Random Thoughts, July 20, 2018

Welcome to my new daily column for my blog, called Random Thoughts. It will focus on daily musings and rumblings of everything and anything.

Random Thoughts July 20, 2018 photo

Photo by Adam Johnston

Now that the 2018 FIFA World Cup is now over, its time to do a brief reflection of the tournament. Regarding overall quality, and excitement, this ranks within the top three of all of the World Cups since I have been following soccer since 1998 (Tied with the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil for the top spot and  2002 in Korea/Japan, for third). This tournament had everything, from last-second winners, powerhouses sent packing (Germany), the emergence of old powers (Belgium, England), feisty workhorse teams (Croatia, new stars emerging (Mbappe).

The only problems I had were the Video Assisted Referee (VAR) and all my teams being knocked out. Nonetheless, it was worth all the time spent watching on my smartphone at work and hours of PVR recording. As for VAR, I think the bugs will be kicked out, and we should get used to those 9 minutes of stoppage time going forward.

Once again Europe dominated the tournament, with all four semi-finalists coming from the continent (France, Belgium, Croatia, England). The last time a Latin American team won the World Cup was in 2002 with Brazil. My sense on what I see from the skill set of countries who showed up to play like Belgium, and France, it may well be a very, long, long time before Latin America gets a hold of the World Cup Trophy, again. Going out on a limb and saying its going to be 2026 before we see a Latin American team in the final and outright win the World Cup.

Regarding the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup, the tournament is scheduled for November 21- December 18, 2018. A friend and I at work had this debate if the next World Cup will be the lowest rated in North America’s televised history, given that its right in the middle of NHL, NBA, NFL season, and near the tail end of the CFL with Grey Cup being played at this time. I could understand why the move was made to avoid the hot Qatari summer, and avoid conflict with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. However, It will be interesting to see how it plays out, especially for Fox, who has the US broadcast rights with NFL games possibly conflicting with World Cup games. Could make for some tricky broadcast scheduling.

Next year, we begin the cycle of regional tournaments. Next year includes the 2019 Asian Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup, Copa America, and the African Cup of Nations. These tournaments could give some possible insight on who has the inside track moving towards the next round of World Cup qualifying, which will start as early as next year for some confederations (CONMEBOL).  Concerning South America, I am going out on a limb and saying Brazil honestly is the best South American team and should be the clear favorite, along with Uruguay in next years Copa America.

As for Euro 2020, France should be clear favorites. However, don’t be surprised if some of the major countries who were not in Russia this year (Netherlands, Italy) or those who were gone early (Germany) reach the semi finals. Just look back at Euro 2004 Netherlands reaching the semi-finals.

With the World Cup over, despite the hot weather, I could feel fall slowly creeping in. Soon enough Winnipeggers will turn their thoughts to fall and the new 2018-19 NHL Winnipeg Jets season. Will they replicate their long run from last year or take a few steps back? Tough to say. Will say, this though, fans should expect nothing less over the next few years of at least making the playoffs every year. Not making at least the first round of the playoffs over the next three to five years should be considered a massive disappointment for Jets fans.

On another local sports note, having Valour FC apart of the Winnipeg pro sports family will add more spice to our city. Consider this, its entirely possible three to four pro sports teams will be playing all at once in their respective leagues in either spring or the fall. If that does not get you excited about having White out parties downtown or marches to the stadium for Valour FC’s games in 2019, who knows?

I have always appreciated the beauty of Assiniboine Park. Very scenic. A beautiful place to get away from the madness of this world. Should take a day away before winter comes.

On a final note, debating about using my vacation time to hop on a Greyhound bus in early fall to see some MLS out east while viewing the fantastic sites of the Great Lakes. It’s a shame that Greyhound will drop service in Western Canada. Although at times uncomfortable, and dealing with annoying cranky tots are a pain, taking trips on the Greyhound bus, have been some of the best times of my life. It allowed me to get away from things while finding that peace that you can’t get in the hustle and bustle of modern life.  Those long naps were priceless. The Greyhound bus represented much simpler times of the past.