Illustration by Neelam Khan
As the FIFA 2018 World Cup quickly approaches, the anticipation of soccer fans worldwide has been knocked up to twelfth gear. After four years of waiting, get ready for a different kind of “football” to dominate the American sports cycle.
The 2018 tournament looks like it will be another exciting one, despite the fact that this year’s tournament will be missing some familiar faces. For the first time since 1986, the United States didn’t qualify. More shockingly, countries with illustrious soccer histories such as Italy and the Netherlands didn’t qualify either.
The Netherlands’ failure to qualify, while surprising, isn’t an enigma. 2014’s bronze medalists have been subject to drastic highs and lows throughout the years, with individual players sometimes making or breaking the team. This year’s absence of Arjen Robben, Holland’s golden winger, seems to have led to the team’s early demise.
The fact that Italy, a team which has qualified for every tournament since 1958 and has made the third most World Cup appearances of any nation, couldn’t be more shocking. The four-time champions have always boasted a strong arsenal of players and management.
Last November, Italy suffered a devastating 1-0 loss to Sweden last year during a do-or-die qualification game. Sweden, emerging victorious, seems to still have extremely low prospects of actually winning the tournament. To be specific, CBS Sports estimates that Sweden has a 1/150 chance of winning the title, compared to Germany and Brazil which each have an estimated 1/4 chance of winning.
The FIFA 2018 World Cup will be a memorable one. With new teams competing and new players preparing for the spotlight, it is sure to be a summer full of surprise. In a world where foreign policy has never been so tangled and complex, it is always a pleasure to witness unification (with bursts of hostility) through the game of soccer.