The 2018 World Cup Spectacle Begins: ¡Que Viva el Fútbol! (UPDATED)
During World Cup 2010, readers were either entertained or bored to death by frequent updates on the latest predictions on the outcomes of World Cup matches by English-born, German naturalized Paul the Octopus.
Paul predicted the winner of the matches by picking out, and eating, a mussel out of two plastic containers let down in his aquarium. One of the containers had the German flag on it and the other the flag of the opposing team. The flag on the container from which the sacrificial mussel came represented the predicted winner.
There have been several psychic imitators since then attempting to match Paul’s success, including macaws in Brazil and penguins and miniature donkeys in England.
This time the prognosticating celebrity is a feline, a Russian cat named Achilles.
And Achilles has now predicted the outcome of the Cup’s opening match, Russia vs Saudi Arabia, by eating out of one of two bowls of food offered him (or her?) one with the Russian flag, the other with the flag of Saudi Arabia.
After hesitating for a moment, Achilles picked the Russian bowl.
Here is the “official” Russian RT video.
We are only hours away from the 2018 FIFA (The Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup in Russia, with teams already there or arriving, the excitement rising and the first match to be played tomorrow with host Russia taking on Saudi Arabia.
It will be the first World Cup ever held in Russia, with 32 national teams participating in 64 matches held throughout the vast country and with the championship match to be held in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on July 15.
Of course, “predictors” are very busy predicting the World Cup champion and the bettors, gamblers and bookmakers are very busy doing their thing.
From a survey of the 2018 World Cup “literature,” the following are the most-favored potential champions in descending order: Brazil, Germany, Spain, France, Argentina and Belgium.
I don’t know how many aficionados de fútbol are on this site, but if there is sufficient interest, we may continue to keep readers posted on what many call the greatest sports spectacle in the world.
But first a look ahead – eight years ahead.
While the U.S. men’s soccer national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Americans got a consolation price this morning when FIFA announced it had awarded the 2026 World Cup jointly to the United States, Mexico and Canada, bringing the World Cup back to the United States for the first time since 1994, for the first time back to Mexico since 1970 and the first time ever in Canada, though Canada hosted the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
It will be the first time the World Cup is hosted by three countries, but a vast majority of the tournament will be on United States soil. Of the 80 matches, 10 will be held in Canada, 10 in Mexico and 60 in the United States — including the final, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
While geopolitics should not be a factor in sports, it almost was.
President Trump supported the joint World Cup bid, typically with a not-so-subtle tweet threat, “it would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid,” for which he was rebuked by FIFA.
There had been speculation that Trump’s words and actions against immigrants from Muslim countries, “including his rhetoric about immigrants from Latin American countries and his belittling of African nations and Haiti as ‘shithole countries’ could cost the North American bid crucial votes.”
In the closing days before the vote, Trump who won’t be president during the 2026 World Cup, even if he wins re-election in 2020 promised that visiting players and fans would not face visa problems around the tournament.
So, ¡Que Viva el Fútbol!
Photo credit: diegogv