Old or­der changeth

No team is in­vin­ci­ble any­more. The 2018 FIFA World Cup has given hope to smaller teams that noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble.

FrontLine - - FIFA WORLD CUP - BY SUHRID SANKAR CHAT­TOPAD­HYAY

FOR so long they were con­sid­ered the sideshows to the main event. They would en­ter the stage, shine brightly for a brief while and then qui­etly fade away, their mo­ment drowned and lost for­ever in the mad roar of the sta­dium. They were like the nec­es­sary hur­dles placed along the glo­ri­ous paths of foot­ball’s elite, es­sen­tial for build­ing up the mo­men­tum of the tour­na­ment and push­ing it to its crescendo; and then they would make their exit, as though hav­ing com­pleted their pur­pose in the broad scheme of things, leav­ing the stage for the main play­ers. The world would ap­plaud their ef­forts and cheer­ily send them off be­fore quickly set­tling down for the “real show”, the clash of the ti­tans. For so long they were the un­der­dogs of the World Cup cham­pi­onships, who, for gen­er­a­tions, de­lighted the world by adding a splash of ex­tra colour and bring­ing a gritty edge to the games. But their days of liv­ing in the shad­ows of the giants are fi­nally over.

If there is one thing that the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Rus­sia has shown, it is that the old or­der in world foot­ball is mak­ing way for a new age of thrilling un­cer­tainty. The gap be­tween the game’s elite and un­der­dogs has re­duced to the point where the term un­der­dog it­self has

DAR­REN STA­PLES/REUTERS

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