The French Have A Word For It

Yeh, I know, I vowed I wouldn’t write any more about World Cup 2022.  After what happened to Grant Wahl earlier this week, and the initial belief from his distraught gay brother that foul play may have been involved, coupled with the other improprieties that Qatari officials have inflicted on migrant workers and their citizens, it was, at least for me, the last straw.

But with no less than the New York Times reporting otherwise, with his wife and brother, in agreement with the following report from Approva Mandavilli and Andrew Das, I have to conclude that perhaps my moritoriun may have been a bit premature:

Grant Wahl, the celebrated soccer journalist who died suddenly last week at the World Cup in Qatar, had a rupture in a blood vessel leading from the heart, his family announced on Wednesday.

His death resulted from a weakness in an artery wall called an aneurysm, which may balloon outward and then tear open. An autopsy conducted in New York revealed that Mr. Wahl, 49, experienced a catastrophic rupture in the ascending aorta, which carries oxygenated blood from the heart.

The autopsy puts an end to rampant speculation that followed Mr. Wahl’s death. Posts on social media hinted at links to Covid vaccines or retaliation by the Qatari government for an article Mr. Wahl had written about immigrant deaths.

So if they’re good, I’m good.  And that’s good.

Because , despite the fact that the host country doesn’t deserve either the credit or the revenue, this has been an incredibly exciting fortnight and change in the UAE, and Sunday’s final bodes to be one for the ages.

Argentina has indeed survived their incredulous opening match loss to Saudi Arabia and reeled off five consecutive wins to reach their sixth World Cup final match in its history and giving its likely retiring face Lionel Messi a chance at not only his first-ever Cup, but a chance to do so with the Golden Boot, the sport’s equivalent of the Finals MVP award. which he currently holds a narrow tiebreaker lead over his regular season teammate with Paris-St. Germain, Kylian Mbappe.

And Mbappe is not only the face of his native France, which is looking to repeat as a World Cup champion for only the second time in the event’s 92-year history (only Brazil, the all-time World Cup leader in the clubhouse with 5, has repeated, and not for 60 years at that), but Mbappe, at 23, is the heir apparent to the 35-year old Messi as the global face of the sport.  His performance, along with that of his teammate Oliver Giroux, has earned unprecedented acclaim and France is transfixed in looking to jump Argentina (as well as Germany) as the second-most winning team of all time, having won the Cup on their own turf nearly a quarter-century ago.

And these two teams indeed have a history.  Four years ago, they played a thrilling 4-3 match in the quarterfinals that was decided by a pair of second half goals by a teenaged Mbappe, the latter holding off a stoppage time header by Kun Aguero that at least gave the Argentines a shot.   Instead, it was the fourth consecutive time the French were able to best Argentina.

That said, before 2018 their previous World Cup clash saw Argentina beat them 2-1 forty years prior, producing their first-ever World Cup.

This will be a cherry on top of a sundae that has seen four shootouts, a rousing unlikely ascent to the semifinals for an African team (Morocco) for the first time, which has thrilled the legitimate home continent fans in attendance, the aforementioned Saudi Arabian upset and an encouraging rebound by the United States, in the event for the first time in eight years. And, especially in Europe, audiences not seen on linear TV in years.

This final has the potential to be the most-watched sports event in history.  The 2018 final, per Statista, reached more than 1.1 billion people, and an average of 517 million per minute.  And that was limited to two European teams (France and Croatia), and took place in mid-July, with fewer devices available for the event to be seen remotely and less sophisticated measurement capabilities for communal viewing.   I’ll go out on a limb and say this one will likely beat that figure handily.

And it will deserve it.  In the U.S., it will likely rival the NFL’s early window audience at 1 ET.  I mean–would you rather watch Zach Wilson’s return as Jets quarterback?!

Yes, the French have a word for this potentially epic Finale de Coupe de Monde.

Ce mot est classique



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