World Cup 2018
It’s over. But my god, it was good. Beyond good. We have stories to tell until the next one. The ecstasy, the agony and everything in between. Heads held in hands, breath held until the final whistle, all our attention held by the events on the pitch. This World Cup brought smiles and tears to a lot of faces around the world. So we thought we’d also give some of those global Fan Girls a chance to say what it meant to them.
Although Japan’s women are strong at football, having won the World Cup once and always contenders, Japan’s men are not always in it to win it. They struggled to qualify for the 2018 WC, changed their manager just 2 months before Russia, and leading up to the competition there was little if any hype. The times of 11pm and 3am for the matches put a damper on things as well- but only until the lucky first few minutes of the Japan vs Colombia match when a red card gave Japan a fighting chance. A tie with Senegal gave them a very good chance to go through to the Round of 16 for only the third time in men’s World Cup history. Which they accomplished by some very excellent time wasting in the Poland game. They did this through the boos of the crowd, and reaction at home was mixed. I thought it was great, get through any way you can, and the passing they exhibited was very much like what you would see at a J.League game, showing their inner character.
Their R16 match against Belgium was like a microcosm of Japan’s 2018 World Cup experience- some luck, a lot of ups and downs, big misses by the goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, and a heartbreaking counter from the Belgian side in injury time that knocked Japan straight out of the World Cup. Hopes were dashed, but I was still a little shocked that we had hopes at all.
The conservative nature of the manager and the lack of playing time for any young players, including Japan’s best goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura (23) means that no one knows if Japan will be able to do better in Qatar. But we live in hope.
I am born and raised in London and adore my city, yet my blood and roots are 100% Colombian. So whenever the World Cup comes around I hold both Countries and Cultures close to my heart. This time round both nations met in the Round of 16 and things got complicated. This to me was the most important game I had witnessed in my lifetime and was excited/nervous to say the least. People would ask me who was I rooting for and well, naturally and emotionally it was always going to be Colombia deep down, yet I have always supported the England squad and always wish them the best during any competition. I just hoped they didn’t meet so early in the competition.
Although Colombia lost their 1st game against Japan (with only 10 men) they played well and created chances so I was confident they would qualify out of group stages, and likewise England as they had a pretty easy group. The time came and I had predicted penalties from the start! I wasn’t expecting the game to be so aggressive and what some people are saying ‘dirty’. However, I think this showed how passionate both squads were which is something we hadn’t seen from England in previous tournaments. I don’t agree with some of the actions from both teams and believe both teams got as good as they got, both teams were instigating reactions in which resulted with 8 yellow cards and 36 fouls in total. I would say this made it a VERY tense game. I predicted penalties from the start well, because it would make the result much easier for me to take whatever the result would be, but I also honestly believed they were very equally matched teams. Having said that, on the day I do believe this was the case as shown in the 93rd minute equaliser from Colombia which made me burst into tears of joy. I think it’s also important to mention that this was even though Colombia had to play without their star man James Rodriguez. I do 100% believe had he been on the pitch, Colombia would have won and been the slightly better team, but hey this is football and things don’t always go to plan.
