What if: The crucial moments from the last 3 World Cup finals were a little different?
Russia 2018 has been an exciting tournament not only for the passionate and ardent football fans but also for those football spectators who watch the beautiful game occasionally.
The tournament has certainly provided its fair share of surprises with none of the game's most successful teams being part of the semi-final set up. France and England are the only teams to have won a World Cup before and that too only once.
Both Belgium and Croatia would love to bring home the biggest prize on the planet for the first time in their history. The tournament has now entered a point where every move of each player on the pitch would be monitored in detail.
Players are not robots and with the weight of their entire nation on their shoulders, there are times where even the best falter in such moments. There is no such stage bigger than the World Cup Final and in the past, it has been observed that the difference between success and heartbreaking failure can be an inch in a literal sense.
In this World Cup, let us take a look at one of those defining moments in arguably the biggest game of the quarterfinal round which was between the dark horses Belgium and the favourites Brazil.
It was the 8th minute of the match and Brazil had earned a corner. Neymar put in a great ball in the box which was met by Thiago Silva. However, the PSG defender failed to connect the ball well and it agonizingly hit the post allowing Courtois to gather it. It may have been the 7th minute and too early in the game to be able to make a difference.
But the reason that miss was crucial was that of the fact that Brazil had never been behind in a football game for 392 days. It is an incredible statistic and also proof of the fact that the Selecao know how to defend a lead when they get one. Had Brazil scored at that moment, it could have very much put the game in their favour and tested the resolve of a Belgium squad yet to make an impression on the world stage.
After the Fernandinho own goal in the 13th minute, the game was perfectly set up for Belgium who looked to counter-attack with the likes of Hazard, Lukaku and De Bruyne whenever Brazil lost the ball.
With the World Cup Final less than a week away, let us now look at 1 defining moment in each of the last 3 World Cup Finals that could have changed the course of the match and potentially the winner of the tournament.
Germany 2006: Zidane's Headbutt on Materazzi
Zidane was the man of the match in the 1998 World Cup Final in France helping the Les Blues to win their first ever World Cup. He was equally instrumental in helping France to reach the final of the 2006 World Cup in Germany which was his last tournament as a professional. There is a famous saying "Äll's Well That Ends Well". Perhaps, that saying would not do justice to the playing career of one of the world's best midfielders that is Zinedine Zidane.
It could have been the perfect ending for one of the World's most decorated players. In fact, it even started in a perfect fashion where Zidane gave an early lead to the French with a cool Panenka penalty.
The score, though, ended 1-1 in normal time with the game very much in the balance. However, It was in the 108th minute of extra time that all hell broke loose. In reaction to an unwanted verbal exchange with the Italian centre-back Materazzi, who apparently abused his sister, Zidane headbutted him and earned a red card for the same.
The French were stunned and most importantly, with penalties looming, they had lost their captain and their most reliable penalty taker. It was difficult to choose what was a better contribution by Materazzi in that final. Was it the goal he scored earlier in the game or the unethical conduct that he delineated with Zidane which probably derailed the French to an extent?
The game as expected went into penalties where France lost the game 5-3 and Zidane lost the perfect opportunity to end his career on an impressive high. However, had Zidane stayed on the pitch, would France have won their second World Cup? Who knows?