What Have We Learned From Russia 2018 So Far?
When everyone thought it would be the Russian Ultras dominating the news its fair to say Russia 2018 has been one of the best football events ever staged.
It’s fairly safe to say that the World Cup in Russia has been a resounding success. Every nation has been enjoying the party, even after their team have exited the tournament. Before the start of Russia 2018, the one big worry was surrounding the hostile Russian Ultras who said they were going to be very much active during the World Cup with England fans firmly in their sights.
However, as the tournament has progressed there have been no reports of any trouble or any fighting whatsoever. Fans who have been interviewed have all said the Russians fans who they have been in contact with have been very friendly and they have experienced no trouble at all. This is quite a remarkable turnaround after the scenes of England fans engaging with Russian ultras in France 2 years ago in Marseille. So just how have the Russian authorities managed to keep a lid on the trouble?
Vladimir Putin wanted to make sure this World Cup was a showpiece for Russia, a demonstration of his capabilities as a statesman and a defining moment in his legacy. There was no way he was going to take any chances regarding the hooligans and turn the World Cup into a national embarrassment.
There have been various reasons given as to the absence of any trouble in Russia, but the most likely one is that a crackdown by the Russian government has taken effect. The Kremlin were so worried about violence erupting that there have been reports of security agents visiting the homes as well as the places where the hooligans congregate to warn them against starting any trouble while the tournament is on. As well as this it is rumoured that hundreds of hooligans had been jailed before the World Cup even started.
The football itself has made Russia one of the best World Cups in recent memory. The defending champions, Germany, didn’t even make it out of the group stage. The 2010 winners, Spain were eliminated by the hosts who, going into the tournament were the lowest ranked team, and Argentina were terrible pretty much the whole time they were there until they were put out of their misery by France in the last 16.
As well as the shocks there have been a shed load of goals, scuffles between players, VAR controversy and Robbie Williams in a hideous suit. Make no mistake this has been the World Cup of the underdog as some of the group stage results and the knockout results have happened. This is not to say that the big teams like Argentina, Germany and Spain are finished. The conveyor belt of talent will no doubt keep rolling on and there will always be a new generation of superstars coming through for future tournaments.
One of the biggest and best surprises at this years World Cup is the fact that England (yes, England!) are in the semi finals of a world cup for nearly 30 years. The England players led by the very likable Gareth Southgate have definitely had an easier route to this point than some other teams, however they have done what they needed to do and got the results in different ways including a win against Colombia by PENALTIES!
England’s so called golden generation failed to live up to their superstar status when wearing the three lions, however there is something different about Southgate and his young team. The players don’t look like a collection of individuals anymore, instead look like a team playing for each other and for their manager. The semi final against Croatia will be England’s biggest game for nearly 3 decades and will prove to be a nail biting affair. However its hard not to get carried away when you hear the songs and you see the crowds all over England watching in anticipation. Football may well be coming home…