The 2018 World Cup: A reminder of how we find beauty in heartbreak

Luca Modric's look (left) said it all, just like Kylian Mbappe's (right) as to who won the final. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

As Kylian Mbappe scored the fourth goal of the game for France in the World Cup Final, it seemed like a done deal, France was going to win the 2018 World Cup. Croatia never stopped, and eventually got a second goal after a ridiculous mistake by Hugo Lloris. But it was not enough, Croatia would not be able to come back. As France lifted the trophy 31 other countries pursued, we were all reminded that this tournament is cruel, and it will break your heart at one point or another.

This is not to say France was not a worthy champion, they absolutely were. Their lethal counterattack proved to be fruitful throughout the course of the tournament. After everything Croatia had given us fans throughout the tournament, though, they were the darling. They were the underdog everyone loves to root for. They began the World Cup winning their group with three wins, nine points.

In the round of 16, they came back against Denmark, and won in penalties, 3-2. After 120 minutes in the Quarterfiinals, Croatia drew with the host nation, Russia, 2-2. Again, they started the game behind 1-0, and again an Ivan Rakitic penalty put them through to the next round. In the Semifinals against England, a Trippier Free Kick Goal saw them, once again, behind 1-0. This time, they did not need a penalty shoot out, as they would win in extra time. Croatia reached the final after having played extra time in literally every game of the knockout stage. They came into the game against France yesterday having played an extra game’s worth of minutes. That is why everyone was behind them, and that is why it hurt so much to see them lose.

In many cases, the 2018 World Cup told several heartbreaking stories. Watching Messi and Ronaldo fail to get out of the Round of 16 was gutting. Whether you spend your free time pointlessly debating who is the better player or not, it almost feels as if we were cheated out of seeing them achieve the greatest glory in the world of soccer. Come the 2022 World Cup, Ronaldo will be 37 and Messi will be 35. As they pass the prime years of their careers, not seeing them lift up a World Cup trophy was a hard pill to swallow. This, quite possibly, was their last chance to achieve that.

On a personal level, watching Mexico get bounced in the Round of 16, again, was brutal. They began the World Cup upsetting the reigning champions. They defeated South Korea, as Chicharito scored his 50th goal for Mexico. Then, they had an embarrassing performance against Sweden, and only qualified thanks to South Korea’s victory over Germany. A few days later, the dream died as they lost to Brazil, 2-0. Mexico only scored three goals all tournament, their worst performance since only scoring two in 1978. I will not remember this World Cup for that, though. I will remember the way Chucky Lozano cut inside and scored on Manuel Neuer.  I will remember how, even if it was only for a few days, I thought Mexico could really do something big in the World Cup.

Because of that, I am reminded of why we love this tournament so much. Why we invest so much money on jerseys, on trips to the local sports bar, or on the under in that one quarterfinal game you spent hours studying. At the end of the monthlong tournament, unless you’re lucky enough to see your country win, we all end up with the same broken heart. Hell, the odds are against us before the tournament even starts as only eight countries ever have won the World Cup. Despite that, for a month, you put aside your logic and think with your heart. Just like I believed Mexico was going to upset Brazil, then Belgium, to make the semifinals, I’m sure fans around the world were convinced their countries would do the same.

There is not much as devastating as seeing your country get eliminated, but until it actually happens, you are on top of the world. Your expectations are high. You find beauty and pride in the simplest of things your country does.

I had a conversation with one of my closest friends after his country, Colombia, was eliminated. Mexico had been eliminated the day before, so I still felt a similar pain to the one he was feeling. By the end of the conversation, we both talked about our expectations of our countries  in 2022. We already began mentally preparing ourselves for the pain that will come from that tournament before this one had even ended.

Luka Modric holding his Golden Ball trophy, the award given to the best player of the tournament, was the ultimate representation to how heartbreaking the World Cup can be. After getting bounced in the group stages of 2014, he led this Croatian team to a Final. The team gave it their all, but the golden generation of France ended the Cinderella story. Winning the Golden Ball is a great honor, but the melancholy look on Modric’s face said it all.

The World Cup is the most beautiful tournament in sports. You can say it is because you get to watch the best players in the world compete at their highest levels with their countries. You can say because countries embed their cultures into that of a host nation’s. I will say because it takes us to our highest emotional points before breaking our hearts.

They say you will always find beauty in heartbreak; if the World Cup is not the exact representation of that, then I do not know what is.


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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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