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World Cup Recap: Told by a Baseball Guy

Over the past month, FIFA’s 2018 World Cup took place in stadiums across Russia.  Thirty two nations sent their men’s soccer team to compete for the most prestigious title in professional futbol.  Exactly ZERO of those 32 participants was the US of A.  Not having the United States Men’s National Team was such a bummer.  They are never really contenders but watching their games are always so much fun.  If you’re a sports girl or guy then you love cheering for your teams.  I personally really enjoy rooting for a team or person to win.  Obviously I am a big fan of all Boston teams. First and foremost I would probably describe myself as a baseball guy.  You could possibly say that I even come from a baseball family.  But I also have favorites in almost everything that is competitive.  Actually it wasn’t long ago that a twitter post went viral and all you had to do was fill out your favorites.  You know what?  I never participated when it was first popular so I’m going to do it now.  It is my post I can do whatever I want…
MLB: Red Sox
NFL: Patriots
NBA: Celtics
NHL: Bruins
MLS: Revolution
MLL: Cannons
MMA: Rampage Jackson
WWE: Steve Austin (I used a former wrestler cause I’m still searching for my current favorite)
NCAAM: Arizona Wildcats
NCAAF: Southern California Trojans
College Baseball: Arizona Wildcats
courtesy of theweek.co.uk
I may be a baseball fan first but I truly love sports, all sports so as you can see I have a lot of favorites.  You also may have noticed that I do not have a favorite soccer club. (Outside of the US) I would say that is mostly because I follow the players way more than I root for any team. Perhaps someday that’ll change and I start rooting for one specific team.  Hit me up on twitter and let me know who should be my favorite futbol squad.  And also respond with your lists of your favorite teams. My twitter handle is @Matty_wests1de.

The USMNT did not qualify for this summer’s World Cup.  Typically whenever USA is no longer competing I would just end up cheering for the French squad to win.  France obviously was in this year’s Cup but without the US in it at all I didn’t think I would care about the biggest tourney in sports.  In my opinion it really sucked not being able to cheer for the stars and stripes but despite the US watching from home, this World Cup was incredible!  I absolutely caught a strong case of World Cup fever. 

**DISCLAIMER** I know nothing about soccer.  When I was a kid I played soccer for a grand total of 45 mins then decided it wasn’t my thing.  I mention that to set the tone of this article.  This is a recap of the 2018 World Cup from an admitted baseball guy. 

First let’s talk about the stars.

FIFA’s World Cup is always a showcase of the greatest futbol athletes on the planet.  Cristiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, and so many more superstars came to compete in the World Cup.  Even if you don’t know a lot about the sport it is still very easy to understand the athletic ability and extreme skill these guys display.  In Portugal’s first match you saw Ronaldo put together a glorious hat trick.  Regardless of how you feel about CR7, scoring three goals in a World Cup matchup is a boss move.  I’m a fan of Ronaldo but I can still enjoy the greatness of other players.  Harry Kane led the entire tournament in goals with 6.  Those 6 scores were enough for Kane to win the Golden Boot.  Kylian Mbappe scored a goal in the World Cup Final as a teenager helping him take home the Best Young Player award.  Luka Modric was spectacular the entire tournament which was why he was awarded the Golden Ball.  Neymar became an iconic GIF.  Just rolling around on the ground, looking like someone just tossed him out of a moving vehicle.  And Pogba along with the rest of his French teammates took home the World Cup Championship trophy.  The players in the tourney are amazing and a tremendous joy to watch.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a diehard futbol fan or someone who only tunes in for the WC. 

Video Assistant Referees were used for the first time in World Cup history.  This may have become the most debated aspect of the tournament.  As an admitted casual fan I don’t mind it. I feel like if you have the technology, why not put it to use?  This year’s Cup had the most penalties called in the history of this prestigious event.  Soccer purest believe that the referees are part of the sport.  The refs will make calls that sway the game and that all plays into the excitement of watching matches.  For example Diego Maradona, one of the most celebrated players of all time, would not have scored his iconic header if VA.R. was around in the 1986 World Cup.  If you watch the replay it is clear as day that score was a hand ball.  There are probably numerous examples similar to that of Maradona’s.  I can understand why fans don’t like the major implementation of video replay.  Being the baseball guy that I am, I try to equate it to automated strike zones.  Personally, I like the human error aspect.  It creates excitement whether it’s for or against your favorite team.  But if I’m keeping the same energy then I should want to use technology to get all calls correct.  Whichever side of the fence you stand, it is an interesting debate.  As always if you want to leave a comment, please do so on our beautiful BostonSportsonTap website. (Shout out Mike)

This summer’s World Cup provided the fans with a bunch of great moments.  Folks around the world were able to witness special goals like Germany’s Toni Kroos’ game winner against Sweden.  Sometimes I swear I have no idea how these players are able to bury the shots that they do.  A lot of games were decided by penalty kicks and if your favorite team is involved, it can be so intense.  My favorite highlights are the scoring plays.  The 2018 WC do not disappoint in the goal scoring department.

