World Cup 2018 – ‘Best Ever’?

Summary by Richard Wanjohi and SK’s armchair analysts.

Oh how time flies when you’re having fun…that’s the feeling with the last game of the 2018 World Cup. Croatia coming undone by their own little errors and hasty referee decisions, Le Bleus finding glory after 20 years to get their second star on their jerseys and for both Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe to claim individual honours for sterling performances.

Kylian Mbappe - Image courtesy of Getty Images
Kylian Mbappe – Image courtesy of Getty Images

Pundits have claimed this to be the ‘best World Cup’ in recent history or was it?

 

 

First things first. It was a World Cup of a number of firsts including;

  1. Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR) – the second or third eye, depending on how you’d want to look at it, became a phenomenon for the first time on a global scale. With the teething problems expected, every player and manager started insisting on using this even when it did not warrant. What was interesting though is while there were a number of penalty-kicks given, the supposed culprits were mostly not punished or it went unnoticed. It is important to note the VAR was initiated to help make decisions on penalties, red cards or mistaken identity.

22 penalties were scored out of 29 awarded, the highest-ever scored in a World Cup. Did VAR affect this?

  1. 4th Substitute – this was the case for the games that spilled over to the extra-time period. This was brought about seeking to give teams the oomph and urge to win the game in extra time and where this did not happen, seek to replace one goalkeeper with a more experienced penalty-stopper.

Of 6 games that went into extra-time, only 1 was won within this period. The other 5 went into the dreaded penalty kicks. Maybe it’s time for a return to Golden Goal rule?

  1. First held in Eastern Europe (and 2 Continents) – thanks to the expansive land that is Russia. The tournament spread across the country that could easily call Europe and Asia its home. Does that qualify it as the first to be held on two different continents?
  2. Fair Play to decide qualification – for the uninitiated, FIFA introduced a Fair Play method which sees teams try not accumulate yellow and red cards which cost them in later stages. This was the case for Senegal which saw them miss qualification with Japan taking its place after they tied on points and goal difference.

Group Stages and Round of 16:

The tournament kicked off with the hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia as a team with a mission. Off the blocks with 5-0 win meant it would see a good number of goals. The hosts held good spirit to advance to the knock-out stages.

African teams would find it hard done not to have a qualifying team – albeit the Senegalese losing on a Fair Play technicality.  The favoured teams such as Nigeria and Egypt left it too late to make an impact in the tournament.

Asian teams also found the going tough with only Japan moving to the knock-out phases – and lose to semi-finalists and 3rd– placed Belgium.

Germany continued the ignominy of immediate previous winners being eliminated in the first round – following in the footsteps of France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014. Champions curse?

As it were Europe carried the day with 10/16 teams in the knock-out round of 16.  South America had 5 and Asia 1.

Then there were 8-4-2: Quarter-Finals, Semis and Finals

Europe once again carried the day with 6/8 team playing out in the quarter-finals. Some argued the weather being a factor, others blamed it on the exhausting European leagues. Whatever they chose, this was surely taking a Eurocentric twist.

Russia had continued with their fairy tale chase of honours which were halted by eventual finalists and 2nd –placed Croatia in a cracker of a match. Favoured teams in Brazil and Uruguay were hastily shown the door.

The semis looked in both games as final-before-finals as France battled fellow-French speaking Belgium and Croatia sought to ride the English 3-lions into the finals. Pundits and TV rights holders would have loved a French-English Final but the Croats had other ideas.

The Final was a first for Croatia while it was the third appearance for the French. The latter having won 1998 and lost in 2006 came with their tails wagging. Croatia on the other hand were novices in this space and it showed in conceding fouls which eventually cost them the game. Their comeback wings were clipped even before launching by FIFA Young Player of the Tournament – Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and an own goal by Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic who later scored Croatia’s second – earning the infamy of scoring on both ends of the goals in a Final.

Final Score: France 4 – Croatia 2.

