Finally, the screens fall dark and silent

apaway Roar Guru

By apaway, apaway is a Roar Guru

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    Throughout Australia, sleep-deprived fans awoke this morning with the feeling that a good friend had been farewelled, not to be seen for another four years.

    This friend can sometimes be hard to love, can sometimes flatter to deceive, can be divisive, and at times can be somewhat boring.

    But when this friend is at their best, they are absolutely exhilarating, and even though they keep you up late, you really don’t want them to leave.

    Russia 2018 was that kind of friend.

    A magnificent tournament ended with a final befitting everything that came before it, a surprise of sorts because most were expecting a tight, tense affair, given the protagonists.

    France were efficient and Croatia potentially exhausted heading into the final.

    Yet this was the World Cup that seemed to exist in what a famous Seinfeld episode would have called a Bizarro World, where the opposite of what you might expect kept happening.

    It was a World Cup that introduced us to the term ‘VAR’ and that even played a hand (excuse the pun) in the direction of the final.

    (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

    It was a World Cup where England won a penalty shootout. Where Germany failed to make it out of their group.

    Where the lowest ranked nation in the tournament were a penalty kick away from the semi-final.

    Where Japan went from cynically cunning to outright admired in the space of one game, played one of the matches of the tournament against Belgium in the Round of 16 and became as famous for leaving their dressing room spotless as they did taking the Belgians to the absolute limit.

    It was a World Cup that most of Australia seemed doomed to see less than half of, after more than 30 years of stumbling bleary-eyed to our TV sets to faithfully view every single minute.

    It took a catastrophic business meltdown from Optus to open a window for SBS to broadcast almost every game from the first weekend on (and doesn’t THAT seem like a long time ago), to the eternal gratitude of a population who gave up streaming for screaming at a frozen television screen.

    It was a World Cup where one of the best players on the planet was reduced to cartoons and memes, and for once his theatrics didn’t appear to have the desired effect.

    A copy of the fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” may be on its way to Neymar, for he probably could have had a penalty in the quarter-final against Belgium, but by then most of the world had seen thousands of different videos of kids mimicking his histrionics, including, presumably, the referee.

    And then there was the VAR, which, if nothing else, exposed a flaw in FIFA’s handball Law 12, which states that a player must “deliberately handle the ball”, and that the referee can take into consideration “Movement of hand to ball” and “Distance between the opponent and the ball.”

    Aside from the Suarez-like incident from the 2010 quarterfinal, no defender would “deliberately” handle the ball in their own penalty area, so FIFA should either change the law to simply state that handball occurs when the ball comes into contact with the arm or admit that handball penalties are almost null and void.

    It was a World Cup where Didier Deschamps earned the right to have his name mentioned in the same breath as Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer; men who have won a World Cup as a player and a coach.

    For someone labelled a ‘water carrier’ in his career, that is high and deserved praise. In fact, Deschamps deserves the plaudits that come with joining that exclusive club, as he turned Paul Pogba into the thing no-one thought he could become – a team player.

    Didier Deschamps

    (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

    That Pogba’s natural outrageous talent seemed to have the edges planed off in order to do the job Deschamps demanded of him may have upsets the purists.

    However, he now has a winner’s medal hanging around his neck, has scored in a World Cup final, and played (with his nation) in two of the best games of the tournament.

    Finally, it was a tournament that allows nations to dream, as Croatia won hearts and minds with their magnificent run to the final. And where Luka Modric, a diminutive magician in his thirties who seems to have not aged a day in the last decade, was crowned, at least temporarily, the best player in the world.

    Goodbye friend, see you in four years.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • July 18th 2018 @ 7:56am
      chris said | July 18th 2018 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article apaway.
      It’s always sad to see the end of a wc. Years in the making, endless qualifiers and many good teams not even participating.
      Legends are made and some shattered. Great goals to savour and performances that are truly world class in a truly world tournament.
      But we move on and next up its the Asian Cup…can’t wait : )

    • July 18th 2018 @ 8:00am
      Kangas said | July 18th 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Excellent summary

    • July 18th 2018 @ 8:38am
      MQ said | July 18th 2018 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      I was left a bit disappointed by the high amount of goals from set pieces, pens and own goals.

    • July 18th 2018 @ 9:10am
      jbinnie said | July 18th 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      Apaway- Good piece, though dripping with sentiment.Don’t despair, there’s always a future so not so long to go.
      Interesting comment you make on Modric, it is now 10 years since he was named as the first of the new breed of play-makers. Where has time gone…
      As I say, ,by the next World Cup there will be others to emerge, to join Pele,Beckenbaur,Maradona, Cruyff, Zidane et al, that is the beauty ,or should it be called mystique, of our game. Cheers jb.

      • Roar Guru

        July 18th 2018 @ 11:42am
        apaway said | July 18th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        JB

        I sometimes get a little sentimental!

    • July 18th 2018 @ 9:53am
      lunchboxexpert said | July 18th 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      This world cup reached its highest point on the second day of competition with the spain v portugal game. A game that started out good and just kept getting better and delivering more. While there were some good games after this none of them reached the level of this game, which I think in time will be remembered as one of the classics.

      France played within themselves for almost the whole tournamen. While I think on the whole they were worthy winners its disappointing that this style of play is rewarded with the worlds greatest sporting team accolade. France only really showed their world class attacking capability in about a 10 min period in the second half where the goals to Pogba and Mbappe were scored.

      The two stand out players of this World Cup were Griezmann and Modric. Griezmann might not have won the best player award but when the world cup was up for grabs he will be remembered as the player that delivered.

      • Roar Guru

        July 18th 2018 @ 11:46am
        apaway said | July 18th 2018 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        It was indeed a great game. Personally though, I thought Belgium-Japan was the best game of the tournament. I’ve got mixed feelings about France. Agree with you that their playing style was in the main stultifying but then again, they were part of a 4-3 game against Argentina and the best final since 1986. It seemed that when teams found a way to circumvent their overly defensive approach, they had the attacking flair in reserve to “counter the counter.”

    • July 18th 2018 @ 1:02pm
      RoryStorm said | July 18th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

      Congratulations apaway on such a well written story about the game of Football and the way it both entertained & frustrated us over the last couple of weeks. The handball rule must be revised immediately. If your hand or arm come in contact with the ball, wether accidentally or intentionally, it must be deemed to be worth the penalty. There’s too much of a grey area and the referees are always going to take the easy way out. As a casual observer of football,that is the one area that left me feeling frustrated.

      Overall, the football did the talking and I can’t remember a World Cup that had as little controversy as this one. Heck, England finally won a penalty shootout which enabled the whole country to breathe a sigh of relief and return home as “winners”. Imagine if they had lost that penalty shootout? None of the English players would have felt safe as they returned home. That there was the highlight for me right there.

      A very good summary and most importantly, very well written apaway.

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