Dave Seddon's Soapbox: Thrilling group stages mean it's so far, so good at the World Cup
Dave Seddon reflects on what has happened in the group stages of the World Cup, with Russia 2018 the end of a chapter in the tournament's history as a winter competition in Qatar and then an expanded one in 2026 awaits
The best World Cup there has been?
I’ve seen such a comment many a time over the last few days and it has made for enthralling viewing in the last fortnight.
It is certainly the best group stage I can recall but let’s see how the tournament develops before we begin to attach such superlatives to it.
Some past World Cups have been slow burners, only taking hold in the knock-out stages.
So it has been refreshing to see plenty of excitement in the group games – with and without the VAR debate.
The fact that it took until the 13th day to see a 0-0 draw highlights that the shackles have been off.
Hopefully it continues at a similar pace and mindset all the way through.
Russia 2018 marks the end of a chapter in World Cup history in a couple of ways.
For starters, we will have to wait eight years until it is held in the summer again.
Forget throwing ale all over one another in the beer garden or fan zone when the World Cup rolls on to Qatar in 2022.
Teams will head there for a November 21 kick-off, with the final a week before Christmas.
Then in 2026, the World Cup becomes a bloated 48-team affair.
It is straining at the seams with 32 countries, a concept which was first introduced in 1998.
For me, 48 teams is going to bring down the level of quality.
So big will be 2026 that they are having to spread it over three host countries, with the USA, Mexico and Canada!
Seriously though, a World Cup with 48 teams is getting like a school sports day with room for everyone – throw in a mums and dads game for good measure perhaps?
Look how poor Panama were and think of teams a great deal worse.
It will come down to the same countries making it to the knock-out stages with too many just along for the ride and packing their bags at the end of the group games.
Brazil against the Faroe Islands in Kansas is 12 years down the line, for now let us enjoy the 2018 offering.
Prior to this World Cup there were stories doing the rounds – and in some cases for good reason – about the suitability of Russia to stage the competition.
Hats off to them, you can’t fault their organisation so far.
Bar the first couple of games, the stadiums have been full and we’ve not heard of too many problems behind the scenes.
The swarm of mosquitos filling the air in Volgograd when England opened up against Tunisia was the only grumble – even football can’t stand in the way of nature!
Finally, what do we all do on Friday when the World Cup has a rest day? Help!