On June 14, the 2018 World Cup began, and today on July 15, the World Cup is coming to an end, in what has been a one-month tournament full of surprises.
with MICHAEL KARIATI
Who of all football followers would have thought that Croatia would reach the final of the 32-team contest at the expense of powerhouses such as Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, who fell by the wayside before the real men were separated from the boys?
There were few — that is if there were any — who gave the French side any chance of reaching the World Cup final and, more importantly, of overcoming the star-studded Belgium in the semi-finals with most of the fans picking on Brazil and Germany, as the favourites for the title.
Even the much-anticipated individual battle on who is the best in the world between Lionel Messi of Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal died down as both were sent home early. Instead it was Croatia’s Luka Modric who took over the reins catapulting his lowly-ranked team into the final.
Whatever happens in today’s final — according to football commentators — Modric is heavily tipped to win the Golden Ball Award —-an honour that is given to the most outstanding player in a World Cup tournament.
Introduced in 1982, that honour belongs to a group of great players such as Diego Maradona (Argentina), Zinedine Zidane (France), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Paolo Rossi (Italy) Romario (Brazil), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Ronaldo (Brazil), Silvatore Silvacchi (Italy), and Oliver Kahn (Germany).
For Africa, this was probably their worst World Cup ever and the continent is still trying to figure out what hit them in Russia. All the five teams — Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia — failed to go beyond the group stages much to the disappointment of their millions of followers scattered all over the globe.
All sorts of theories are being drummed up as to what exactly went wrong in Russia. However, what is now important is to use the lessons learnt from that Russia experience to build strong teams capable of representing Africa in the same manner European teams did for their continent in 2018.
Europe will hold its head high after providing all the four semi-finalists — Belgium, Croatia, England and France — and is proud that the trophy is staying for another four years in the continent having been won by Spain in 2010 in South Africa and Germany in 2014 in Brazil.
As the clock ticks towards the closing stages of the 2018 World Cup, there are some who would love to see Croatia crowned champions of the world in their only appearance in the final of the global football festival.
They believe the 1998 semi-finalists — who ironically fell to France that year — have done more than enough to deserve the crown of the best football team in the world.
However, there are others — and for that matter too many of them — who believe France — after eliminating Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium — had the toughest route to the final and deserve to be rewarded for their hard work with the biggest prize in world football.
So, let the better team win.
As for Zimbabwe . . .
As for Zimbabwe, the three-year marathon qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will begin in 2019 following the draw which will be conducted in April 2019.
The Warriors will be back in action after missing out on the 2018 tournament after they were thrown out by Fifa following failure by the Zimbabwe Football Association to pay then Warriors coach Valinhos his dues on the agreed date.
Although this is not of the making of the Phillip Chiyangwa-led Zifa board, Zifa still owe Sunday Chidzambwa and Norman Mapeza from previous stints with the Warriors and the national football body should pay them to avoid another Valinhos debacle.
What is also important on the part of the national football controlling body right now is to ensure that funds are available for the Warriors for both their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign as well as the 2022 World Cup.
Zimbabwe last played an international game against Liberia in March 2017, and surely, with the time that has passed, it would not make any sense for Zifa to say they did not have the time to source funds for the Warriors’ international engagements.
Those in authority had the international football calendar well in their hands way back in January 2017 after the end of the Africa Cup of Nations finals and by now financial figures should have been guaranteed for the Warriors.
If that was not done, then that financial mobilisation must begin now. As Pat Judson, the former president of the Amateur Athletics Association of Zimbabwe, once put it: “Without money, you will just be hitting your talents against the wall.”
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