The World Cup Calendar: The preview

Summer 2017, no World Cup, no European Championships, not even a lousy Copa America.
There is a Confederations Cup, but quite frankly, who cares? It could be played out in my
back garden and I wouldn’t bother to open the curtains. I love the World Cup, to me, it’s the
best sporting spectacle in the world. It’s the universal game. Pretty much every nation has a
football team. Countries spend years trying to qualify, investing millions into facilities,
coaching and infrastructure to try and develop a select group of players good enough to get
to a World Cup.

The World Cup is undoubtedly great for the players, the coaches, the pundits, but more
than that, it’s important for the fans. Whether your club team has won a treble, or been
relegated from their entire football league system, the pain or triumph takes a back seat for
one month. Rivalries are set aside. Regardless of what half of Manchester, Milan or Munich
you support, you sit down with anyone who will cheer on your national team.

Whether you travel to the finals to support your country, travel to the country just to
absorb the atmosphere in fan zones, of whether you like to stay at home with family and
friends, crack open a cold one and watch the game on TV, the World Cup is a special
occasion for the fans. Sure, as a player, getting knocked out on a penalty shootout is a tough
one to take. But the experience of playing in these games, the money received, the fact
most of these players are fulfilling childhood dreams, it makes these loses bearable. If you
are a fan, regardless of where you watch the game, it just hurts that little bit more. There is
no consolation, there is no financial relief, it’s just hurt and heartbreak.

Nothing evokes the range of emotion and passion in neutral football fans like a World Cup. I
know this, because I am Scottish, and the last time the Tartan Army reached the finals was
waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1998. I was only two years old, so couldn’t quite grasp
the importance of what was going on. I’ve spent the last four World Cup’s since watching as
a neutral, and quite frankly, I have loved it. Even the World Cup in South Africa, which was
more than a little bit shit, I still loved it. I don’t have the bitter disappointments of seeing my
team exit the tournament early, or be dumped out by an obviously biased, cheating
referee… I can sit there, on matchday, and decide who I want to win. And if the other team
wins, and they’ve deserved it, I can still be happy for them.

What I am trying to say, on top of the fact that I bloody love the World Cup, is that it is just
the most feel-good, unifying, enjoyable month of a four year football cycle. So my plan is to
celebrate it in this empty summer. I have made up a calendar, an average World Cup time
scale, and have selected a memorable game.

This will run from Friday the 9th of June, through until Thursday the 13th of July. This will
encompass some gripping group games, some scintillating semi’s and, of course, some
fantastic finals. The World Cup Calendar aims to take the best moments from the 1998
World Cup final, right through until Germany lifted the trophy in 2014.There are a diverse
range of reasons for some of the games selected. The idea is to really showcase the good,
the bad and the ugly of the World Cup, from fights, to fans, to football. And of course, a
couple of England exits! (My team hasn’t qualified since ’98, let me enjoy something!)

Obviously, some days were harder than others. While there are talking points for every day
selected, some games, such as that of June 19th, were selected due to being the most
eventful game of that day, not necessarily an all time classic. Other dates, such as June 16th,
had four tremendous games played, two from the same tournament! But alas, only one can
be reviewed.

So strap in, folks. June/July is going to be a long month with such a dearth of international
football. But I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you are similar to me in the fact that you
long for a bit of football nostalgia. The game of football is evolving so fast these days that it
is, in some aspects, significantly different to what it was twenty, or even ten years ago. So
why not take this next month to relive some iconic, memorable and quite possibly thought-
provoking moments from the last five FIFA World Cups? Who says throwbacks are just for
Thursdays?

Tomorrow’s game: June 9th. Germany v Costa Rica. 2006.