The 21st FIFA World Cup, the best and the brightest show of international football, ended in Moscow with the French emerging the worthy winners, though the sympathies of the fans everywhere were with Croatia who had a better game and a longer possession of the ball than their much-vaunted rivals.
The nation of four million people surpassed its own best ambitions to reach the final. This was a tournament for the less-fancied teams anyway, with Iceland, a nation of a little over three lakh people, giving a good account of itself. The pre-tournament favourites, the great footballing powers, namely Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, even Germany, fell by the wayside. The semis were an all European affair. Though the bigger surprise was the hosts Russia reaching the quarter final stage, justifying the huge bill incurred by the sanctioned nation on creating an impressive infrastructure.
President Vladimir Putin is bound to draw much mileage from putting up a month-long show of perfect organisational skills without any glitches for the global audiences. The iron fist was relaxed for the duration for tens of thousands of visiting fans. Even the Russians were allowed to breathe a little more easily, enjoying freedoms of movement and public exhilaration normally denied to them. Both the French and the Croats relied on team spirit and well-knit organisational plans unlike the teams from South America which relied on individual stars like Neymar, Messi and Suarez and failed to click.
The British, too, had nothing to be ashamed of, reaching the fourth place under a new coach and a young captain unburdened by any sort of expectations. The much controversial novelty of the 2018 Cup was the video assistant referee (VAR) which proved a source of joy and sorrow for several teams. All in all, a great show. Now the Russians will face the question which other organisers of such grand global sports events have faced before: what use to put the new infrastructure of stadiums, transport, hostels et al?