Russia 2018: Is this the last great World Cup?

A day after we have witnessed a classic world cup final with goals, VAR controversy and the emergence of a superstar in Mbappe.  I ask the question with the next world cup being held in Qatar and the possibility of the competition being expanded to 48 team.  Could this be the last great world cup tournament we shall ever see?

Russia 2018 has been a pleasant surprise in terms of the standard of games played.  Very few games did not have a talking point, there was only one 0-0 draw in the whole tournament and of course we had plenty of goals that would have had the most casual football observer entertained.  Germany heading home after the group stage for the first time in many world cups was a shock.  The disappointing performances of Brazil, Argentina and 2016 Euro champions Portugal showed a small changing of the guard.  The flat performances of Ronaldo and Messi show that they are both past the peak of their powers and making way for a potential new generation of superstars to take over.

France themselves were deserved winners of the tournament, Didier Deschamp has put together a side that could dominate International football for the next 4 years.  Croatia punched well above their weight for a nation that has been in existence for just over 20 years and a population size smaller then Victoria.  Luka Modric was a star in the traditional no 10 role, but was also helped by players such as Perisic and Mandzukic who helped achieve their greatest result in their short history.

We can’t also forget about England.  Gareth Southgate has achieved what countless managers who have been in the English hot seat since 1990 have not been able to.  Not only by getting them to the semi-finals, but also uniting the press and the public behind the team.  Yes, people can make fun of “It’s coming home”, but like when Richmond won their first premiership in 37 years.  England have been waiting over 50 years to hold the cup again.  Like France this side is young enough to have a good crack at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.

However, by then will the greatest sporting event in the world had lost its lustre?  We know all the reasons why Qatar should not host the world cup, and of course the corruption in the bidding process that gave not only the World Cup to Qatar, but also to Russia as well.  We now hear that the 2022 World Cup will be held in November and December which will interrupt leagues around the world including the A-League.

Now FIFA are looking at expanding the number of sides at the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.  This was originally going to happen at the 2026 World Cup that will be co-hosted by USA, Canada and Mexico.  However, this could be pushed forward, maybe due to powerhouses such as Italy and Holland not qualifying. With the USA missing out on 2018 that would have lost big rating numbers and advertising revenue, so we are now seeing this push.

Is FIFA going down the track where everyone is a winner like we see in most junior sports these days?  Will it eventually become a free for all where every nation will participate like the next European Championships will be?

Obliviously this is all about the mighty dollar and how FIFA can get more from their biggest asset.  As we saw from Euro 2016 the competition was deluded and no offence against Portugal, but no side should finish third in their group and win the tournament.  Maybe it is the grumpy old man in me looking back on the supposed glory days of world cups past, but I fear 2018 could be the last world cup we see that was a classic.


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About Vaughan Menlove

Obsessed with Richmond, Luton Town, Melbourne Victory and Arsenal. The Dr had a soccer career hampered by the realisation he was crap, but could talk his way around the game. Co host of It's Not Called Soccer podcast


  1. John Butler says

    Dr C, how much is enough?

    48 seems like an awful lot of teams. And it runs the risk of rendering the qualifiers irrelevant.

    Cricket has gone the other way with its World Cup. It shrank the numbers, largely to accommodate India, it seems.

    Neither option feels like a happy medium.

  2. Dunno about the future, but Russia 2018 was great at so many levels. Beyond the quality of the games, the friendliness and safety of the host venues made me want to be there. Russia – who would have thunk it. But the people are not the government when it comes to hospitality. And Putin knows how to make the trains (and the mafia) run on time.
    2022 would have been an ideal time for my bucket list, but Qatar will be inhospitably hot and super-expensive. Where is 2026 – before there are too many holes in my bucket to travel?

  3. george smith says

    2026 is apparently a joint venture between USA, Canada and Mexico. Trump and his pomps should have long departed, but the Dutton-like immigration policies should still be around, making it awkward to get between the main venues in Mexico and Los Angeles. However, I believe that Toronto and Montreal are reasonably handy in distance terms to New York, so perhaps you can venture that way…

    Russia had so much on so many levels. The tentative “football coming home” from the English, only to be dashed by the Croats and the Belgians. The remarkable final, well contested in the first half, only to be blown away by Pogba and Mbappe. And unlike the frustration fests of years past, it finished in 90 minutes, without extra time or the dreaded penalty shootout.

    Moments in the sun from Belgium, Croatia, Japan and even England. And deservedly down the toilet for heavyweights Germany, Argentina and Brazil.

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