After what has simultaneously felt like 3 months but also 2 days of round-the-clock soccer, the 2018 World Cup group stage has concluded. We now have a tiny little bit of breathing room before we enter the round of 16, where fair play points can’t save you anymore. If you were rooting for a particular country, congratulations or condolences. If you weren’t, and you were Team Chaos like me, it’s been a mixed bag. The round of 16 contains a lot of the countries you would have predicted to be there.
So it’s been a fairly measured chaos, not out-and-out chaos. Except where there WAS out-and-out chaos. Here’s a roundup of how Team Chaos has done so far in the World Cup:
Come on! This game was only day 2 of the tournament and Diego Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo went all in on their duet of Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better. It didn’t quite set the tone - some of the games that followed were like if the DJ put on Knuck if You Buck and then hit the club with the best of Bon Iver/Belgium vs England, but not every single game in a tournament can be a banger. We’d die after a week if every game was this fraught and highkey. Anyway.
Iran nearly did it. First they scrapped it out to a close result with Spain, and then they were basically inches away from eliminating Portugal. Morocco actually looked like they might be able to pull one over on Spain too. But Group B played out the way it played out and Spain and Portugal advanced anyway, although the word “advanced” hardly encompasses the drama it took for them to get to R16. What we got here was more the promise of chaos than actual chaos, which is why they’ve been labeled “appetizers.” There was way more chaos yet to come.
VAR is ruining/saving lives
Some people complained VAR would end up sucking all the life out of soccer by removing subjectivity and human error, leading to a sterile, robotic experience, or that it would interrupt the flow of the game. But what we’ve seen in a lot of cases is exactly the same attitude as before: if VAR benefits your team, it is right and good. If it screws your team, it’s a useless time suck that should be thrown into one of those WALL-E trash heaps, and also the refs in the VAR room dressed in full ref uniform is dumb. And there’s also the fact that subjectivity still comes into play, even under the “clear and obvious error” standard for review. Once again, consider Group B, where VAR gave with one hand and took with the other without regard for your feelings.
This was peak chaos, with a little sprinkling of VAR flavor on the first Korean goal.
Really, what else is there to say? The reigning champs getting knocked out in group, Manuel Neuer looking on helplessly as Son Heung-Min underlined the win in stoppage, Mexican fans finding the closest Korean and parading them through the streets. A Team Chaos buffet.
Fair play points seem kind of unfair
Japan, pls. You had one of the most watchable, enjoyable games of all of group against Senegal, and then wallowed in the gutters with stultifying rinky-dink timewasting against Poland. True, petty drama is a subset of chaos, but it did not feel good watching Japan basically try to avoid coming within ten feet of any Poland player lest they risk...well, anything happening. Sometimes chaos is delicious, and sometimes it just makes you feel bad. That’s the risk of being Team Chaos. Asking the soccer gods to start drawing scenarios out of a rolling bingo cage means accepting that sometimes you’re going to get the crap end of the stick. Then again, maybe you were cackling over advancing in the World Cup coming down to yellow card accumulation, because sometimes soccer is ridiculous.
What were your favorite Team Chaos moments? Are you rooting for more chaos in knockout? Let us know in the comments.