The last World Cup?

The last World Cup? View Gallery
Vladimir Putin addresses the crowd at the Stadion Luzhniki ahead of the tournament’s opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia Pictures: Getty

Many people took exception to Fifa’s decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but the huge country has responded by staging a well-organised, trouble-free festival of thrilling football. And with Qatar and 48 teams looming on the horizon, it might be the last good one we get to see for a long time, writes Jonathan O’Brien

When the definitive account of the 2018 World Cup is finally written, half a dozen compelling narratives will compete strenuously for ultimate prominence. The slapstick defenestration of reigning champions Germany. The failure of another global football power – Italy – to show up at all. The final bows, almost certainly, of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The emergence of a new global superstar in Kylian Mbappé. England’s tentative, faintly surreal progression to the latter stages. Maybe even a surprise first-time winner. But the dominant story will be one of conventional wisdom being tipped into a wheelbarrow and rolled downhill at Grand Prix speed.

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