It’s over … now what?
Well we can replay all the games and have a World Cup marathon thanks to Optus sports and SBS who both give us that opportunity to re watch it all….OR…we can finally get the damn rest we need before one of us die from exhaustion. Sound good?
Good, because I’m going to bed. No one call me, no one inbox me, no one text me, NO ONE KNOCK ON MY FRONT DOOR, SO HELP ME GOD!
From the Croatian game against England, to last night against France, I think we were all convinced and knew that 95% of the population of the world (including life on Mars) was supporting Croatia. To see the balkan country be the first to reach a World Cup final since the fall of Yugoslavia, is history making and record breaking, something Croatia should be so proud about and should be partying for the next 3 weeks anyway because LOOK AT WHAT THEY HAVE ACCOMPLISHED, both as a nation and individually as players. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed watching a side play football like Croatia does, how they move the ball, the flow of the game they play, the touches and passes, the world class saved from their goalkeeper, is magical.
I will proudly admit, I was on the “It’s coming home” bandwagon and I will also proudly admit, I STILL AM!
I’m quite crushed that England didn’t make it like we hoped they would, a trophy that they deserved to win and bring home after all the hard work they had done (much like Croatia). I was half asleep in the first half but waking up at half time and seeing 1 – 0, I thought “Well, It’s coming home, I should go to bed” and I did…..only to wake up at 6am to my brother wearing his Harry Kane kit, standing in my doorway with a sad look on his face and hearing him say “…It’s not coming home”
My first reaction was “oh no…” followed by a look on my face like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. My second reaction, was the slow forming, smug grin and the whispering words of “Hrvatsssskkkkaaaaaa” and a tiny fist bump. What I didn’t know at the time is that it had all gone to extra time, so it was an INTENSE BLARDY GAME! Which makes it even more heartbreaking for England and sweeter for Croatia.
Following up to the Finals, we had out 3rd place match and England lost to Belgium 2 – 0, and from then on I just said to myself “Why do I continue to hurt myself watching this game” and said I refused to watch the finals because ‘I wAnTeD iT tO gO hOmE’ and that ‘ThIS iSn’T fAiR”. Suck it up Christina, Croatia are in the finals and YOU ARE GOING TO WATCH IT!
And, spoiler, I did.
Leading up to the match, we had our typical Twitter sarcasm, banter and the Croats across the street decorating the house with Red, White and Blue Christmas Lights. Many thought they were supporting France until the Croatian Flag was stamped to the garage and front door. We also had a weird thunderstorm the afternoon after Croatia had beaten England. By weird, I mean, the sky was red/orange and the air smelt of smoke, so I was convinced the flares from Croatia had reached the City of Sydney or Sydney United Sports Centre had cracked a few hundred to test them for Finals night. Either that, or Armageddon had come early because even God himself, wanted it to come home.
Moving forward to Finals night (Yes, ‘night’. In Australia we stay up during ungodly hours in the freezing mid July winter, to watch the beautiful game. This also includes EPL…and every other goddamn game on this earth. Shout out to a bloke on twitter called Coco from Scotland who we had a convo with about this subject. Good luck to Scotland for Qatar 2022, mate. Anyway, where was I? FINALS NIGHT! Yeah, I was severally sleep deprived, and it didn’t help when my cousins arrived and thought it would be a SWELL idea to replay the whole tournament via FIFA 18 until kick off, and adding their own commentary spin on it, LOUD ENOUGH FOR THE STREET TO HEAR!
This resulted in sending texts to my brother who was just in the room next door, telling them to kindly shut the hell up, because face it… it’s 2 degrees, I’m not getting up from my bed and 6 hot water bottled to tell them to keep it down, I’ll text them….and threaten them via that new Instagram Q&A thing.
Time rolled along, they didn’t quieten down, I was sat up in my room in the dark with one eye twitching like a maniac and then kick off finally happened. I open my laptop up and head straight the The World Game SBS site, which I had the honour of Co-designing earlier in the year with the amazing SBS graphic design team (another shout out I’m not getting paid for). Damn, we did a good job though. Perfect website set up.
