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Why The World Cup Is The Greatest Show On Earth

Posted 04.07.18  - Culture

Since the Uruguay team lifted the very first World Cup trophy in 1930, there’s been no shortage of drama, intrigue, despair and euphoria delivered by the four-yearly footballing showcase dubbed the greatest show on earth. This year’s World Cup, held across 11 cities in Russia has proved no different, captivating viewers from across the globe with memorable encounters, tears and triumphs and providing the sport with a new generation of sporting icons.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was seen by more than 3.2 billion people, with television coverage reaching every country and territory on earth, including Antarctica and the Arctic Circle. The tournament’s ability to transcend sport, culture and language and bring people together as its narrative of winners and losers unfolds is inescapable. Football is the ultimate leveller, with the world’s smaller nations coming face to face with the so-called giants of the game over 90 minutes in David versus Goliath battles that don’t always follow the form book.

The idea of the collective exceeding individual talent has often seen deserved victories for traditionally less fancied teams, with famous examples including Cameroon beating Argentina in 1990, South Korea’s victory over Italy in 2002 and the same nation eliminating Germany this year in Russia, their surprising 2-0 victory sending the Germans – the winners of the 2014 World Cup – home early. For developing nations to shine on the international stage it can inspire a sense of hope and inclusion as part of a global conversation, while it’s also impossible to separate the World Cup from a backdrop of current affairs, including North Korea’s appearance in the 2010 World Cup, Iran pitted against the USA in 1998 or the controversy surrounding Vladimir Putin’s Russia hosting this year’s tournament.

The World Cup is an arena in which new heroes and villains are born. From 17-year-old Brazilian footballer Pele, whose virtuoso displays in the 1958 World Cup carried his country to victory, to Geoff Hurst’s three goals for England in the 1966 World Cup final and Germany’s Lothar Matthaus, who amassed a record 25 World Cup appearances, true greats of the game get a chance to shine on a global platform. On the other side of history, Argentine genius Diego Maradona is perhaps best known in the UK for his infamous Hand of God goal against England in 1986, while Zinedine Zidane’s violent headbutt of an Italian opponent in 2006 remains one of the World Cup’s most iconic moments.

England’s most famous achievement – winning the trophy in 1966 – came courtesy of a goal that perhaps never actually crossed the line, sparking debate that has continued for more than 50 years. Controversy plays a huge part in the conversation, with the introduction of video replays at this year’s event giving referees a second chance to view controversial incidents – designed to eliminate the disputed decisions that have provided talking points for generations of football fans. Yet regardless of such technological advances, the passion and simplicity that epitomises the World Cup remains the same, continuing to inspire and unite billions, regardless of nationality, culture or language.

Image © REX

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