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Who will you support in the World Cup Final?

by Tunna on Jul 15, 2018

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France and Croatia will clash at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday night to decide the winner of the 2018 World Cup. It’s a match up that few would have predicted before the tournament started and one that fills the neutral supporter with intrigue.

France will start favourite and be expected to lift the trophy, but the Croatians shouldn’t be discounted as their tenacity and resolve has been quite evident already throughout this tournament.

The French fans will feel quite relaxed, having cruised through to the final with relative ease, their only real test coming in the semi against Belgium and even then they seemed in control for most of the match. The Croatians have had to do it tough, scraping past Denmark and Russia on penalties, and England in the Semi Final thanks to a strike by forward Mario Mandzukic in extra time.

‘Les Bleus’ vs ‘Vatreni’. Who will you be supporting?

If you’re of French or Croatian background then the answer to this question is a no brainer. If you’re married to either of these nationalities, have lived in either of these countries, or have a direct link of some sort then its also likely you won’t have to think twice.

However, if you have no affiliation to either of these nationalities then the answer can either be definitive or quite complex. You might even find you’re reasoning questioned. Confused? Let me explain.

It can be strange sometimes watching the World Cup once your team has exited the tournament. Italy didn’t qualify for Russia and the Socceroos as we know went out in the group stage. This then led me to Argentina, who I’ve always had a soft spot for since a young and impressionable 7 year old Tunna watched Diego Maradona lead his country to glory at Mexico 86. I don’t have to stand, or pace up and down when I watch Argentina, nor do I get heart palpitations like when I watch Australia, Italy, Roma or Melbourne Victory, but I do watch them with a ‘supporters’ lens.

So, when the Argies were bundled out by France relatively early on, I spent the back half of the tournament as a neutral supporter watching other countries play, barracking for nations I liked slightly better than their direct opponent. I didn’t imagine I’d be cheering on Russia against Spain, or Switzerland against Sweden, but I did and was frustrated for example when the Swiss pressed late in the second half and couldn’t quite find the equaliser.

We watch intently because first and foremost we’re lovers of the World Game, and as a neutral you want to experience the drama and excitement that the tournament brings. Personally though, I find it difficult watching without making a small emotional investment in hope for an eventual winner. If you can tell me that you’re able to sit there and watch as a complete neutral then I applaud you. I wish I could do that as it would save a lot of needless energy spent for a team I have no connection with.

There are varying reasons to this. The team I’m supporting on the day might contain a Roma player for instance, or a player I like, a coach I have respect for. I might just choose the underdog or less fancied team, or be a country I’ve visited and am fond of. If I’ve had a bad experience in a particular country, or my team has a rivalry with them, or I dislike the coach, or a player, then this will play a part in who I want to come out victorious.

Then there’s another factor which largely plays a part, and that’s ‘banter’. If you’re of Italian background (Remember, we didn’t qualify for the first time in 60 years!) then it’s likely you’ve had the absolutely micky taken out of you the last 8 months. It’s been torture to say the least. Much of the flack has come from mates of English background. You know what they say about Karma, right?

I cheered on all of England’s opponents in the knock out stages. Colombia in the Round of 16. Then, Sweden, and by the time the semi-final against Croatia arrived, I was leaving comments on Facebook like “Aijde Hrvatska” like I was I was a born in Zagreb.

The whole “It’s coming home” theme which sent a nation into hysteria filtered its way into our lives as well, thanks largely to social media. Most would have been amazed, and slightly confused to why the English celebrated long and hard at the Quarter Final stage as if they had already won the World Cup, but they did. AND IT DIDN’T STOP! The tune made famous when England hosted the European Championships in 1996 has become their unofficial anthem. I quite like the song, it’s catchy and perfect for its intended purpose, but to say it’s been absolutely flogged would be a kind assessment. I saw clips on Facebook of people marching to it, fans at pubs going absolutely spare, and even an ice cream truck driving through suburbia playing the tune on its daily route. In the days preceding the semi-final against Croatia, I exchanged a few messages with someone I know that lives in London and he was initially partial to the result, saying that if England won it would at least be nice to be there to see people go all out in celebration, the free beer that usually follows parties of this magnitude etc. By match day though, even he had enough. A few hours before kick-off I received the following: “So a bloke at the tube stop was playing ‘it’s coming home’ on a banjo. Ok, enough is enough. Come on Croatia!”

I imagine what it would have been like if England had of actually won the tournament, but I’m somewhat glad that it didn’t happen as it would have sent the rest of us bonkers. I did tell a few mates that I planned on deactivating Social Media for a while if they did get up.

In the end I calculated how many Croatian (and before that Colombian and Swedish) mates I’d have to listen brag, compared to English ones. I then did some further math whereby I was sure that 1 Englishmen would brag so much that it would be to the equivalent of 2 Croatians. So, in the end Croatia was a sure bet.

I’m sure that some, or even all of the above will resonate with most followers of the World Game. We are what we are in the end, and we’re slaves to our Sport. Bragging rights are always on offer. We’d just prefer that if its not us, then that it be left to some and definitely not others.

That being said, who will you be supporting in the 2018 World Cup Final?

My verdict: Croatia. The reasons being that I love how sport can help mend history. Croatia and its people have been through so much over time that if they won, it would be considered up there with the day they gained independence. From a Football perspective, it would be nice to see a country that’s never reached a final before, let alone lifted a major trophy hoist the World Cup aloft in Moscow.

Come on Croatia.... dođite na Hrvatsku