France - World Cup 2018 Winners
France – World Cup 2018 Winners

Awards & Quick Numbers:

  • Luka Modric (Croatia) – Player of the Tournament (Golden Ball Award)
  • Kylian Mbappe (France) – Young Player of the Tournament
  • Harry Kane (England) – Highest Number of Goals Scored (Golden Boot) – 6 Goals
  • Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) – Most Saves 27 – Goalkeeper of the Tournament
  • Ivan Perisic (Croatia) – Most Distance Covered – 72 kms
  • Sergio Ramos (Spain) – Most Passes – 485
  • Neymar (Brazil) – Most Attempts – 27
  • 169:- Total number of Goals Scored; (including 12 own-goals the highest-ever);
  • 4:- Red Cards (one of the lowest in recent history)
  • $ 38 Million for the World Cup Winners – France; $ 28 Million for 2nd Place – Croatia and $24 mill for 3rd place
  • $791 Million – Total Prize Money paid out by FIFA in the 2018 World Cup

Our Top 5 Goals of the Tournament:

  1. Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal vs Iran)
  2. Denis Cheryshev ( Russia vs Croatia)
  3. Benjamin Pavard ( France vs Argentina)
  4. Philippe Coutinho ( Brazil vs Switzerland)
  5. Musa Idriss ( 1st goal – Nigeria vs Iceland)

Top 5 Brands:

FIFA - Brand Partners and Sponsors - Image courtesy of www.fifa.com
FIFA – Brand Partners and Sponsors – Image courtesy of www.fifa.com
  1. Nike – with at least 3 of the top 4 teams being in their stable, the biggest coup would appear to be Nigeria’s shirt design which sold out minutes after being officially released.
  2. Adidas – seems odd that the competing apparel brands should be in the top 5 but yes Adidas did have a few wins with the less sponsorship deals and Telcra ball design.
  3. Hisense – it may have come in for some poor showing in this part of the world, but it resonated well with its audiences on social media platforms and activations. Let’s see what numbers it makes in the next few years.
  4. Budweiser – being the only other drink sponsor of the World Cup, it had some work to do playing catch up with Coke. It did deliver some interesting campaigns and has been having positive conversations online.
  5. CocaCola – for a brand synonymous with the World Cup, they’ve not let their guard and slept on the job. They keep challenging other sponsoring brands on how best to leverage their sponsorship deals.

 

Notes:

Figures from www.fifa.com ; additional info from www.statistica.com and www.guardian.com and Twitter account @Sporf

World Cup 2018 – Ambush Marketing or Shrewd Placement?

The FIFA World Cup 2018 is coming to the tail end of this 4-year ritual. With the semis underway and the Final game coming on 15th July, this has been a World Cup of both pleasant and unpleasant surprises depending on which team or player you support. The same can be said of the marketing campaigns and brands associated with the prestigious event.

FIFA has an elaborate marketing division which over the years has sought to partner with major brands across the globe. This is to enable them reach the wider audiences as well as enrich existing ones. These partners also serve as sponsors of FIFA’s multiple events with the most prestigious being the World Cup. The multi-tier system has 3 layers – FIFA Partners, FIFA World Cup Sponsors and National Supporters. Among the Partners, the most recognisable is Coca-Cola who’ve managed to maintain a lead over all other partners with the Coca-Cola World Cup Trophy Tour. Adidas sportswear has also maintained a stronghold for on-the-pitch action being the Official Ball sponsors since 1970.

This year though some of the partners have had a mixed performance on their visibility and marketing communication. From our own analysis, the most visible to the least one comes as follows;

  1. Coca-Cola – with its various communications either targeting local/regional audiences and also for the global campaign. Having had a head start with the World Cup Trophy Tour, the brand has its strategy on-point and visible across all platforms – both online and offline. See it’s YouTube ad for Nigeria/West Africa here.
  2. adidas – being one of the other brand associated with the World Cup, the brand has both on-the-pitch advantage and off-the-pitch communication. Every tournament has a new ball designed for use for the tournament.
    adidas' Telstar 18 - Image courtesy of FIFA
    adidas’ Telstar 18 – Image courtesy of FIFA

    This year’s ball ‘Adidas Telstar 18‘ has a futuristic look and feel to enable viewers see the ball as they watched and also equipped with aerodynamics for playing pleasure. In some cases, it has a chip installed ‘to access content and information that is unique to that ball, personalized and localized, providing the consumer with interactivity‘. The digital campaign was equally impressive and incorporated not just footballing greats but other sporting heroes such as tennis champion Caroline Wozniacki; NBA star Damian Lillard; skateboarder Nora Vasconcellos as well as music producer extraordinaire Pharell Williams. Here’s a sneak peek.

