Lessons from Russia 2018 to take to Qatar 2022

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It’s been a few weeks now since the lights went out on the stadiums across Russia. Indeed, most post-World Cup hangovers, both physical and metaphorical, have now subsided, offering a chance to reflect on the four weeks of soccer in Russia.

It’s impossible to judge the success of a sporting event objectively, but there is certainly some consensus, both globally and in Australia, that this past World Cup was a vintage one. Shock defeats, beautiful goals and pulsating drama all combined to ensure it will be remembered fondly. Of course, it didn’t go to plan for the Socceroos, but the action for a neutral was special.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

The next stop on the FIFA roadshow is the Qatar World Cup in 2022, with the host nation getting even more negative press than Russia. Even today, concerns remain over whether it will go ahead in the Gulf Nation, with controversy and security fears dogging the preparations.

Build up to Russia was nervous

But, while it is a big ask, if we can put aside the criticisms of Qatar for the moment, there is plenty of reason to believe a World Cup – held during the height of the Australian summer – could be a successful one on the pitch. The soccer did the talking in Russia, changing the atmosphere from one of trepidation in the build up to one of celebration throughout the tournament.

It is, of course, difficult to predict how the games will go, but it seems we have another golden generation of talent coming through. The young French team that lifted the trophy have still room to grow, but even Germany, while suffering national tragedy in Russia, have hopes for a bright future, with plenty of young stars ready to take the step up to the national team.

Some bookies, like Bet365, have released odds for the tournament, strangely putting Brazil as favourites ahead of France. Although it can be a bit of a lottery at this stage to predict a winner, there is, however, some wisdom in getting a bet in early, taking the chance on a team that could blossom in four years’ time. England, for example, are offered at 14/1, there is a fair chance those odds will drop as Gareth Southgate’s young team develops. Indeed, the opposite could be true for a nation like Belgium (12/1), whose ‘golden generation’ were arguably at their peak in 2018. Check out some of the betting offers at www.casinokiwi.co.nz and grab you’re an early-bird offer.

It is, of course, difficult to predict how the games will go, but it seems we have another golden generation of talent coming through. The young French team that lifted the trophy have still room to grow, but even Germany, while suffering national tragedy in Russia, have hopes for a bright future, with plenty of young stars ready to take the step up to the national team.

Venue matters little to on-pitch quality

Russia did teach us that the choice of venue doesn’t necessarily impact upon how a World Cup is received. South Africa and Brazil’s World Cups will be remembered for turgid soccer (with some exceptions), but both nations were seen as ‘deserving’ hosts. Yes, some Aussies will be still angry with the bidding process and have mental images of greedy FIFA executives making off with Qatari oil money, but those issues don’t influence the 90 minutes on the pitch.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC

Indeed, the most important lesion we probably learned at the World Cup was about the Russian people. Western media was full of scare stories about hooligans, but what we found was an welcoming, fun-loving nation who made it a special atmosphere over the four weeks. Is it possible our preconceptions and myths about the Qatari people will be similarly dispelled?

Of course, there are things that matter more than the soccer. It is a fervent hope for many that soccer will sort out its ‘gay problem’ sooner rather than later. Picking Qatar as a host is not, arguably, a step in the right direction.

But, in Russia we say a World Cup that was not about Vladimir Putin, not about Crimea nor Novichok poisoning. It was about the people and the game. Those are the only ingredients needed to make a great World Cup. Roll on 2022.

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Author: Sportshounds

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