Time for the talking to stop
After years of talking the World Cup in Russia is almost here.
It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years since the Russians were awarded the right to host FIFA’s flagship event and the bidding process still wrankles with many.
But the time for talking is about to stop (thankfully) and the action on the pitch is about to begin.
The hosts kick things off against Saudi Arabia tomorrow (Thursday) and I can’t wait.
Make no mistake: this is the most open World Cup for years.
As many as eight teams are in with a chance of lifting the trophy in Moscow on July 15.
Defending champions Germany are always strong and Brazil, France and Spain will all fancy their chances.
There will also be stiff opposition from Belgium, Uruguay and (whisper it) England if the Three Lions can win their group, which includes Roberto Martinez’s Belgians.
With Scotland being stuck at home for a fifth successive time, my hope is that, like in 2014, the world’s best players take their chance to shine.
Despite the bucketloads of Champions League cash being hoovered up by Europe’s top clubs, the World Cup remains the biggest stage any player can make their mark on.
No other tournament draws the casual fan in and players go down in folklore if they can guide their side to the ultimate glory. Older footy fans will remember where they were as Pele shone for the great Brazil side of 1970 or when Diego Maradona dragged his Argentina team to glory in Mexico 86.
As a thirtysomething my memories include Zinedine Zidane announcing himself as one of the all-time greats at France 98 and Ronaldo’s redemption in Japan and Korea in 2002 when Brazil lifted the trophy for a fifth time.
For that reason I would love to see the little magician Lionel Messi get his hands on the golden trophy at the Luzniki Stadium.
To do that he will have to have a World Cup similar to the other great Argentine number 10.
Despite being fifth favourites, Messi’s Argentina can draw parallels with Maradona’s mid-80s side.
They are a poor team with a defence that is,
This is the most open World Cup in years