Today (Saturday, June 23, 2018) is exactly 10 days the 21st edition of FIFA World Cup currently ongoing in faraway Russia began with teams battling to find their feet. There have been a whole lot of upset which have thrown bookmakers off balance in a competition meant to last up to four uninterrupted weeks. In case you haven’t been following or perhaps you have lost count, no fewer than 26 matches have been decided as at last night.
Already, two African Nations – Morocco and Egypt, which many believed would salvage the continental pride, have actually failed to live up to expectations. In fact, they have failed in many ramifications. They have been booted out of the present global soccer fiesta. Playing their last group match next week is largely to fulfil all righteousness. The remaining three teams – Nigeria, Tunisia and Senegal – are still fighting for staggering survival except for Senegal with somewhat bright chances of progressing to round of 16, depending on what pans out when they confront Japan on Sunday. Both the Senegalese and Japanese are brewing with confidence after they squeezed out three undeniable points during group H opening proceedings.
Before then, Tunisia will be facing one of the favourites to reach final, Belgium today. Many are of the view that since the North African team failed to conquer England in their first group meeting, beating Belgium will be a hard nut to crack.
With the lacklustre performance of African sides so far, there are growing concerns by many on what a continent with just five slots for now at any quadrennial international football tournament will do if additional space is created for more teams in Africa to feature at 2026 mundial with its expansion expected to accommodate as much as 48 countries then.
Back to surprising thrills and frills at this year’s World Cup, two soccer musketeers – Lionel Messi of Argentina and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo were the two unarguably best legs who football followers have their eyes on. Incidentally, while Messi has disappointed his fans, Ronaldo has continued to stay on top with spectacular displays. At the moment, the Real Madrid Star, Cristiano has banged in four goals – being the only goals his country (Portugal) has registered in the tournament this term.
On the other hand, the Barcelona star, Messi is basking in frustration after he failed to score any goal for his country during the two games played so far. Surely, but unfashionable for the Argentine, he has a sour-sweet history in the competition. The five times World footballer of the year has won all that is available at club level, but has been unable to lay his hands on World Cup trophy after three attempts.
A single Olympic gold medal in 2008 and a U-20 World Cup medal represents the No.10’s entire trophy haul with his nation, while he has finished on the losing side in four senior finals. It is the World Cup, however, that has brought him most pain, with Argentina falling short of the big prize on multiple occasions despite boasting the best player on the planet in their ranks.
With Messi at 23 and swiftly establishing himself as one of the finest players in the history of world football then, South Africa 2010 was the first international tournament to feature the Argentine as one of its biggest stars. What’s more, Leo had teamed up with none other than his predecessor at No.10, Diego Maradona, the 1986 World Cup winner providing a chaotic but admittedly entertaining presence on the sidelines as Argentina coach.
The Barcelona wizard, however, was already feeling the pressure of carrying his nation alone. Mercurial playmaker Riquelme had quit international football the previous year and at 31 was prematurely out of the picture, robbing Messi of a creative partnership that had proved so formidable in the 2008 Olympics.
Often considered the best player in the world and widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time, Ronaldo has a record-tying five Ballon d’or awards, the most for a European player, and is the first player to win four European Golden Shoes. He has won 26 trophies in his career, including five league titles, five UEFA Champions League titles and one UEFA European Championship. A prolific goalscorer, Ronaldo holds the records for most official goals scored in Europe’s top-five leagues (395), the UEFA Champions League (120), the UEFA European Championship (9), as well as those for most assists in the UEFA Champions League (34) and the UEFA European Championship (6). He has scored over 670 senior career goals for club and country.
In Spain, Ronaldo has won 15 trophies, including two La Liga titles, two Copas del Rey, four UEFA Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups. Unlike his closest Rival –Messi, Ronaldo has a whooping three FIFA Club World Cups in his kitty and is possibly guaranteed another, going by his brilliant show at this showpiece.
With not-too-impressive performance by Messi even at club side in the just concluded season, the Portuguese soccer Supremo could as well be his way to more glorious upsurge – mostly finishing the year as the world best again. Depending on how far his team could go at the current World Cup, Ronaldo is poised to topple arch-competitor, Messi in a rather fashionable form at the end. The Portugal captain is still the leading scorer at the 2018 World Cup. Don’t forget that the chance of Argentina securing a second stage ticket from group D comprising Nigeria, Iceland and leaders Croatia is very much bright. As you might have known, Croatia are already in the knockout phase after posting double victories so far. Let the mathematics continue!