The last World Cup?

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

8th July, 2018
Vladimir Putin addresses the crowd at the Stadion Luzhniki ahead of the tournament’s opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia Pictures: Getty

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....

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