The boys have been separated from the men. That statement is not usually accurate. In the real sense of it, the process isn’t usually perfect.
Truth is, in football, especially at the FIFA World Cup, there are no boys and men. A team only chooses where to belong, regardless of how rude or surprising it might be.
As the 2018 FIFA World Cup is entering the business end, we take a look at other key contests to watch out for aside the battle of the remaining sixteen countries.
– The Golden Boot Race;
From Harry Kane to Luis Suarez, the regular and pre-tournament suspects are on the chart already. Unlike other individual prizes, the race to become the highest goalscorer isn’t really about how far a player’s country progresses, rather it’s about how swift, lucky and hungry a player is.
In rare cases, like in 2014, the winner James Rodriguez didn’t go beyond the quarterfinals with Colombia, but his six goals before the exit was unmatched by every other player in the chasing pack.
Ideally, the competition gets stiffer from the round of 16 and countries will have to rely on unlikely heroes to win matches.
That said, the likes of Harry Kane (5), Cristiano Ronaldo (4), Romelo Lukaku (4), Denis Cherychev (3) and Diego Costa (3) have done a bit of the job already. What temains to be seen is who will be lucky enough to come out on top.
It’s still disputable however, this time it’s looking more like it will go down to how far the countries go.
– Who will be crowned Player of the Tournament?
This isn’t usually by popular demand or opinion as seen in recent tournaments. Since 2002, the Golden Ball has looked more like a Consolation prize for a player who ends up with the runners up.
Will Russia 2018 be different? It’s hard to sa, but performances are telling. Even with sixteen teams remaining, stand out players also remain numerous.
Vividly, Argentina have looked unconvincing, but Messi has not been flat footed, Philippe Coutinho is the reason Brazil are in the round of 16, Diego Godin makes Uruguay unbreakable, Luka Modric and Christian Eriksen make Croatia tick and Denmark tick, Paul Pogba has been near perfect for France and Carlos Vela is the engine room of Mexico.
If the scenario in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 are anything to go by, the award might elude a more deserving player yet again.
– Golden Glove;
What makes the difference between goalkeepers are simple. The number of appearances, the number of saves and perhaps clean sheets and of course the goals conceded.
Except Muslera of Uruguay, virtually all progressing goalkeepers in Russia have conceded one or more goals. If you have conceded one, you’re safe and if you’ve conceded more, there’s one more thing involved; your number of saves must be sky high.
Surprisingly, the toasts of all; Manuel Neuer (Germany) and David DeGea (Spain) are found wanting, while Allison Becker (Brazil) and Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) are still enjoying a controversy free run.
Guillermo Ochoa of Mexico however leads the saves race with a total of seventeen so far.
– The Young Player of the Tournament;
Who else but Kylian Mbappe? There could be, because the PSG youngster hasn’t done much to outshine other players.
With enough games and impact, the suspect might win and the eventual winner might come out of the blues, just like Pogba did four years ago.
Aside the Golden Boot which is eventually undisputed, other categories will spark controversy. But all in all, it’s about how far and how well.