  3.  Visa International – the brand had an interesting campaign for the pre-World Cup period where holders and users of Visa cards were eligible to win an all-expenses paid trip to Russia. However the marketing honchos went on a trajectory choosing Zlatan Ibrahimovich as the brand ambassador for this year’s campaign. While his country Sweden qualified for the event and even went as far as the quarters, it’s strange to choose a player who would not be present at the World Cup.  Others may point to the fact that bookings and payment at the event in Russia were made mainly using Visa, the campaigns gave a mixed bag of communication to its target audience. See the ad here – ‘Don’t Miss a Goal

In our local scene, Kenyan companies went creative with their campaigns most if not all looking to cash in on the World Cup communication. Here are some of the most interesting ones;

  1. Safaricom – with its mix of GIGA Football Pass and association with Kwese Sports and iflix, the telco got it spot-on with the campaign that almost makes it synonymous with the World Cup. This particular campaign has been consistent across all platforms – from online to offline, radio and TV ads. Good one!

    Kwese-iFlix streams - image courtesy of www.kwesesports.com
    Kwese-iFlix streams – image courtesy of www.kwesesports.com
  2. Uber – sprinkled around the city are strategically placed billboards prompting commuters the need to use the mobility app instead of driving their own vehicles. One interesting piece goes something like, ‘Make it Safely through the quarters, semis and final. Don’t drink and drive’. Simple, effective and concise.
  3. Sony – having been trumped by Chinese electronics maker Hisense for the 2018 World Cup, the Korean-based brand did its bit of seeking to attract consumers to purchase its brands. Armed with bold and elaborate images on their billboards as well as discounted offers, the brand still remains among top of mind TV brands for a big screen or any screen for that matter.

Critics may say that brands have taken advantage and ‘ambushed’ their target customers. Football brand critics may argue too that such major brands ought to pay up for the right to use some of the images or association with the World Cup – tough nut to crack. Whatever marketing communication and messaging that has been screened, broadcast or shared with audiences across the world, the World Cup has truly been memorable for us.

World Cup 2018 – 5 of the Best ! 5 African Teams

World Cup 2018 Review by Richard Wanjohi 
Just days to the World Cup, we at SportsKenya look at 5 of the best! The first of the posts starts with a look at 5 of Africa’s representatives at the 2018 edition. Enjoy!

FIFA World Cup 2018 Logo (courtesy of FIFA.com)
FIFA World Cup 2018 Logo (courtesy of FIFA.com)

5 African Country Teams

  1. Egypt
    (FIFA ranking 46th worldwide, 5th in Africa)
    The Pharaohs; first African country to play in the FIFA World Cup back in 1934 (coincidentally also it’s best-placed). Playing in its 3rd outing, it has one of the strongest African teams on paper. It has won most of the Africa Cup of Nations making it a formidable opponent. It carries one of Europe’s lethal strikers in the just-concluded season who broke both club and Premier League scoring records.

X-Factor: Mohammed Salah has been a fresh breath of air, helping his club team to the finals of the UEFA Champions League. Though recovering from a shoulder injury sustained a few days ago, any coach would be foolish not to include his in their roster.

Mohamed Salah - Image courtesy of arabnews.com
Mohamed Salah – Image courtesy of arabnews.com

The Egyptian’s other well-tested players include Arsenal’s Mohammed El Neny; Al Ahly’s Ahmed Fathy; West Bromwich Albion’s Ahmed Hegazi, Aston Villa’s Ahmed El Mohamady with goalkeeper Essam El Hadary expected to become the oldest player to play at the World Cup if he does get selected to start in June 2018.

Team Manager/Coach: In Hector Cuper, they have an unrelenting coach who’s been with the team since 2015 and saw them reach the Africa Cup of Nations Final in 2017 losing to Cameroon. Egypt’s main undoing will be a lack of international exposure for some of its players. The religious rites of the Ramadhan may also come into play.

