Columnists, Sports

The Mezzala: The mighty have fallen, the World Cup gets worse

Down go the giants

Real Madrid was seemingly unbeatable at the beginning of the season. Their dominance was overwhelming, especially in La Liga, where they were unbeaten for 12 games. They easily defeated the top teams in Spain, beating Barcelona 3-1 at home and Atletico Madrid 2-1 on the road. But like everything, all good things must come to an end.

The loss to Leipzig in the Champions League the week prior foreshadowed the end of Real Madrid’s reign. The team was resting star center forward Karim Benzema, center midfielder Luka Modric and midfielder Federico Valverde since the team’s passage to the knockout stages was already confirmed. However, the team they sent out was still very strong, with stars like Vinícius Jr, but Real suffered their first loss of the season in a 3-2 decision.

Still, the results were not worrying considering Leipzig is a strong German side. I would say that Leipzig is the second-best team in Germany right now behind Bayern Munich.

Then came Monday. Real had a seemingly easy match against Rayo Vallecano, a middle-of-the-table team. It’s worth noting that La Liga, outside of Ligue 1 in France, is the most accurate representation of a “farmers league,” meaning there are a few top teams who slap around everyone else with little to no effort. Real is one of those top teams, but in a shocking upset, the now No. 2 ranked Real suffered just their second loss of the season and their first in La Liga with a 3-2 defeat to Rayo.

The typically offensively impressive Real Madrid, a team that has so much quality up front, just seemed a little lackluster. Similar to their game against Leipzig, there was always something that went wrong in the final moments of miraculous build-up plays throughout the game.

What is the common denominator in the two losses? Karim Benzema. The Ballon d’Or winner was absent for both games, and I have stressed how valuable he is as a number 9, facilitating play up front. His replacement for both matches was Rodrygo. As good of a player as Rodrygo is, he does not have the vision, intelligence or technique that Benzema possesses.

This goes to show how important a player like Benzema can be for a team. For different teams with different playstyles, there are always pieces of the puzzle that are more influential than the other. For Madrid, however, a team that thrives on attacking football, Benzema is such a perfect weapon that without him, Madrid falls flat.

Need more reasons to be disappointed about the FIFA World Cup?

Just a few days ago, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Qatar lashed out at people criticizing the World Cup, calling them out for “hypocrisy.” He went on to say that a majority of fans are eager for the tournament to begin, and that it was only a vocal minority of people upset about human rights abuses. The deputy prime minister also went on to define the so-called hypocrisy, stating that while people blame the government in Qatar for the issues, people in Europe blame the companies.

Qatar only strengthened its claims of being a wonderful host when Qatar FIFA World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman stated in an interview that homosexuality can be categorized as “damage in the mind.” He then went on to ensure the world of his great intentions by emphasizing the importance of their rules, as his concern was centered around his worry that the presence of the presence of LGBTQ+ individuals might teach children “something that is not good.”

All I can say is wow. This World Cup is a travesty.

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