Russia 2018 was enjoyable for many different reasons. The entertainment level was as good as any World Cup in living memory; a few of the big guns fell and English football was born again thanks to Gareth Southgate.
But with France’s victory still fresh in the memory it is with a twinge of sadness that I will remember this tournament. For the one thing that truly stuck out is that there is no longer a culture clash in world football.
A whole generation of fans will never experience witnessing Benjamin Massing send Claudio Caniggia spiralling into orbit minus a Puma King, gasp in disbelief as Mwepu Ilunga raced out of his defensive wall to boot the ball into row Z before the referee had blown his whistle, or sat (as I did) wide-eyed as an unknown Brazilian full-back called Josimar sent a thunder-bas*ard past Pat Jennings sending John Motson into orgasmic rapture.
Such is the global coverage football now demands (thanks to the internet mainly) there are very few kids sat at home wondering just who plays for Japan or who that Mexican striker is who they’ve fallen deeply in love with and demand his replica shirt immediately (it was Hugo Sanchez by the way).
Computer games such as FIFA or Football Manager put such research at their fingertips. No longer is the Panini sticker album the font of all knowledge.
And such is that level of detail that the international teams themselves have benefitted. Gone is the naivety of a nation qualifying for the first time.
Coaching has become so universally practiced that we will no longer see a nation send a team to a World Cup full of domestic-based players, coached by one of their own, none of whom have ever kicked a ball on foreign soil (well perhaps only England).
Tactics and methods are now so widespread that what you see played out to great aplomb in Russia is being coached to all intents and purposes on the baron fields of third world villages. Of course it is not that simple, but, essentially the world is a smaller place than it was even two tournaments ago and as a result, the game has changed with it.
There are of course plenty of reasons to believe this is a good thing. As we have seen at Russia, all sides are now competent, fit players which meant that the levels of entertainment remain so high. Never again are we likely to see Hungary beat El Salvador 10-1 or Germany put eight past Saudi Arabia - well maybe not that last one – but you know what I’m getting at.
Those of a certain age will be the only ones to reminisce over the unexpected draw dropping moments of World Cup football that came in farce and sheer brilliance in equal measure. And for that I will always be eternally grateful.
It's incredible to think Kante was France's key player in the World Cup winning team while grieving
He never stops smiling, what a remarkable man! 🙌
(Orange Sport France)