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Last Updated : Jul 20, 2018 06:52 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Podcast | Pick of the day - FIFA World Cup 2018: Moments that led us to the final

Here's a podcast on what lead us up to the final showdown of the World Cup 2018 but also recount moments that make this game possibly the greatest show on earth.

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How many of the passionate FIFA fans out there remember or have heard of the Goal of the Century in the memorable quarterfinal round of the 1986 World Cup? The answer depends on whether football is just a game for you or a religion!

In today's MoneyControl epod, we will of course not just lead you up to the final showdown of the FIFA World Cup 2018 but also recount moments that make this game possibly the greatest show on earth.

Going back to the Goal of the Century, it could not possibly have been scored by anyone other than the electrifying little marvel, Diego Maradona.  Before what ultimately went on to be known as the  "Hand of God" goal,  recounts writer Jim Reineking in a June article published in  USA TODAY and we quote, "Maradona executed a 60-yard scamper through perplexed England players en route to beating goalkeeper Peter Shilton to give Argentina a two-goal lead in what would be a 2-1 quarterfinal win. Galvanized by Maradona's play, Argentina won its second World Cup."

Still mere words cannot quite sum up the magic of that moment and we recommend a repeat watch if you have not seen already just how football turns men into gods and onlookers into an aggregation of pure elemental human energy.

Hopefully, said the USA Today piece, the 2018 edition of the World Cup will provide a moment that will be recalled for years to come. If it hasn't already, that is.

But before we build up to the finals with a recount of some unforgettable moments from World Cup history, let us dwell a bit on the history that has already been made in this year's tournament.

And of course the man in the middle of it all. Croatia's mid-field magician Luka Modric.

One of his oft quoted statements is and we quote, “Maybe the dear Lord is giving us an opportunity to settle a score." Unquote.

The words of course show us the inner mechanics of the faith that makes every player and every team and every fan believe that God is on their side. Because of course even God has favourites or the Hand of God goal would not have come about, right?

As of now, Croatia possibly, really feels that God is watching over their progress in the World Cup. A win over England in the World Cup semifinal? Really? Who could have predicted it?

A victory in the final would be a moment of national catharsis for a small nation that has struggled to find its soccer feet since the break away from Yugoslavia in 1991. To take on an elite superpower like France in the finals is a seminal moment and they know enough about World Cup history to understand that anything is possible on a day when God chooses to play with a team rather than against it.

A David vs Goliath showdown

Just how unequal the clash in this year's FIFA final is, can be measured from the fact that the French team represents over 65 million people while Croatia has only about 4 million people. Croatia was also under French control from 1809-14, as part of the Illyrian Provinces, an autonomous slice of Napoleon's First French Empire.

It has previously faced France five times, drawn two games and lost three.

Croatia is also the fourth-smallest team among the 32 World Cup contingents, media reports tell us, just ahead of Panama, Uruguay and Iceland.

If it wins, it will be the least-populous nation to win since Uruguay in 1950.

But numbers mean nothing in football, it is the size of the fight that matters and perhaps that is exactly what Croatian defender Dejan Lovren was trying to convey when he mentioned that his country was small but the success rate of its sports icons was high. That the entire Croatian team is equally hungry bodes well for them and as goalkeeper Hugo Lloris stated, "We want it to end in the best way."

It hasn't always ended in the best way though.

Especially, if you recall what happened in 2015 during a European qualifier match against Norway when because of the violent and racist behaviour of the Croat fans, European soccer's governing body deducted a point from Croatia, and ordered the team to play two additional games without fans apart from fining it 100,000 euros.

When France and Croatia meet in Moscow for one last nail biting clash of the tournament, Croatia will want to win more than just the cup. What the national team wants more than anything else is to clean up its image and win respect.

The moments that make or break this final will be recounted in retrospect but there have been many indelible World Cup clashes across the decades when undersung teams like Croatia have pulled off historic surprises.

Including a 1950 World Cup Final when Uruguay beat Brazil.

In what was a round-robin tournament, Brazil needed only a draw to win but Uruguay came back from the dead and stirred the 170,000-strong crowd into a delirium with a 2-1 win.

England may be nursing a massive heartbreak over losing the chance to bring home the World Cup this year but it still has the memories of winning the ultimate prize right on home turf Wembley in 1966. This was a win inspired by crowd favourite Geoff Hurst's hat trick which incidentally was the first and so far the only hat trick in World Cup final history if you discount Pele's hat trick in the semifinal against France in 1958. This 4-2 win over Germany still makes English fans clutch their hearts in wistfulness.

And no World Cup can be complete without the presence of towering giants who walk among mere mortals to pull off the impossible and sometimes to trample on a million hopes like only they can.

Zinedine Zidane saw both sides of the coin. From leading France to its only World Cup victory in 1998 to receiving a red card in a World Cup final eight years later.

Regardless, fans remember him as an all-time great who orchestrated France's 3-0 win in the final over Brazil.

And of course, in almost every World Cup, there is that pesky, infectiously charismatic little team that wins hearts and sometimes seemingly impossible games.

Like Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup who with their green and red joie-de-vivre took down none other than the miracle worker Diego Maradona himself and World Cup champions Argentina with an incredible upset and even topped their group which had biggies such as Romania and the Soviet Union.

The question of race in football is a contentious one with numerous conversations beginning to emerge around it now but it is thanks to this little, irrepressible team that African soccer became a force that could no longer be ignored in the global arena.

And we cannot forget Senegal either because in 2002, they beat defending champions, France.

And what is a world cup without a flying header goal, the kind that in 2014, was pulled off by Netherland's flying Dutchman Robin van Persie against the defending champs Spain.

There was also a soccer match that actually inspired a film called Das Wunder von Bern or the Miracle of Bern. The 2003 film retells the story of Germany's glorious win in the 1954 final over the so called golden team Hungary.

Any football final is incomplete without moments that take your breath away and there was one such moment in the 1970 World Cup final when the legendary Pele collected the ball and passed it off to mate Carlos Alberto, who scored one of the most famous goals against Italy. The 1970 Brazil team is called the greatest team of all time and for good reason..

Pele of course, single-handedly made football the aspirational dream of young kids around the world when he as a 17-year old, helped Brazil win the finals against Sweden in 1958.

Coming back to France and Croatia, we look forward to painful dives and hand wringing and drama, the kind we saw the last time France played Croatia in a semifinal World Cup match in 1998.

May the best team win the day and scribble its name for posterity in the hearts of fans without whom, no World Cup Final feels like a World Cup Final.
First Published on Jul 13, 2018 07:05 pm
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