You can’t talk about the tournament without talking about the upsets that took place.  Teams lost to other teams that no one could have predicted.  People could not believe that South Korea beat the German power house.  Not only did South Korea win but they eliminated Germany from the tournament all together.  The German National Team, aka the defending champs, did not even make it out of the group stage.  This is actually considered the biggest upset in Cup history.  My brother-in-law believes that Russia eliminating Spain was a major upset.  One of the biggest upsets of the summer.  I believe him cause unlike myself, he knows what he’s talking about.  Even though Iceland put themselves on the map during the 2016 Euro Tournament, it was still a surprise when they tied Messi and the Argentinean National Team.  Parody in professional sports is great and it only creates more hype and excitement.  Not knowing who the champ will be when the season starts is very appealing to spectators. 

England advanced by winning a penalty kick shootout.  Apparently they haven’t done that for a really really long time.  English fans also showed the world how awesome fan celebrations can be.  I saw a video where an entire bar waited with anticipation as England took a penalty kick.  When they scored the place roared with happiness. Everyone and I mean everyone started jumping and throwing drinks in the air.  It even got me all pumped up.

I just want to mention real quickly, Nigeria sported some of the coolest kits I have ever seen.  That’s all.

Not everything was awesome in this year’s Cup.  I for one did not like that a lot of the best players went home early.  I guess ultimately it doesn’t matter if the matches are good but I would like see Ronaldo vs Messi in the semis or even championship.  Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, and Muller are just a few of the star players to make early exits.  However, the ultimate beauty of the World Cup is that there is never a shortage of great players.

France opposed Croatia in a battle for the World Cup Championship.  Regardless of the amount of superstars who had already lost, this match was a star studded affair.  This match alone displayed the talents of players like Mbappe, Pogba, Griezmann, Giroud, Lloris, Perisic, and the tourney’s Golden Ball recipient Luka Modric.  It was a wildly entertaining game.  It had drama, controversy, heart, and for me a good result.  If you have kept up with my pieces you know I was ridiculed for my support of the French team.  I said I would save this story for another time…..this is that time.

It was the 2016 Euro Final, and I decided to go and watch it with my wife’s family.  The matchup was France vs Portugal.  There must have been 10 plus people in attendance.  Everyone BUT me was rooting for Portugal.  Like I said before when the US isn’t playing I cheer for France.  Well that day I thought I was going to be all big and bad and show my support for the French team.  It was a pretty slow moving match and I actually remember checking my fantasy baseball lineup a bunch of times.  Throughout the game some smack talk was exchanged but nothing too crazy.  I believe it was overtime maybe not I can’t remember.  We were all watching and boom….Portugal scores and take the lead.  I am not exaggerating when I say a TSUNAMI of boos, insults, and Portuguese cheers wash over me and my France t-shirt.  I couldn’t believe it. For a moment in time I knew what it felt like to be Bill Buckner, and feel like a complete bum.  This Portuguese family…well I guess now it’s my Portuguese family, let me have it.  And boy oh boy did they let me have it.  I mean it was bad.  I won’t lie, I may or may not gotten all butt hurt.  Ok, I was super butt hurt.  Now is my chance to say…..NANA NANA BOO BOO, FRANCE WON THE WORLD CUP!!!!!

FIFA’s 2018 World Cup was awesome.  The matches were fun, unpredictable and full of controversy.  You will not get a chance to see players as good as you do in the World Cup.  The best of the best take the stage.  We won’t get the opportunity to enjoy another cup until the 2022 tournament in Qatar.  Hopefully then the USMNT will get it together and make a run at a championship.  Probably not but I can still dream. 

So there…what do you think about this recap?
Remember. Be nice, I am a baseball guy.

Follow me on Twitter @Matty_wests1de 

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