The World Cup had all the elements of a classic

France was a worthy winner in the end, but that a side like Croatia made it all the way to the final was a story for the ages and that’s what makes football so special.

Will we see them again on the same stage?: The comparisons may never end, but that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi left the World Cup on the same day seemed a little poetic.   -  AFP

The end of the World Cup signals the beginning of a relatively shorter wait for club football, but it’s a tough one all the same. A lot of people have said that this edition of the World Cup has been the best they’ve ever watched, and I agree with them. It’s been a thriller!

It had all the elements of a classic from start to finish. The inclusion of the video assistant referee meant that almost every game came with a new type of talking point. Dark horses like Croatia and Sweden rose above their marks even as the defending champion and the ‘so-called’ superpowers capitulated on a weekly basis.

If statistics are anything to go by, 69 goals were scored in the final 15 minutes of the games in Russia. This means that almost every game ended with a winner, an equaliser or an attempted fightback. If you ask me to choose my favourite game of the lot, Mexico’s win over Germany and Belgium’s comeback against Japan would be right up there. These were games that I enjoyed watching from start to finish, and though I rooted for Japan against Belgium, that Roberto Martinez’s side came back and scored three to win showed character.

Japan put on a great show that night and throughout the tournament, and gave a good account of Asia on the world stage. They left us all with something to be proud of, and the fact that they were two goals to the good against one of the world’s strongest sides tells us that the future looks bright.

The comparisons may never end, but that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi left the World Cup on the same day seemed a little poetic. I do not know if we will see them again on the same stage, but what we can be sure of is that they gave us some of the standout moments at this edition of the World Cup; Ronaldo’s free kick against Spain, which was one of the best individual performances of the tournament, and Messi’s strike against Nigeria will live fresh in my memory for a long time. The curse of the defending champion continued as Germany was knocked out in the group stages and it took a lot of honesty for Manuel Neuer to come out and say that his team didn’t deserve to go through. We never saw the attacking football that had Joachim Loew’s men sit atop the world rankings for 11 months, and maybe a change of guard will do them some good.

France was a worthy winner in the end, but that a side like Croatia made it all the way to the final was a story for the ages and that’s what makes football so special. To see the reception that the team, along with countries like Belgium and Uruguay, received back home were brilliant to see and it speaks volumes.

A lot of players put in fine shifts for their sides in the tournament, and I’m sure that clubs across the world have kept an eye open. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the lesser-known names earn big-money moves before the transfer window closes, because there were some really good individual performances throughout the campaign.

It was a good month of football, and covering it from the studio in Mumbai was an experience I’ll never forget. Pre-season is underway for clubs across the world and the same goes for me at Bengaluru FC. The wait didn’t seem so bad with the World Cup on TV, and I’m looking forward getting back on the pitch now.

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