Congratulations to France, on breaking their World Cup drought for nearly 20 years, with a team that is considerably even better than the generation that won in 1998. And speaking of Croatia, commiserations to them, for being unable to finish the job that the generation of Davor Suker started. But in the end, the party went on long past the night in Paris and Zagreb.
France may have won the trophy, but the real winner is…- The English Premier League (and the increasingly improving English Football Championship, which serves as the second tier) now cements itself as the undisputed best league in the world in every possible metric, with 129 players, (106 if you discount the English team that contained entirely domestic-based players) in the World Cup plying their trade in England, and for good reason- the wages are higher, the teams have more money than they can ever possibly spend (even after accounting for eye-watering transfer sums), and an increasing portion of this cash has been invested into scouting and development of the globe’s best and brightest. The gulf between the resources of say, Brighton & Hove Albion (based in the south coast of England) and that of some of the strongest sides on the continent is so wide that even they can poach some of the best talent that France, whose leagues have structural issues and an inability to attract broadcasting deals.
The Belgian side that so casually bossed England, is made up of mostly players- 11 in all- who were developed and found their feet at stellar clubs like Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City- this bodes well for the future of any nation that can export players to the Premier League often, and the big teams are always searching long and hard for the next big starlet.
The Euro 2020 silver lining- Whilst the Three Lions may have not brought the trophy home, they showed they can contend amongst the big boys and mount serious challenges, rather than perenially choking and disappointing at every major tourney.
The Three Lions side is extremely young, having the lowest average age (only France can claim second place), and Jordan Pickford looks set to man the sticks for the next 8 years, on the back of some really impressive goalkeeping (Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois took home the Golden Glove), in Harry Kane, now a newly minted Golden Boot winner (on account of playing fewer minutes) they have a complete forward that can both score goals and contribute to attacking moves further down the pitch, in the vein of players from the continent and finally Gareth Southgate is a manager who the nation can finally count on to deliver the results.
The biggest silver lining is that the team that competed in this year’s tournament, will be the same side that will be challenging for Euro 2020, hosted across the continent as a celebration of the competition’s 60th anniversary, whereas other sides in that final bracket could not say the same- Croatia’s side comes to mind. Maybe they can take that one home.
Never mind Messi, it’s Magic Mbappe!- Much of the pre-tournament conversation had revolved around Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi- as if to settle who amongst them is the true greatest-of-all-time, and maybe who amongst the two gets to finally lift the trophy that has so eluded them. But as the dust settles, it was Mbappe who came out of nowhere and had the time of his life, as the French team blazed the competition in both attack and defence, and the 19 year old sensation from Bondy scored some mightily impressive goals that rightly graces highlight reels in YouTube-land. Mbappe even got to lift the World Cup (and the Golden Ball) in his first ever outing, which is one hell of a thing, and he’ll be around for at least 3 more.
It would be even wrong to say that he is the best young player in the world right now. He is already better than Cristiano Ronaldo when he was 19, and to be near his level at this tender age, is otherworldly.