Everything was fine and dandy, and the Griezmann tripped on air and got a free kick…The neighbours across the street turned quiet, followed by cursing in the native tongue after the goal. Give it a few minutes, because the volleyball like bobbling of the ball finally landed for Perisic and BANG! Into the back of the net for Croatia and we’re levelled again!
Bad luck returned for Croatia as the VAR, the stuff of nightmares, made a celebrity appearance once again, giving France a penalty for a handball in the box. (I honestly think that was not intentional enough to be given, sue me). France are up 2 – 1 and with another goal in the second half on the 59th minute, it’s starting to look gloomy for the Balkan side. We’ll take anything to get in front because 6 minutes later, young gun, Kylian Mbappe, the 19 year old Pocket Rocket, has scored in a World Cup final, giving France a 4 -1 lead! Blink and you’ll miss it, BLINK, I DARE YA!
This kid is gonna be the new crowned king of the throne that Ronaldo and Messi sit on, mark my words and mark them NOW! The future is bright for France and for Kylian.
Something does come on the 69th minute, a fumble from shot-stoppertstopper, Lloris and a goal to Mario Mandzukic who has pressured Hugo all the way into his own box, making him miss kick and causing it to rebound and into the path of a certain goal to Croatia. 4 -2, pick it up boy and start again! There is still hope.
On the edge, taking a few punches at my pillows and throwing blankets to the ground as Croatia miss a shot, miss a tackle, miss an opportunity. I’m beginning to realise that it just isn’t meant to be but it doesn’t stop me from continuing to watch this side in awe of how well they are still playing until the very end. If anything has caught my attention more, its Modric. Still springing around the field like he still has a blast of energy in him. A horse on steroids is the best way I can put it.
The final whistle blows, I’m disappointed, but not too disappointed. France have made it, winning the cup for a second time, exactly 20 years later. To see past French World Cup legends in the crowd watching the current generation of the French national team does bring bittersweet tears to my eyes. Because 20 years ago, the players on this field were lining up to get the autographs of the 1998 winners. Players Like Antoine Greizmann, still only a child, one day dreaming of winning that same trophy, and he did. Dreams to come true, ladies and gentlemen. We’re looking at it.
As for Croatia, a dream that just isn’t meant to be…YET.
A Balkan country that has seen and experienced much heartache over the last century, like many of the Balkan nations. War, poverty, natural disasters, loss of life and loss of hope are all old scars which have embedded themselves in the players of the Croatian national team and their people. They may not be visible on skin, but they are felt in their hearts. Football is many things, above it all, it is a sanctuary, a life line for those who have suffered. From a refugee in a war torn country, to the glimmering lights of the world stage, things can change, if you just believe. Believe that this game, is so much more than just a game. I am proud of Croatia, how they have made their OWN history since the split of Yugoslavia. The first of the Balkans to make history and break records, it is something they can return home to with a smile.
Ladies and Gentlemen, take a second to look back at where you started. Whether it were in a small village in Macedonia, playing on dirt and listening to Red Star Belgrade on one working radio in the whole village. Whether it was on in the middle of the Croatian War of Independence, clutching a football tight and dreaming that there is something better than this and one day you will find it. Whether it is playing in the back streets of Paris with a France 98 kit that is too big for you, but you’ll grow into it. What about in the Favelas of Brazil, hearing the echos of famous names like Ronaldo and Ronaldinho on live broadcasts, dreaming one they will shout your name like that too when you score for your country. Or in parks around England, after school where making your own goals with your schoolbags was the normal pass time and playing till the sun goes down. Maybe you’re in the Middle East, fighting to keep alive, fighting for freedom but in-between the bloodshed, there is time to kick a football, forget the pain and become whole again. Maybe you’re in Sydney, kicking dents into the fence where you and your brother had spray painted the outline of goalposts and hoping you don’t ruin dedo’s garden and his precious peppers by kicking the ball in the wrong direction.
Now come back to reality and take a look at where you stand now…How far has football brought you, how far have you come?
Wherever you are, football has made it’s mark on you. And I hope it is a good one. Until 2022, my friends, continue to play. Continue to share this game. Continue to fall in love with this game. And I will sign off the best way I know how, by quoting one of the greats;
“Football is about many things, but most of all, it is about JOY”
– László Ürge/Les James Murray