Keep your television remote controls on the safest of places. Whether you are at a marketplace, workplace or school, only one subject will, for the next 30 days, matter the most—football. The Fifa World Cup finals are here.
Malawians join the rest of the world in catching the irresistible football bug that is the World Cup finals, that get in motion today at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia.
Russia open the floor by hosting Saudi Arabia in a Group A clash at 4pm to set in motion the wheels of the biggest global sporting event that has attracted 32 teams drawn from all continents.
While Africa’s eyes will be on the continent’s representatives—Nigeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal and Morocco—attention should also spread to teams comprising superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Neymar Junior (Brazil) and Lionel Messi (Argentina), Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Andres Iniesta (Spain) and Eden Hazard (Belgium).
The continent’s representatives are, on paper, far from convincing and the dream for a first African team reaching the World Cup semi-finals seems remote.
Egypt and Senegal are heavily reliant on the exploits of Mohamed Salah, who is recovering from an injury, and Sadio Mane, respectively. Morocco and Nigeria, despite impressing in the qualifiers, lack enough depth and quality. This is also the case with Tunisia.
However, it is realistic expecting either Nigeria or Egypt to pull some surprise results and get past the first round. Even the quarter-finals.
The big question of who stands to win the ultimate gold should start on Germany who are the defending champions and of course, Brazil, the record five-time winners.
It is a must for Brazil—loaded with silky talents of Roberto Firmino, Phillipe Coutinho, Marcelo and Gabriel Jesus—to erase memories of their 7-1 demolition in the 2014 edition by the Germans.
However, if the efficient Germany, led by Joachim Low, want to defend this cup, few teams can stop them. Winning the Confederations Cup with a second-string side shows the sterner stuff that the Germans are made of.
Overall, you would expect Ronaldo and Messi to lead Portugal, the European champions, and Argentina, to glory but this is a team sport.
England, France and Spain are always pre-tournament favourites. Belgian have one of the best squads but it is all up to Roberto Martinez to create balance in the team.