Encircling football and footballers there are two buzzing issues drawing the world’s attention for the last couple of weeks. These included unprecedented results of underdog sides in the FIFA World Cup, Russia and the rescue mission of 12 youth footballers and their coach who got trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks in Thailand.
When divers from several countries carried out the 3rd and final operation saving the last four boys and their soccer coach, the same day the world was set to witness the 1st semifinal of this year’s World Cup, with France and Russia set to take each other on Tuesday night (July 10).
There are more sighs of relief about the Thai incident with the latest updates showing the health experts gave a chocolate treat to the eight boys rescued earlier, who were brought out from the dreadful Thai cave in the first two days.
The boys have already got an invitation from FIFA president Gianni Infantino to witness the final of the FIFA World Cup final scheduled to be held at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15.
The FIFA president hopes that the children and their coach can be rescued and taken to the showpiece event.
“FIFA president Gianni Infantino has written to the Thai Football Association to invite the 12 boys and their coach trapped in a cave to the World Cup final,” reports goal.com.
The 1998 edition host country and champions France are set to play the semifinal for the 6th time in the mega event against the 1986 edition 4th place finishers Belgium, play the semis for the second time, at Saint Petersburg Stadium on July 10. France played Belgium twice at the World Cup, with their last meeting coming in the third-place match at Mexico 1986.
France confirmed their semifinal berth eliminating Uruguay with a 2-0 victory in the quarterfinal.
In the round of 16, France sent Lionel Messi’s Argentina packing 4-3 where they showcased a success of power-packed European pressing football strategy against the Latin aesthetic. The 19-year-old forward Kylian Mbappé found the net twice for France against two-time champions Argentina.
On their way to semifinals in the 32-team event, France started the journey as a contender of Group-C and defeated Australia (2-1) and Peru (1-0) before a 0-0 draw against Denmark in the 1st round to top Belgium’s “Golden Generation” strode through to the semifinals upsetting another favourite Brazil 2-1 in the keenly contested quarterfinal.
In the round of 16, they outplayed the Asian nations’ last hope Japan 3-2 in a thrilling contest in which they were down 2-0 with just a quarter of the game left. Belgium started their campaign with full domination in the group stage with three wins out of three.
England and Croatia will play the second semifinal at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 11. Croatia, born out of the ashes of the former Yugoslavia, are going to play in the semifinal for the second time, after placing 3rd in their first appearance in 1998, while 1966 champions England are up for their 3rd appearance in the semis.
England reached the semifinals beating Sweden by 2-0 goals in the quarterfinals where they advanced on penalties - a first - to get past Colombia in the round of 16
Among the dark horses in this edition as much for their exhilarating play as the kit they play in, Croatia stormed into the semifinals eliminating hosts Russia in a penalty shootout 2(4)-2(3) after a nailbiting contest that ended 2-2 after 120 minutes.
Fatigue might be a factor for the Croats as they endured a tie-breaker in the round of 16 as well, against Denmark. Prior to that in the group phase, Luka Modric-led Croatia delivered one of the stunning performances of the tournament on their way to a 100% record, when they ran rings around Argentina on their way to a 3-0 win.
The relentless activities among the football loving people of Bangladesh to show their support for their favorite sides slowed down with the exits of Brazil, Argentina. FIFA showcased the story of Bangladesh’s football frenzy through its official World Cup Facebook page along with pictures of flag-painted houses and fans celebrating the World Cup.
FIFA’s official Facebook page on Monday (July 9) acknowledged Bangladeshi peoples’ enthusiasm for football by uploading a post containing four images with a caption, “Despite the fact that its team has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, World Cup fever has taken over Bangladesh - a country with some of football’s most passionate fans.”
The 64-match mega event reaches its crescendo with the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15 - and you can bet the lovers of the beautiful game in Bangladesh as well as the rest of the world, are already dreading the hangover to come.