The world stage is set for the stars to align.
Football’s greatest show aired from today, 32 nations including defending champions Germany, 64 matches, over 32 days and there will only be one winner – it’s called The FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia.
We have waited four years and it all got underway with the hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia in Moscow at 11 a.m. local time today and defeating them 5-0.
It is the 21st edition of arguably the most watched football tournament and it is expected to be a spectacle while still bitter-sweet for lovers of the beautiful game.
Why bittersweet? This has to be the last chance for the two greatest names in the modern game Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi to lift a World Cup trophy, considering that Ronaldo is 33 years ago and Messi is 30.
However, the main questions are: Who will get their hands on the golden trophy? Will it be a World Cup of upsets? Who will score the most goals?
My head would definitely be on the chopping block if I didn’t make mention of our very own Barbados ‘national team’ away from home also known as five-times champions Brazil who are definitely favourites to emerge winners of the competition and will be in Group E with Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia.
The Samba boys look a different unit from the squad that suffered an embarrassing 7-1 semi-final defeat on their home turf at hands of the Germans in 2014.
With the likes of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho, Willian and Roberto Firmino at Adenor “Tite” Bacchi’s disposal in the attacking third and a strong defence which is expected to be marshalled by captain Thiago Silva all eyes will be on Brazil.
One cannot rule out the defending champions who have come under public criticism for leaving home Manchester City’s forward Leroy Sane following his stellar season in the English Premier League.
Regardless, Germany who will be looking to become the first team to win back to back world cups since 1962, are always a threat, especially with their experience.
Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and Marco Reus will be the men in charge of putting the ball into the old onion bag with support from Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Julian Draxler.
As a norm they will be hard to break down with Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Joshua Kimmich expected to guard the goal of Manuel Neuer.
Having last won in 1998 before I was even born, and finishing runners-up in 2006 to Italy who haven’t qualified this time around and then exiting at the quarter-final stage in 2014, the Frenchmen are in Russia looking for blood.
Like both of the teams previously mentioned France on paper are serious contenders and the coach will definitely have headaches on choosing a striking partnership depending on his formation.
Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele will be tasked to score the goals with help from Manchester United’s record signing Paul Pogba who is expected to be the magician.
I believe there will be two dark horses this time around, Belgium and England. Yes, believe it or not, England.
Most teams lack a natural goal scorer and the English have that in Harry Kane. Will he be given the service to convert chances is another question. But with support from young bright sparks like Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli, if England get the chemistry right they could cause major problems.
Belgium, on the other hand, are equipped with two of the most dangerous attack-minded players in Kevin De Bryne and Eden Hazard while having Romelu Lukaku on top to secure the goals.
It will be the first time that Iceland and Panama will appear on football’s greatest stage with both teams having nothing to lose while the 2010 champions Spain and host team Russia as well as the African teams cannot be ignored.
We will have to wait and see but from today until July 15 everyone’s a football fan.
Tomorrow’s main event will be the mouth-watering clash between Spain and Portugal and as usual, all eyes will be on Ronaldo. Spain fired their coach Julen Lopetegui this week ahead of tomorrow’s game but their supporters will be hoping it has little or no impact on the field. Spain will look to mid-field general Andres Iniesta for inspiration and the fiery Diego Costa could cause Portugal’s defence headaches tomorrow.
It should be an occasion!
Anmar Goodridge-Boyce is a 19-year-old sports journalist, IOC Young Reporter, football commentator with an associate degree in Mass Communication.