MOSCOW — The group stage is over. Those dreaming the dream — for some an exercise in positive visualization, for others the most enjoyable fantasy a footballer can have — have been cut down by half. Some leave with regret, some with acceptance, others with shame and embarrassment. Those left behind know that a new tournament has begun. We’ve had our hard reset and our memory wiped (though not bookings), the screen has turned grey and it’s about to flicker into life.
If you’re worried about how history will judge your tournament, then take a page from Sir Winston Curchill: write it yourself.
To love this edition of the World Cup, you need to shed some beliefs that were once long-held. This is not the pinnacle of football, and really hasn’t been for several decades. You see a higher standard in much of the Champions League and when the top teams in the top leagues play. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why that’s the case. Move past that premise, learning to appreciate the flaws and missteps, and you can have a rip-roaring good time.
If the Champions League knockout rounds are the Olympic figure skating competition, then this is Disney on Ice: no hard-core technical program for the judges to pore over but a big festival of fun and color, sights and sounds… and still with plenty of excellent ice skating on display.
Footage of supporters may be corny — so many love to accentuate every possible national stereotype in dress and demeanor as if it’s hard to believe they go to games clad the way they are in Russia — but it’s fun. Social media and smartphones ensure that little goes unrecorded or unshared.