Every World Cup has its own underlying surprises. These can be unexpected occurrences, circumstances, or scenarios which throw any logic or expectation out the window. One recalls the 1998 World Cup when favored Brazil had to endure having its superstar Ronaldo get seizures the night before the final, rendering him a walking husk of a man on match day. Compounding that occurrence was the fact that his coach, Mario Zagallo, played him in that condition. Then there was the rampant unsanctioned fouling of the 1966 World Cup on the soil of the country that had come up with the Laws of the Game. And what about the unforgettable 2010 French player rebellion which led to their exit in the Group Stage?
There are also purposely created surprises such as the Germans fielding a second-string team and injuring Ferenc Puskas in their first meeting with the Magical Magyars, thus rendering him ineffective in the final when the Hungarians met the German first-string. One recalls the kidnapping attempt against Johan Cruyff’s family which convinced the Dutch Master to sit out the 1978 World Cup. And of course, we have the 2022 World Cup in Qatar—which required a domestic league mid-season winter tourney in a nation we are all not quite sure is ready to host the event.
But there are also other surprises, such as the referee, player, or coach mishap or fortuitous intervention that can change the outcome of a game or tourney. One can recall Louis van Gaal’s World Cup 2014 goalkeeper substitution which led to the Dutch winning the penalty shootout against Mexico. Remember the missed call on the “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup, or the Antoine Griezmann dive (at the 20:41 minute mark of the clip), which was judged a foul, and set up France’s first goal off the subsequent free kick in the 2018 World Cup final?
As we get closer to the 2022 Qatar World Cup, we will keep a close eye on those pre-tourney things which can have an effect every bit as much as we will be watching for those big surprises which occur in-cup, as the cup progresses.
Today, we can begin to cover some things that may play a surprising role in the outcome of the tournament. Take for example the rows between Kylian Mbappe and PSG, or Neymar, or the media, or the French Football Federation, and the effect those might have on his mental state and thus his performance. Or think of what Neymar is going through as he sits in a Madrid courthouse dealing with the 10-year-old legal case dealing with his original transfer from Santos to Barcelona which has mysteriously managed to come up in the Spanish court’s docket as we near the cup. How will that affect him?
There are the unfortunate injuries, of course, which can derail long-laid coaching strategies and team make-ups, such as the injuries Portugal’s Diogo Jota and Ricardo Pereira just endured in the Premier League, ruling them out of the cup. Or the injury of N’Golo Kante most likely out of the cup and (as of this writing a 50-50 proposition given he opted out of surgery) Paul Pogba who may or may not be ready in time for Qatar. Or Argentine Paolo Dybala’s latest injury setback which makes him questionable. Or the recent Reece James injury ruling him out of the English squad. Or Australian Kye Rowles’ broken foot which even if it heals in time would be fragile at best. Or Brazil’s Arthur Melo, out for the season with an injury. Or Ecuador’s Joao Rojas, out of the tournament with a serious knee injury.
Then we have the self-inflicted wounds such as Mexican coach Tata Martino’s refusal to even consider Havier Hernandez as a substitute for the injured Tecatito Corona. Or Australia’s best player, Tom Rogic, who has basically gone walkabout. And then there is Senegal’s Keita Balde who is ruled out of the cup due to a doping violation. Finally, we have Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo who is mostly a bench warmer at his club, Manchester United, when he needs to be in top form in less than a month.
We will keep abreast of all of World Cup 2022’s major, potential surprises.
Photo: Official WC22 ball, Shutterstock ID 2180628889, by kovop58
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