Destiny was fulfilled in Qatar on Sunday evening, as arguably history’s greatest footballer Lionel Messi finally got his hands on the World Cup trophy. His side emerged victorious from a titanic clash with holders France, winning a penalty shoot-out after a 3-3 draw. Rob Short made some predictions ahead of the tournament – so we asked him to revisit these to see how he got on…
Winners: Argentina to beat France 2-1 in the final.
Is It Coming Home? No – the dream to end in the Quarters against France
Top Scorer: Boring, isn’t it, just going for Messi here, right? So left-field – Kai Havertz to fire Germany to the Semi Final.
Surprise package: Uruguay
Biggest disappointment: Portugal or Belgium – I would not be surprised if Roberto Martinez’s side fail to reach the knockout rounds.
Let me say this right away – I faced a great deal of criticism and banter from colleagues and friends for my predictions after Argentina lost their first game against Saudi Arabia. I took it on the chin, whilst secretly cursing Lionel Messi and wishing I had stayed loyal to Cristiano Ronaldo.
As we all saw, however, my initial prediction and confidence in the PSG midfielder was to prove well-founded. Although they made it harder for themselves than I predicted – and for a glorious minute of the final before Kylian Mbappe’s equaliser, I had the opportunity to cash out a bet for well over £100 (which I did not) – the Argentines lifted the trophy.
I also, unfortunately, predicted that England would fall short, losing to the French in the Quarter Finals. This was bittersweet as I think many people would argue that England played the best football in the tournament, and certainly deserved to take the French to extra time at the very least. It will be interesting to see how Gareth Southgate develops the side ahead of a European Championships in 2024 that the country will expect to win.
The less said about my top scorer and surprise package predictions the better. Germany were a major let-down – I had felt they could make the Semi Finals – and Uruguay were disappointing (though for many football followers, I suspect there was a deep sense of schadenfreude at Luis Suarez’s tears as they were eliminated).
Belgium were incredibly poor. Tactically outclassed, lacking firepower with Romelu Lukaku only half-fit, an ageing defence – even the world-class Kevin de Bruyne looked a shadow of his usual self. And, despite reaching the Quarter Finals, I suspect many will feel Portugal were also a disappointment, given the players at their disposal. Can you imagine if it had been Messi v Ronaldo on Sunday?
One thing that the tournament proved is that there is a changing of the guard occurring. Ronaldo looks like he has done for much of the past year – an ageing superstar struggling to come to terms with the passage of time. Messi, two years his junior, was excellent of course – but the true star of the tournament was Mbappe. Likely a sign of things to come.
Now the focus begins to turn to the next global sporting event – Rugby World Cup France 2023. The French will be hoping to go one better at home next Autumn. If you’re keen on finding out more about our packages for this, click here.