Vive le football!

Guest Editorial

Vive le football!All eyes were on Russia. In part for its suspected finagling with the U.S.’s 2016 election, but more peaceably for the 2018 World Cup. This is the time every four years where countries around the globe can put aside their political differences, forget about their conflicts and do what the child in all of us deeply desires to do – feel the grass under our cleats, the sun on our skin and just play.

The World Cup has taken place every four years since 1930 – World War II being the only conflict detrimental enough to put the event on hold – so the world can enjoy its favorite pastime. Football.

Not that football. Futbol. Nogomet. Or, as we call it, soccer. About 100 million people watched the Super Bowl this year. But 1 billion watched the World Cup final, and 3.2 billion tuned into the tournament at large in 2014.

Soccer isn’t as ingrained into our culture as it is around most of the rest of the world. Which is probably why the U.S. lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago, failing to qualify for the World Cup this year. As a result, many were rooting for our cousins across the pond – England and France.

As the semifinals neared, fans were getting hyped for a showdown between the two countries – each with one World Cup win prior to the match. What most of the world wasn’t expecting was that Croatia would defeat England to face France for the championship.

Now France defeated Croatia pretty handily 4-2 – the highest scoring final in decades – and even held a three-point lead for a few minutes. (Full disclosure: I did spend the first half listening from my kitchen while I made grilled shrimp and bacon breakfast burritos for my wife and our guest #WorthIt).

Didier Deschamps, who captained the team that won France the championship in 1998, coached the team to its second victory exactly 20 years later. It seemed fitting, almost poetic.

But the real winners, I think, were the Croatians. The World Cup has been unsurprisingly dominated by Western-European and Latin-American countries. The 21 championships are held by Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, France, Uruguay, England and Spain (with honorable mention to Netherlands for three near-wins).

Croatia, a tad larger by population than the state of Oregon, facing France in the final marks the first time in more than 50 years an outsider even made it to the semifinals. Seeing the underdog team make it as far as it did and seeing the outpour of support from the country after the Croatian team returned home following its defeat, was heartwarming to say the least.

So here’s to underdogs. Here’s to shakeups. And more importantly, here’s to a world that never again gets turned so upside down that we can’t get together and kick the ball around.

Vive la France! Vive la Croatia! Vive le football!

— Brian Cosner, News Review Staff Writer

Story First Published: 2018-07-20