Like the Olympics and Asian Games, the FIFA World Cup happens only once every four years. Since it was founded in 1930, only eight countries have won sport’s most coveted trophy: Brazil (five times), Italy and Germany (four), Argentina and Uruguay (two), and — surprising — only one title apiece for France, Spain and England.
Russia is the 2018 host and the total of 64 matches are played in 11 cities. The games started last June 14 and will culminate with the final on July 15 in the 81,000-seater Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. How expensive is this month-long event? In Phil. pesos, it’s mind-boggling: P756 billion! Can you believe that? At $14.2 billion, it’s the most expensive WC in history.
Thirty two nations are joining, led by the defending champs (and world’s top-ranked team) Germany, who lost in the opener against Mexico and played Sweden at 2 a.m. (Phil. time) today.
Based on TV viewership, an estimated 3.2 billion watch each World Cup (versus 3.6 billion for the Olympics). But what makes the WC more prestigious is there’s only one nation-winner. And the World Cup trophy itself? Since 1930, only two trophies have been used and the current one is made of 18 carat gold.
With our local TV coverage, I’m glad that SkyCable has superb coverage. The past week, I was able to watch snippets of the matches shown at 8 p.m. Last week, thanks to Liga HD channel 757, we witnessed the 1-0 loss of South Korea to Sweden. I’m sure the thousands of Koreans residing in Cebu trooped to the bars to cheer for their countrymates. The games are shown at 8 p.m., 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.
With the Philippines, now ranked (by FIFA) 115th in the world (we reached a historic best No. 111 last month), is there any way for us to join the World Cup? Yes. First, if we host it! The hosts automatically qualify. But given the normal qualification route, it’s very unlikely. But consider this: for the first time, five countries from Asia (the AFC) have qualified for the WC. These are Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea.
There are numerous superstars in Russia. But among the names that include Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, none have shown brighter than Cristiano Ronaldo. He has scored every one of Portugal’s goals. This is Ronaldo’s fourth WC appearance and, while he scored only once in Germany (2006), South Africa and Brazil, he has netted four goals thus far in Sochi, Russia.
Acting? Fake injuries? Ha-ha. There are so many players worthy of Oscars trophies in football. With multiple slow-motion angles and replays now available, you can’t hide the actual millisecond interaction. It starts with the fall. Then the anguish and crumbling in pain. It’s laughable.
Finally: VAR. Called Video Assistant Referee, it’s the first time for the WC to employ video review. It has become controversial with some arguing that it goes against tradition. But this is good for the game. In the low scoring format of football, all it takes is one mistake of the referee (wrongly awarding a free kick) to determine the game’s outcome. Technology has arrived in the land of Vladimir Putin.