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With the curfew considerably relaxed in the city and no instances of violence taking place, it appears normalcy is finally returning to Shillong. However, if one were to take a casual stroll around the city, away from the market and along the alleys surrounding the residential areas, after sundown, one might have to certainly question the authenticity of the above statement. The streets still wear a deserted look, the shutters of many shops might be pulled down to a close, one might see a few office workers with abstracted countenance rushing home after work and one might also occasionally hear indistinct cries and yelling emanating from various directions that would have one pause in fear and scrutinize his surroundings for a possible mob. Fortunately though, this curfew-like scene in the city is caused by a more cheerful reason than one would think- the FIFA World Cup 2018.

After a long wait of four years, the people of Shillong, along with the rest of the world, are prepared once again to finish work early, postpone chores, sit along with friends and families and shout at their TV screens. Passionate football lovers as well as soccer neophytes are following the tournament with utmost zest. Although there is no patriotic pressure to watch the matches, with India being disqualified again, the crowd in the city still religiously follow the event perhaps simply for the love of the sport. The celebratory mood in Shillong due to the World Cup has certainly offered a much needed respite from the chaos that had plagued the city recently.

The World Cup, which is undoubtedly the biggest sporting event in the world, began on the 14th of June in Moscow, Russia. Already through the group stages, the tournament this year saw 32 countries fighting for the opportunity to the lift the iconic golden trophy. This is the first time Russia is hosting the tournament. The various matches will be taking place in a total of 12 stadiums, spread across 11 cities. This year the 32 competing teams were divided into eight groups of four. With the group stage matches being played, two from each group have advanced onto the knockout phase which will begin on 30 June. The World Cup Final will be held in Moscow on the 15th of July.

Uruguay: Uruguay is one of the few teams that have won all three of their group stage match however their win against Russia was the most impressive one. Suarez seems to be in fabulous form while Uruguay fans are still waiting for Edinson Cavani to showcase his best.

Portugal: The one name that the entire Portugal team seems to be dependent on is Christiano Ronaldo. Portugal has not exactly shown their best in the group stages. They were only able to defeat Morocco. Portugal fans have huge expectations from their hero Christiano Ronaldo despite his penalty faux pas against Iran. Portugal will face Uruguay in their knockout match

Argentina: Argentina nearly missed their chance of making it the top 16 finishing just one point above Nigeria and five points behind Croatia. Argentina will face France in their knockout match. Lionel Messi will have to be in his best form in order to pull a shock victory against France. Argentina has won both their previous world cup matches against France, in 1930 and 1978.

France: France entered the top 16 finishing on top group C with seven points from their three matches. However, Didier Deschamps’ side was not very impressive in their final match against Denmark which ended in a 0-0 draw. France and Argentina have faced each together twelve times in the past with the French side winning just two times.

Rajiv Laloo


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