Over the next month, I'll be covering the World Cup for Tribalfootball. And along the way, I'd like to share with you some of my experiences and keep you up to date with all the action.
Ain't nothing gonna break my stride
I'm still here! The last three and a half weeks were bound to catch up with me eventually, and yesterday was the day. And after a twelve hour night train, I've arrived in Saint Petersburg and I'm feeling good. The excitement and adrenaline for tonight's game has probably kicked in! Let's get into the game...
Roberto Martinez's decision to play Kevin De Bruyne in a false nine role against Brazil was brilliant. Belgium's two most powerful players, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, were then left free to roam on the wings. The move exploited Brazil's fullbacks, the weakest component of their team, and eventually saw Tite's heavily fancied Selecao knocked out of the tournament. The same won't happen tonight, but I still see Martinez playing De Bruyne further forward, possibly as a number ten in front of Fellaini and Witsel.
In the opposite dugout, it could be Didier Deschamps' decision not to change his tactics that could help France win. The inclusion of Olivier Giroud, who has yet to score in Russia, has been criticised in the French media. But his presence is vital to the efficiency of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. It allows them to attack from deeper positions and exploit the space behind defenders, like they did in devastating fashion against Argentina. If Deschamps instructs his players to sit deeper inside their own half and wait to counter-attack, France could run rampant over Belgium's ageing defence.
Where'd all the people go?
I met Cesar and Clara, two Colombian supporters, before Los Cafeteros' last-16 loss to England. They were willing to pay 200 euros for tickets, and added that they'd seen people buying them online for 600 euros each. I thought this might be a recurring theme throughout the final two weeks of the World Cup, and I had planned to conduct more interviews with people in a similar predicament to Cesar and Clara.
However, on the train to Saint Petersburg, I got chatting to Raul, a Mexico fan, who was going to watch the semi-final with tickets he bought online. Off Viagogo? Facebook? Friends? Nope. FIFA themselves. We looked and sure enough there were tickets still available, just hours before kickoff, for the cost price of $750USD. I'm not sure if I'll get the opportunity to meet any Cesar and Clara's today, but I'm certain there would be plenty if any of the South American nations were playing tonight.
Pure guesswork but based on walk around it seems likely there'll be more #BRA and #MEX fans than those from participating teams at tonight's semifinal pic.twitter.com/9KX8IfCbVq
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) July 10, 2018