Lionel Messi was never a little-known quantity. When he scored nearly 500 goals for Newell’s Old Boys as a young boy, people took notice. That’s why Barcelona made the highly unusual decision to sign a 13-year-old foreign player. That’s why, aged 17 years, three months and 22 days, he became Barcelona’s youngest-ever representative in an official competition. It’s why he represented La Albiceleste, the two-time world champions, at 18.
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived at Inter Milan from Juventus for nearly $30 million in August 2006, the 24-year-old Swede was thrilled over the possibility of forming a devastating and prolonged partnership with 24-year-old Brazilian striker Adriano. The two had dominated Italian football since 2004, and the Nerazzurri looked set to rule the competition for years to come with two of the world’s most feared young forwards.
Mexico did not receive the easiest group in Friday’s World Cup draw and some would argue (perhaps unsuccessfully) that El Tri’s Group F is the Group of Death. But one thing Mexico fans can be happy about: Their team won’t be playing in the World Cup opener.
The 2018 World Cup opening match will pit Russia vs. Saudi Arabia on June 14 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. It’s a matchup of the two worst teams (by FIFA ranking) in the entire tournament. The World Cup opening match in 2018 is going to unequivocally be the worst ever. But it’s not the end of the world.
The World Cup opening match has only been a big deal for the past 13 World Cups (out of 20), with a mixture of previous champions and hosts taking part in the first kickoff. Five of the first seven World Cups began with simultaneous matches.