Group A includes hosts Russia, Uruguay and fellow Arab state Saudi Arabia.

Our Prediction: Advance to 2nd Round and possibly the Quarter-Finals.
Kit: Red Shirts, White Shorts and Black Socks OR White/Grey Shirts and Black Shorts
Official Kit Sponsor: Adidas

2. Nigeria
(FIFA Ranking – 47th world; 6th in Africa)
Fondly known as Super Eagles – note the word Super, showing the cockiness of the West African brothers. This will be their 6th outing having represented Africa in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 and now in 2018. Physically they have one of the strongest teams given, but as we’d know, the World Cup is not about the strongest team on the day.
Only Cameroon has qualified for more World Cups from the continent.

It has been a formidable team in each of the World Cups with the 1994 and 1998 more memorable as in each of the two they qualified to the 2nd round.

The squad has a good mix of experienced players including captain John Obi Mikel who plies his trade in China’s Tianjin Teda, Victor Moses – Chelsea; Alex Iwobi – Arsenal; Kelechi Iheneacho – Leicester City and Elderson Echiejile – Cercle Brugge from Belgium.

X-Factor: John Obi Mikel – on a good day he can initiate attacks and play well with the frontline of Victor Moses, Iheneacho and Iwobi to finish off the game.

John Obi Mikel - Image courtesy of Jollof Sports
John Obi Mikel – Image courtesy of Jollof Sports

Their main challenge has been player disunity in previous tournaments, as well as delayed payments in allowances and bonuses. The team has also had the unlucky streak of losing in the group stages in the last 2 consecutive World Cups. If they can cross that bridge this time, who knows they might be Africa’s first nation in the semi-finals…or as Daniel Amokachi said purpose to win the World Cup?

Team Manager/Coach: After working with Nigerian managers, the Nigerian Football Federation settled on German’s Gernat Rohr – who’s previously managed Burkina Faso, Gabon and Togo national teams.

Group D pits them against Argentina, Croatia and Iceland – one of the toughest groups!

Our Prediction: Advance to 2nd Round and Quarter-Finals
Kit: Green Shirt with White & Black Sleeves and White Shorts OR All-Black with Green trimmings
Official Kit Sponsor: Nike

3. Morocco
(FIFA Ranking: 42nd world and 4th in Africa)
The Atlas Lions were the first African country to win a group match in 1986, going on to qualify for the 2nd round only to be eliminated by West Germany.

Morocco jersey and shorts - Image courtesy of adidas.com
Morocco jersey and shorts – Image courtesy of adidas.com

Their main undoing would be the lack of World Cup experience being only their third time and first in over 30 years. The team is also drawn against Spain and Portugal – who emerge as favorites to move to the 2nd round. The other team is Iran in Group B.

Group B consists of Spain, Portugal and Iran.

The team has a mix of players plying their trade in the European leagues as well as a sprinkling of Moroccan homegrown talent. Most of its players maybe unknown but such is the tag that makes them lethal as they were in 1986.

The team also qualified conceding only one goal, showing the defensive depth.

Team Manager/Coach: The current manager is Frenchman Herve Renard who has previously coached the Zambian and Ivory Coast national teams.

Our Prediction: Group stages (either finish tied 2nd, losing out on goal difference or 3rd in the group).
Kit: Red Pants, Black Shorts and Red Socks with White trimmings OR All-White with Red trimmings.
Official Kit Sponsor: Adidas

4. Tunisia
(FIFA Ranking – 14th world and 1st in Africa)
The Carthage Eagles – come into the 2018 WC in their fourth time of asking having been at the 1978, 1998, 2002 and 2006 edifices. The team has a heritage of upsetting the form book in its first outing beating Mexico 3-1 in Argentina in 1978 as well as drawing in the same tournament with West Germany.

Subsequent participation has not yielded much but this can be the source of strength to draw from. The under-dog tag works well for a well-gelled team which plays under the radar of its main opponents.

Tunisia National Team - image courtesy of fifa.com
Tunisia National Team – image courtesy of fifa.com

Group G’s made up of Belgium, England and Panama. The former two form the favorites to win the group. It will take more than a sterling performance to get through to the second and subsequent rounds.