Ultimately on the night, I do believe England deserved to win but only just! Therefore a penalty shootout was the most appropriate way for Colombia to leave the competition. They gave it their all and demonstrated this till the very end. That 93rd minute equaliser was a moment I will never forget, being around hundreds of Colombian Londoners and sharing that emotion was a special experience. I went to watch it in Elephant & Castle where many Colombians/Latinos reside in London and where the party continued late into the night, even though we lost. For now, my alliance is and has to be with the Country I was raised in, England, although it still somewhat burns a little, they have stayed compact and performed very well to get this far. Some may say they have had the easiest route, but this particular game wasn’t easy at all, as we saw it was tough physically, mentally, and emotionally for both teams and has made me even more proud to share both nationalities. I am confident whoever won that particular match would reach the finals! So, I guess it might just really be coming home after all…
To say that this year’s World Cup was a disappointment for every German soccer fan would be an understatement. I still can’t believe how we managed to let South Korea score two goals and won the game against Sweden by pure luck. The team spirit that was a key characteristic of our national team that won the World Cup four years ago had vanished completely and you could see and feel that during all three matches. As Manuel Neuer said, they “might just didn’t want it enough”. Anyhow they might have been busy complaining about their accommodation in Watutinki or getting a fresh haircut from their hairdresser who flew to Moscow just to shorten the already super-short hair of some players. I really didn’t understand why Manchester City’s Leroy Sané and Freiburgs Nils Petersen didn’t make it on the final team. Considering their performances in the Premier League and Bundesliga during the last season both would have made a good addition and might have given some new and innovative ideas to the team
Anyhow, there seems to be one thing that shines above everything: “Erdogate” as German media call it. Before the World Cup had even started there was a big fuzz about Mesut Özil and Ilkay Gündogan meeting with the Turkish president Erdogan and giving them their jerseys as a gift. At times when German politics as well as society is hardly arguing about something else than integration that was quite a thing. Fans booed Özil during the final test games and showed that they were not approving the visit he and Gündogan payed. In the aftermath it looks like Özil is becoming the symbol of the defeat what, to be honest, is just not fair - whatever you might think about him as a player and a person. German soccer needs some fresh spirit. I liked the performances from Julian Brandt, Joshua Kimmich, Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle. Young players who are hungry and ambitious. They proofed that there’s a good base of players to start over with!
I hope that Croatia will make it to the final since I’ve been a huge fan of Luka Modric for ages. He’s a superstar in his team but not in the way that Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo are. He’s a team player. France, Belgium, Croatia and England performed as teams and that’s what brought them to the semi-finals. My favorite World Cup moment so far? Kasper Schmeichels performance against Croatia!
I can still remember the night I sat on my couch and watched the US lose to Trinidad and Tobago thus ending their chances of heading to the 2018 World Cup. I thought to myself, well I guess there is always Qatar 2022? As a result I decided to put my support behind the three CONCACAF teams moving forward, mainly Mexico as I saw them as the best chance of success. I know, an American rooting for EL Tri? My brother thought the same thing and threatened to disown me. I assured him I still bleed red, white and blue. I then explained to him that rooting for Mexico was the most American thing I could do. A few on their squad play in the MLS and millions of their fans live in America. Unfortunately, El Tri fell in the round of 16 and was sent home. But I will always have the memory of Chicharito crying in euphoria after Mexico defeated Germany in the first round of the group stage. Who in that moment couldn’t be a Mexico fan? That is until this September when I put my Mexico jersey away and don The Stars and Stripes once again.
Republic of Ireland.
As a young Irish woman, this year’s World Cup has been interesting because Ireland didn’t qualify. Although this was disappointing and difficult, I find that I’ve enjoyed this year’s tournament more because I can focus on supporting other nations without the stress of going through losses. This year has been all about the underdogs, and I love that! At the beginning of the tournament, I was convinced this year would be Argentina’s triumph, and I was shocked to see all the South American teams being knocked out. However, I’m hoping to see Croatia and Belgium in the final; I feel they’ve both played well over the past few weeks and surprised everyone with their determination. I really do want the 2018 World Cup winners to be a unique country - a win that everyone can celebrate worldwide.
Having the opportunity to attend all of Iceland's World Cup matches in Russia was truly a dream come true. Never could have predicted our recent success growing up supporting the team. "Our Boys" did the country proud in their first attempt, even though results could have been better in the end. I accomplished my personal goal of losing my voice every match cheering them on (thank you to hot tea for helping me get it back in between!). Between this experience and also going to the 2016 Euros I think I've caught the major tournament bug, already looking forward to France '19 and Euro 2020. Experiencing the best Russia has to offer was great as well. Everything around the organization of the matches, the Fan Fests, the transportation and more was handled very well. Seeing so many people from all over the world come together to enjoy themselves and share this experience of watching football was amazing.