25 February, 2021

Socc It To 'Em

Football's world order still brooks no pretenders

Socc It To 'Em
At the start of FIFA World Cup 2006, among the 32 competing nations were six teams who had won the trophy before. As we reach the final week, with just eight teams going into the quarter-final stage, those six sides—Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany and Italy—are still around.

It just shows that the World Cup is an essentially conservative competition and that when football's world order changes, it does so very slowly. Portugal and Ukraine are the only two sides left who might require the engravers to add a new name to the Jules Rimet trophy, though few imagine them capable of reaching the final with South American opposition likely to bar their way.

Of the four European teams among the six previous winners, only host Germany has played with enough confidence and conviction to suggest it might be able to prevent the Cup returning to South America. Brazil and Argentina arrived as tournament favourites and though opinion has fluctuated through the competition as to which side is playing better, all are agreed the...

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