World Cup football assumed a greater aura in this edition as the preliminary league games among 32 nations produced upsets galore. Sporting tales often become most interesting when the mice roar in the face of the lions. Feats of the underdogs turning the form book upside down are the stuff of sports lore and we had a lot more of those in the Qatar edition with many a bunch of minnows shining.
There was not a World Cup champion who did not take a tumble as African and Asian nations overperformed, much like David did with his heroics in downing Goliath in the fable. The favourites Brazil lost to Cameroon, the first time they have been beaten by an African nation, even if it meant little regarding qualifying for the knockouts.
The knockouts are usually a different kettle of fish. This is where the despair to win alone is not sufficient to shake the ground under the feet of seasoned teams. At least the first two Round of 16 matches went the way of the favourites with the Netherlands showing the USA the door and Argentina doing the same to Australia, much to the chagrin of the nation down under that woke up to wondrous possibilities as the Socceroos made the cut this time.
Argentina, with an inspired Lionel Messi, on the march at the age of 35 and looking for Gabriel Batistuta’s record number of World Cup goals record for his country, making up for the disappointments of the last few editions was seen letting them down. Their star striker, one of the world’s great footballers and multiple time winner of the Ballon D’Or, seems determined to make the most of what may be his last World Cup.