All the hype and hoopla, all the talks about favorites and star-studded squads went down the gutter as Russia’s Luzhniki Stadium is preparing to host the World Cup final between Nigeria and England. Here’s a look at all the highlights from the extravaganza that would be remembered for ages.
The biggest underlining factor of this year’s World Cup would definitely be the hashtag that has been wildly trending since Neymar’s first tweet. #MenAren’tPu**ies. Following Mohammed Salah’s breakdown in the dressing room, which was apparently triggered by a commercial on the television featuring Sergio Ramos, the sporting world has stopped showing any sympathy whatsoever towards the Egyptian.
“I fractured a vertebra in my spine after @JuanZyniga kneed me from the back. He went unpunished and I came back stronger… # MenAren’t
As if it wasn’t, Neymar was followed by the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Xabi Alonso, who were invited during the post-match analysis talk show - ‘Spotlight’. While Ramsey elaborated on the days of pain he went through following the cringing leg-breaking challenge by Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross, Alonso revealed how he came back from death from De Jong’s cosmic kick right at his chest in the 2010 World Cup final.
“I felt like dying again when I saw he wasn’t sent off for that,” Alonso could be seen saying in a low voice.
All this had to take a toll on Egypt who, although managed to qualify from the group stage, eventually lost to Nigeria in the knockouts. Salah, understandably, couldn’t bring himself to the play the match with reports coming from Al Ahram Weekly claiming that he has been in rehab to recover from the trauma. Of course, the experience of Luis Suarez chasing Salah with his mouth open in Egypt’s group game also contributed massively to his condition.
One of the biggest upsets in the World Cup was France’s performance. Boasting of a squad worth £1.24 billion before the World Cup, the star-studded French side had got a shuddering jolt in the form of Olivier Giroud’s injury in a hard-fought warm-up game against the USA prior to the tournament. Manager Didier Deschamps had no choice but to recall Karim Benzema, who lifted the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid for the third consecutive time last month.
While none of the players came out in public to protest against the decision, Paul Pogba’s ten-second clip that was taken from a phone concealed in his kit bag saw French players covering themselves in towels after showering while Benzema sat in a corner with a video camera winking at the players. It was said to have a serious impact on the younger likes of Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappe, and Kingsley Coman.
“Only I could have confronted that, but the coach doesn’t trust me,” read a small tweet by Anthony Martial. Meanwhile, Alexandre Lacazette and Adrien Rabiot – who were snubbed by the manager - have all started following Benzema on Instagram, knowing that Deschamps’ time was now up.
However, the strangest journeys this time have been set by the two finalists – England and Nigeria. No one expected the Three Lions to go all the way, but such has been the influence of FA’s social media experts that Harry Kane, who has garnered 11 goals in the tournament by now, has been at the peak of his form. Before coming to Russia, Kane had forced FA to make a public apology concerning Tottenham Hotspur’s mean tweet on him following their FA semi-final loss to Manchester United in FA Cup. Since then FA has claimed every own goal scored in the tournament to Kane’s name, despite FIFA paying no heed to it whatsoever.
Nigeria, on the other hand, seemed to have obtained some bionic powers whenever they have worn the vividly detailed green jersey. Opponents like Brazil and Germany, whom Nigeria have beaten in the knockout stages have complained that the players were color-blinded by the vibrant design. Mesut Ozil, who is often accused of not working hard enough in games, was seen running all across the field like a mad dog after within just 30 minutes into the game.
Although a closer look at the series of tweets by Alex Iwobi would give away the notion that the players believe they are blessed by Wakandan Gods, top psychologists from around the world have confirmed that there hasn’t been any nanotechnology used while manufacturing them. “There are hypotheses that stated that bright fluorescent lighting or colors have caused dizziness in people having vertigo or post-concussion syndrome. However, we cannot confirm if that was the motive of Nigeria since the beginning all this time,” stated a Swiss ophthalmologist.
This World Cup was widely considered to be the last one for Cristiano Ronaldo, but he was surprisingly meted with an anti-climactic ending. England ousted Portugal 2-1 in the quarters, which fans believe was largely Ronaldo’s fault as was yet to get to the field following a paper cut on his cheeks. The Real Madrid star kept searching for the injury in his mobile’s front camera near the dugout, while a sly Danny Welbeck wasted no time in exploiting the space for the winner.
The final, this Sunday, has been preceded by numerous enhancements in the English jersey with Nike apparently having a harrowing few days. The English players will be wearing a kind of night goggles in the final, which would completely negate Nigeria’s jersey color and help them only see their players in black and white. Though racist in nature, Gareth Southgate has stated that he is even considering only fielding only white players for the final, which would help his players in not getting confused their teammates with the opponents’.
“I know Welbz has been one of our most prolific scorers in the tournament, and had Kane not been awarded all the own goals by FA, Welbeck could have reigned supreme. But, I cannot take this chance. After all, no one thought England to be in the World Cup final… not even me (hiding his eyes),” said Southgate.