The 2018 World Cup starts today (Thursday) in Russia – a feast of 64 matches unfolds between June 14 and July 15 as the world’s eyes will be glued to the ensuing drama that will involve 736 players from 32 countries.
Will one of the former winners, again, snag the golden trophy or will an underdog rewrite history like the Biblical David? There are three things that will constantly be highlighted by the media – Video Assistant Referee [VAR], racism, and goals.
FIFA has decided referees need help so they have conscripted more referees to become Video Assistant Referees [VAR] to help ensure that more often than not, the proper decisions are made on the pitch.
“If you see some assistant referee not raising the flag, it’s not because he’s making mistakes,” said Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of FIFA’s referees’ committee.
Collina added: “It’s because he’s respected the instruction to keep the flag down. They were told to keep the flag down when there is a tight offside incident and there could be a very promising attack or a goal-scoring opportunity because, if the assistant referee raises the flag, then everything is finished.”
In what many had called for – the need for technology to increase the efficiency of referees to get correct decisions -= this trial must succeed for many others to follow.
Bryan Idowu changed nationality last year and will represent Nigeria at Russia 2018.
He told Amkar Perm website in 2016, “…Then it was hinted to me that with my skin colour the path to the main team was unfeasible. The reason was the fans, who don’t like dark-skinned players.”
Racism in Russia is a fact, whether it would rear its head during this tournament is the question. As recent as March this year, Russian fans heckled some black players from France during a friendly match – a case for which FIFA fined Russia’s soccer federation $29,600.
Aleksandr Alayev, the Russian federation’s acting chief told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency, Russia would make the persons responsible for the rude actions to pay and that the federation “will do everything possible to prevent the repetition of such incidents in the future.”
Football is about goals and will always be. The greatest cheer in the stadium and far away from the action across many television sets is when the net bulges.
The Technical Study Group for the 2014 World Cup revealed, “the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil was marked by top quality and attacking football, excellent players, and a positive general football philosophy.
“The teams’ objectives were to score and win matches instead of trying not to lose or concede. This led to a glut of goals, 171 in total at an impressive average of 2.67 goals per match, which matched the record set in France in 1998.”
The UEFA Champions League, with which many judge FIFA’s footballing extravaganza, also saw more attacking football, which led to more goals, and spectacular at that, being scored.
Will the matches in Russia be open and free flowing or will they be cagey and boring? The fans want to see goals!