Team Manager/Coach: Nabil Maaloul is entrusted with guiding the team to a favorable performance compared to the previous outings. He’s one of only two of African’s coaches from their home nation.

Our Prediction: Group Stages
Kit: White with Red trimmings OR Red with White trimmings
Official Kit Sponsor: Puma

5. Senegal
(FIFA Ranking: 28th worldwide and 2nd in Africa)
Famously known as The Lions of Teranga their proudest WC moment was shocking the defending champions France in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea & Japan, and will look for the same inspiration to get them through this time.
In 2002, thanks to their sterling performance and a second round knock-out ‘golden goal’ they managed to become the 2nd African country to sail to the quarter-finals only to be knocked out in the same fashion.
The team is made up of members plying their trade in top flight football in England and France including; Sadio Mane- Liverpool, Cheikhou Kouyate – West Ham United, Diafrra Sakho of Rennes, Moussa Konate – Amiens and Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli.

Group H  other members include: Colombia, Japan and Poland.

Sadio Mane celebrates goal with Senegalese teammates - Image courtesy of Getty Images
Sadio Mane celebrates goal with Senegalese teammates – Image courtesy of Getty Images

X-Factor: The foursome of Kalidou Koulibaly at the back; Cheikhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gana Gueye in the middle and Sadio Mane at the front form a formidable core of the team.

Team Manager/Coach: Aliou Cisse – who captained the team in 2002 comes back as team manager and hopes to inspire the team from the bench to better the performance.
Our Prediction: Advance to 2nd Round and depending on their opponents, could play in the Quarter-Finals for a 2nd time.
Kit: Green Shirts and Pants OR All-White
Official Kit Sponsor: Puma

Our Take-Out : 2010 World Cup in South Africa

(Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)
The party’s over, vuvuzelas quiet and for the next few days all else football (or soccer)’s relegated to the transfer market ( though the Kenyan Premier League has resumed…). There were highs and lows, in & outs and whys & wherefores relating to the tournament. Off from some naysayers ( including our own team here at SportsKenya) and critics we managed to scheme out some of the 8 major stand-outs;

1)Big v/s Small : (Image courtesy of afreeimages.com)
 seasoned versus freshmen, top seeds v/s lower ranked nations, whichever way you look at it, there was not much of that once the tournament started. For experienced sides such as France and former champs Italy to be bundled out in the first round and for Uruguay to finish fourth ahead of other countries such as England, Portugal, Brazil,Argentina and Africa’s own top seeds, this tournament proved too unpredictable for any bookmaker. But when push came to shove, the top two nations who had played some superior games Netherlands and Spain faced off in a not-so-entertaining Final.

2)FIFA’s ‘Profitability v/s Host Nation’s own investment: This is a question that hosting nations need to start asking themselves. Who makes the biggest catch in terms of profitability and invested properties, naming rights and other revenue streams? While FIFA’s reported to have made around US$ 3.2 billion in revenue, South Africa’s economy is expected to expand by only 0.5% in GDP terms – that’s counting all other factors constant. So there is something called legacy and the ensuing infrastructural costs? And someone has been asking if Zuma & Co would want to bid for Olympics? Well they just did!


(Image Courtesy of Abisa.co.za)

3)Vuvuzela & Jabulani or is it Jobulani?: The noise-maker and the runaway ball were the main talking points in the pitch and around the stadiums. What other heritage could we have given the World Cup after our own African teams disappointed us massively? The more they criticized the fan-horn, the more sales it reported. Here’s 10 of the best about it. As for the Adidas Jabulani ball, some of the very critics such as England’s Fabio Capello had been given the chance to play the ball earlier but thanks to the hype from the media about their abilities they didn’t give it a try.
Iker Casillas had started on it too but after keeping clean slates, I guess there were other excuses to give besides the ball to blame.

