The 2018 FIFA World Cup
By Brandon Yip, Contributor
The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins in Russia on June 14. Soccer fans worldwide will be getting their football fix for the next 31 days as 32 teams in eight different groups will battle it out. The last two teams standing will play for the Championship on July 15. Football aficionados are still perplexed that dominant football nations such as Italy and the Netherlands did not qualify for the World Cup. Even the United States, a well-organized and generously-funded soccer program, did not qualify. Other countries, such as Chile, Ghana, Honduras, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, and Turkey also did not qualify.
Germany is the defending champion, defeating Argentina 1-0 in extra time in the last World Cup’s final, which was held in Brazil back in 2014. Notably, it was a forgettable tournament for the host nation, Brazil, as they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Germany in the semi-finals by a score of 7-1 (the score was 5-0 at half-time). Brazil is seeking redemption in Russia, while Germany is seeking domination in Russia.
For Douglas College students wanting to watch the World Cup (after classes, of course!), several local pubs and bars near the New Westminster campus will be showing the World Cup games. One location is the River’s Reach Pub at 320 Sixth Street. They will be televising World Cup soccer games and will also be offering giveaways; jerseys, beer specials and for the final game, and a special prize. Another venue to watch World Cup soccer matches is at Hops Northwest Pub, beside New Westminster Station.
“Yes, we will be showing World Cup games with the sound on!” said Hops Manager, Rhea Reutlinger, in an interview with the Other Press. “Also, we will have Heineken on tap and wings will be $2 off during the games as well as some swag to give away.”
Canada failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia; in fact, the Canadian men’s team has only qualified once, for the 1986 World Cup, which too place in Mexico. One of those players from that ’86 team was forward Dale Mitchell, a prolific goal scorer, who represented Canada 55 times and scored 19 goals for his country. Mitchell is also a member of the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame. Since April 2010, he has been the Technical Director for the Coquitlam Metro Ford Soccer Club of the BC Soccer Premier League. Mitchell says he has fond memories of being a member of that ’86 Canadian squad.
“Obviously being the first Canadian team to qualify for the event was a great achievement in itself,” Mitchell stated in an email interview with the Other Press. “My memories were focused on trying to compete at that level. We had never been there before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Unfortunately, I had a serious injury about a year prior to the World Cup, so I was really racing to get myself ready and healthy to play.”
Canada was grouped with France, Hungary, and the USSR. But unfortunately, Canada lost all three games: Losing to France 1-0, dropping a 2-0 decision to Hungary, and being defeated 2-0 in their final game against the USSR. As he said, Mitchell only played in the game against the USSR and remembers what that experience was like. “I remember taking a free kick that went slightly over the cross bar,” Mitchell says. “Back home watching on television most people thought it had gone in because it hit the fence behind the goal and it rattled back onto the net.”
This leads to the one persistent question that has always been asked, yet no definitive answer has been provided: “Will the men’s team ever qualify again for the World Cup?” Mitchell’s view reflects what several senior Canadian Soccer Executives have stated.
“Well, since then most of the CONCACAF nations have improved more than we have. We are still badly behind due to the fact that we don’t have a league where enough Canadian players play quality minutes every week to improve their level [of skill]. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
Despite Canada’s challenges in getting back to the World Cup, Mitchell is looking forward to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“I’m always excited when the tournament comes around. Of course, most of the players we are all familiar with because there are so many games from Europe on television. Mostly, I am interested to see if Germany can still be dominant in the tournament again. With some new players in the squad, Brazil has a much better player pool than last time. They should be more competitive. Also, I want to see if the new look Spanish side with the Real Madrid young midfielders, Isco and Asensio, can get them back closer to a World Cup Final. Bring it on!”
Some Interesting World Cup Highlights:
Maradona: The “Hand of God” goal (Argentina versus England, 1986 World Cup Quarterfinal in Mexico)
He was the king of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico but not to England fans after his infamous “Hand of God” goal on June 22 put Argentina up 1-0, after punching the ball with his left hand past England goalkeeper, Peter Shilton. Argentina would win 2-1. However, as controversial as Maradona’s first goal was, his second goal was pure genius and it is considered the greatest goal ever scored in a World Cup tournament. Maradona, while starting at mid-field, dribbled past five English players, before scoring while falling.
Maradona: Dominating the 1986 World Cup in Mexico
Maradona was the LeBron James of his time as he carried Argentina “on his back”, scoring five goals in the tournament. Argentina defeated West Germany in the final, 3-2. Maradona would lead Argentina once again to the finals of the next World Cup held in Italy in 1990. But he was unable to carry the team himself as West Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in one of the most uneventful World Cup finals.
Andrés Escobar: Costly own goal, 1994 World Cup in the US
Colombian defender Andrés Escobar accidentally scored an own goal in a group match against the host country, the US, on June 22. The goal would prove costly as Colombia lost the game 2-1 and was eliminated from the tournament. Tragically, less than two weeks after returning to Colombia, Escobar was gunned down outside a nightclub. A group of men lost heavily betting on a Colombia victory. Ironically, Escobar told the media after the loss to the US, “Life goes on, life doesn’t end here.”
Just “Fabulous” & a kid named Pelé: 1958 World Cup in Sweden
Just Fontaine was the star goal scorer for France at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. He scored 13 goals during the tournament, a record that still stands today. At the same tournament, a young 17-year-old rookie from Brazil, named Pelé, was making his World Cup debut. He also made an impression, scoring six goals in four matches, including two goals in the final game as Brazil defeated Sweden 5-2.
Worst losses in WC history
There have been several one-sided defeats in World Cup history, the most recent one was Brazil getting thrashed on home soil 7-1 in the semi-finals to Germany at the 2014 World Cup. Other notable losses in WC history include: Hungary crushing El Salvador 10-1 at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Yugoslavia blitzing Zaire 9-0 at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, and Hungary defeating South Korea 9-0 at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.
The slaughter that never was: Italy versus the US (1990 World Cup in Italy)
At the fourteenth FIFA World Cup held in Italy, the host nation faced the US in a group match on June 14. The US were severe underdogs and making their first appearance in a World Cup tournament since 1950. The Italian press was boldly predicting a massacre, proclaiming scores of 10-0 and upwards. But the United States raised their game; they played the Italians hard, only losing by a 1-0 score.
Portugal versus Holland: (“Battle of Nuremberg”, Round of 16 match at 2006 World Cup in Germany)
This June 25 match was memorable not so much for the football on the field but for the numerous fouls committed: Illegal tackles, pushing and shoving, and tempers escalating throughout the game. Naturally, the match was filled with many stoppages. Russian referee Valentin Ivanov handed out more cards than a Hallmark sales rep. He issued 16 yellow cards and four red cards, setting a new record for most cards shown at any FIFA-administered International Tournament. Portugal would win the game 1-0. Eventually, football was played. Certainly, pundits would use the match to argue that football is not boring.
2018 FIFA World Cup Group Draw
Group A Group B Group C Group D
Russia Portugal France Argentina
Saudi Arabia Spain Australia Iceland
Egypt Morocco Peru Croatia
Uruguay IR Iran Denmark Nigeria
Group E Group F Group G Group H
Brazil Germany Belgium Poland
Switzerland Mexico Panama Senegal
Costa Rica Sweden Tunisia Colombia
Serbia Korea Republic England Japan