The match that stops the world | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

The match that stops the world

France team members and Croatia team members
France team members and Croatia team members

All eyes will be on first time finalist at the FIFA World Cup Croatia when the decider of what is said to be the universe’s greatest sporting spectacle kicks off today in the Russian city of Moscow with France being the other protagonist.

What the world knows is how football is played and what needs to be done to win or lose a match and both France and Croatia entered the final by doing what the rest of the countries could not do or failed to do.

But how much do the world’s billions of football followers know about Croatia with some not knowing where to even locate it first time on the map?

Croatia originally was a province under the Roman Empire during biblical times and later captured by the Hungarians.

But the Croats were able to form an independent nation in 1918 after the end of the First World War and joined a Union of nations along with Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia subsequently forming what the world came to know well as Yugoslavia and eventually becoming an integral part of Communism.

The Croats nevertheless made a persistent cry for nationhood and in 1990 at an election defeated the Communists and declared Independence from Yugoslavia.

Croatia would be surprised to learn that its team is fast becoming famous in Sri Lanka and most football fans in the cricket-mad island are betting on a victory by the sport’s newest superstars.

“I would like to see Croatia win this World Cup. It will be good for football that we have a new champion”, said Rohana Peiris, an ardent football fan who claimed he never missed a World Cup match on television.

Most Sri Lankans are also surprised to learn that Croatia is smaller than their own country with a land area of 56,000 square kilometers compared to the island’s 65,000 square kilometers. Some are understandably curious to know how such a small nation with a population of 4.5 million, 85 per cent of whom are Roman Catholic by religion, have come to dominate world football in such a short span of time compared to the French whom the bookmakers consider as favourites to lift the Cup tonight.

“I am beginning to find out more about Croatia. They have given the world a lesson that size does not matter. The final is going to be like David and Goliath”, said another Sri Lankan fan Sandra de Silva.

But for Croatia their rise and entry into the final does not reflect any push-over team as football is passionately followed and played at domestic level and the country has a feeding process where the national team gets its bite from well-structured Under-17, 19 and 21 teams that have players from all over the country that borders the Adriatic sea in southern Europe.

Analysts are easily predicting that more Croatian players are destined to bag contracts in European leagues.

The French though are no strangers to a World Cup final having won the title in 1998 when they hosted it but they are also a team less popular in Sri Lanka than Brazil or Germany that the islanders love to adore.

But irrespective of who enters the finale, FIFA’s football decider has always been the match that could bring the universe to a standstill. It remains the World Cup that inspired all other Cups of the sporting world.