4)FIFA’s ‘Partners’ v/s Ambush Marketers:
FIFA has been trying to make major corporate firms to give long term commitments to the sport through the rather complicated (but often over-valued) sponsorship arrangement. This has seen some major companies avoid this arrangement and instead engage in developing ads which are drawn towards ‘sowing where FIFA says they have not reaped’. From the ‘Oranje beauties, to Nike’s Writing the Future and Pepsi-Cola’s African rendezvous, top companies which have previously been associated with the game have looked for cheaper ways to create their own buzz around FIFA’s tournaments. Back to the drawing boards Mr. Blatter?

5)’Real’Football versus Boring:
From a wide range of views, this was a rather technical game rather than attacking game. Given the statistics of having the 2nd lowest goal average since the World Cup begun at 2.3 goals per game, there is need for footballing nations to stop wasting our valuable viewership. For the Final, we had to wait for a miserable 116 minutes before spiking our rather low spirits, no wonder Americans rue this game for its lack of ‘exciting’ moments!

6)Social media: As we had noted earlier, social media was bound to play a huge part in this tournament and this shows the extent to which this will affect future sporting and landmark events. From Twitter, Facebook, Blogger (like yours truly who chose to watch this from the terrace), REAL TIME reportage and coverage just got better!

7) FIFA’s History books redrafted :
A few footnotes for FIFA on its history books; South Africa’s first round exit made it the first host nation to exit that early; new order in winning nations meant that Spain joins the rare privilege accorded to 9 other nations across the world. Europe pulled a fast one on South America making it 10 out of 19 (the rest obviously going to South American countries)

8) Africa’s Future:
While most critics maybe quick to dismiss the effect the tournament had on the continent, it is fair to say that Africa shall be proud of South Africa for putting together this event. Measured we shall be in our praise since very few countries had any economic or commercial impact from the tournament. What was even worse was the fact that the party came in late for African teams with only Ghana making an effort to the quarters but again showing the inexperience that cripples most of the continent’s teams. But learning, we sure did learn a thing or two from Africa’s ‘first-world’ state.

As Brazil start blazing the world as they look to host the first of its major tournaments in the next 4 years, let’s hope African countries soak in more lessons from this as they hope for the windfall sometime maybe from ….2030? We can ask Paul the Octopus, well over to you FIFA!

Africa Cup of Nations 2010 – Boys to Men

Starting on the wrong footing, Africa’s first major sporting milestone this year has seen some interest from football enthusiasts across the continent. Of course we can’t rule out the critics such as Hull City’s Phil Brown who even started criticizing the 2010 World Cup while he can’t place where some countries are at on the African map.
True the tournament’s seen its share of mis-steps again due to the fragile nature of Angola’s infrastructure and security arrangements. But as they say, this is Africa ! (my fairy tale one though!)
Getting into the games proper, we were treated to a goal fest in the opening match and though the underdogs seemed to have stepped up their game, the usual suspects are quickly getting back the order of things. Thursday’s games shall see the final 2 teams qualify for the quarter-finals.
The main concern though has been the poor show by the continent’s World Cup representatives with 1 nation on the verge of elimination – Cameroon unless they win against Tunisia today. Another concern, is there seems to be less talent coming from the other country’s – maybe they are getting warmed up for the quarters & semis but from what we’ve seen, we don’t have as much world-beaters as we portend.
Crowds watching the games- South Africa should be taking notes. During the Angola – Algeria game, there were parts of the upper stadium that were almost empty. Serious concerns if you are to make any revenues from the ticketing.
Ad campaigns and sponsorships – some of the major apparel companies seem to have shunned the continent leaving Puma to hold forte in almost all the top teams. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence in the teams’ abilities or Puma has offered lucrative deals. Only Nigeria’s wearing another company’s outfit. Still on this, the media campaigns have the usual African colourful works but don’t quite inspire (me) into thinking Pan-African.
All in all, the next one week will see out the finals of this tournament which FIFA & CAF ought to seriously think about. The 2-year cycle’s too monotonous and maybe that’s why it can’t attract major sponsors. It also destabilises clubs not just in the African leagues but also the European ones -where some of the managers have made quite a critique as well. It will also help host nation’s prepare and avoid fiascos of building fancy stadiums only for these to remain empty and decrepit on the tournaments’ ending.
Keep watching your favourite team though and may the best Kings of Africa win !
For your reading pleasure, check this too, soccer wars !