World Sports: Top 5 Moments Of 2018
While you put on your dancing shoes for the final party of the year, it’s time to take stock of 2018 in terms of sport across the globe. By all accounts, it has been an eventful year – from the Commonwealth Games to the FIFA World Cup to the record-breaking F1 championship. Let’s take a look, then, at the five most remarkable sports moments of 2018:
SMALL COUNTRY, BIG DREAMS
Luka Modric’s resolute Croatian football team shocked the world by reaching the Final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Even though a superior and vastly talented France eventually won the title, it was Croatia, the ultimate underdog team, that became the story of the tournament. They defeated popular choice England in the semifinals despite being down in the game at one point, and worked very hard (they knocked out Denmark and hosts Russia on penalties) to reach the latter stages, not to mention a pounding of Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the group stages. The year ended, of course, with the pint-sized midfielder breaking the 10-year Messi-Ronaldo duopoly over the Ballon d’Or and taking the award – this, after inspiring Real Madrid to their third Champions League title in four years.
TIGER ON THE HUNT
A year ago, 14-time major winner Tiger Woods was again a golf has-been. The American hadn’t won a major in ten years, went through multiple back surgeries, altered his swing, wrecked his personal life, and has never been the same since 2008. But everyone was happy to see what transpired at the US PGA Championship in August. It was his highest tournament finish since the same result nine years ago. Brooks Koepka won the tournament, but it was an inspired Woods that grabbed the headlines. Years after he had dominated golf for a decade, he was back, as an underdog and ageing champion wearing a red shirt on a tournament Sunday.
A KIWI SURPRISE
The New Zealand Test team doesn’t play much cricket. But they shocked everyone and their aunties by defeating Pakistan in UAE over a 3-test series – a feat that not even South Africa, Australia or England have managed ever since Pakistan started playing in the Middle East. Kane Williamson led from the front, of course, and his team won the first Test by 4 runs (perhaps the best Test match of the year), before losing the second and triggering a Pakistani collapse in the third. 2-1 to the most underrated team of our times, in an era when winning away is as precious as a sane Donald Trump tweet.
THE PERFECT NUMBER
Novak Djokovic is back to number 1, back to his best, back to demolishing rivals Nadal and Federer. He won two Grand Slam titles – Wimbledon and the US Open – but it was another title he won that made for the most prestigious statistic in modern-day tennis. He became the first ever men’s tennis player to have won all the 9 ATP Masters events when he defeated Federer in the Cincinnati Final in August. Federer was a 6-time winner, and the man who kept Djokovic from the ‘Master sweep’. But Djokovic defeated the tired Swiss legend, and set the stage to launch into his inspiring run through the US Open draw.
FORMULA ONE, TWO, THREE
At the end of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the focus wasn’t on 5-time and newly crowned F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, but on a driver who didn’t finish in the top 5. It was 2-time champion Fernando Alonso’s final F1 race, and younger drivers Hamilton and Vettel did a couple of stylish farewell donuts with Alonso at the finish line, despite their tumultuous history. The Spaniard is a legitimate F1 legend, and came close to winning a third title at least twice in a Ferrari – incidentally the team whose dominance he ended by ending Michael Schumacher’s reign in 2005 and 2006. The Renault star ended his career in a McLaren, but isn’t done yet. He is gunning to be the second driver to win motor racing’s “triple crown” after Graham Hill – wins at Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 are already in the bag. All he needs is to win the world’s greatest sports-car race – the 2019 Le Mans. I’d bet my money on him.