you don’t believe us.
5. The VAR
The Video Assistant Referee is used to arrive at more accurate decisions in four key areas: Goals/Offside, Penalties, Straight Red Cards and Mistaken identity. The VAR has been the subject of several controversies. The time it takes to arrive at a decision, disruption in play and the relative newness of the technology and its application with referees lacking experience with VAR have been some reasons why it has been criticized. The VAR was first used to award a penalty to France in this year’s edition when they faced off against Australia. In Brazil’s match against Costa Rica, VAR had reversed a penalty that was awarded. There have been good and bad talking points about the VAR and it will surely remain a subject of debate in the coming months.