As the 2018 World Cup kicks-off at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow on June 14, the race to decide the winner of the 21st edition of the FIFA Coupe de Mundial among the 32 participating nations, traditionally, the question is who wins the coveted trophy.
Since the inception of the World Cup tournament in Uruguay in 1930, only eight countries have won the prestigious FIFA trophy (formerly known as the Jules Rimet Trophy which Brazil won for keeps).
Between 1930 and the 2014 tournament in Brazil, which Germany won to bring their tally to four, only eight countries have been winning the trophy.
Germany has won the World Cup in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014 — Argentina did so in 1978 as host and in 1986 in Mexico.
Now that the tournament has commenced in all the centres, pundits, bookmakers, football fans and other critical stakeholders are wondering who President Vladimir Putin of Russia will hand over the FIFA trophy to on July 15 as the winner.
Will Germany retain the trophy to make it a fifth win? While the objective may look realisable for Coach Joachim Loew and the “Die Mannschaft’’, no country has won the World Cup back-to-back since Brazil last did in 1958 and 1962.
The first country to win the World Cup back-to-back was Italy in the 1934 and 1938 edition on home soil and in Paris respectively.
For Lionel Messi and the Albiceleste of Argentina, the World Cup is a must win… and having lost narrowly to Germany at Rio de Janeiro in 2014, and at Rome to the then West Germany in the 1990 edition; where the Great Diego Maradona was reduced to bitter tears; it is a task that must be accomplsied.
This time around, Coach Jorge Sampaoli and his highly talented squad are set once more to right the wrongs of 2014….starting from the opening match against Strakamir Okkar (Our Boys) of Iceland on June 16.
As for France and Spain, who joined the exclusive club of World Cup winners in 1998 and 2010 respectively, Russia looks like a fertile ground to realise their legitimate ambition, but they will have to put up with the overwhelming desire of the Selecao of Brazil to win the World Cup for a sixth time.
Incidentally, Brazil have won all their World Cups on foreign soil: 1958 Sweden, 1962 Chile, 1970 Mexico, 1994 USA and 2002 at the Korea-Japan World Cup. Bbut unfortunately when they played host in 1950 and 2014; they lost woefully in front of their home fans, and it was an experience that they would like to forget in a jiffy.
As for Coach Oscar Washington-Tabarese of Uruguay, winners of the 1930 and the 1950 World Cups, and Gareth Southgate of England winners of the 1966 World Cup, both countries will surely give the 2018 edition of the FIFA Flagship tournament their best shot.
Will it be Cristiano Ronaldo and the Selecao das Quinas of Portugal who have never won the World Cup before; or even the Super Eagles of Nigeria? Who knows? You never can tell where the pendulum will swing this time around.
But Chris Ngwodo, a renowned public affairs commentator had a rather conservative opinion and did not share in the sentiment of the emergence of a new World Cup winner.
“I believe strongly that no new winner will emerge in this World Cup; it will be one of the usual suspects.
“Brazil, Germany, France, Spain …are looking very strong and one of them will likely add to their tally.
“As for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, their chances look very slim and they are in a very difficult group, but if they can navigate their way past Croatia, Iceland and Argentina, then they may be able to go far?
“I strongly doubt the emergence of a ninth winner of the FIFA World Cup, but if a new winner should emerge; then it will be a pleasant surprise,’’ Ngwodo added.
But amid the speculation on what may and what may not happen at the World Cup; football fans will definitely be treated to the very best of football; barring the machination of dubious match makers; to pick the ideal finalists so to speak.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin is waiting patiently to hand over the FIFA solid gold trophy to the winner…but definitely not the Sbornaya of Russia.