The Qatar World Cup finally kicks off this weekend, though the build up to football’s greatest showpiece has been muted to say the least.
Perhaps once a ball has been kicked in earnest and all of the big boys finally get their tournaments underway, the carnival atmosphere normally associated with the competition will be prevalent around the globe.
Qatar have an awful lot riding on the competition given the worldwide audience, and will certainly want to show their best face to the rest of the world.
The timing isn’t ideal of course, coming as it does slap bang in the middle of a regular season. However, that could work to certain player’s advantage.
Take Barca’s Ansu Fati for example.
Since overcoming his long-term injury, he’s been on the periphery for Barca.
The natural instinct is still there, but it isn’t quite as polished as it was pre-injury. That said, he has been working hard for his club side without seeming to lose confidence given his lack of goals.
Having faith in his ability will stand him in good stead whilst he’s still waiting for the goals to start flowing again.
His performance in Spain’s World Cup warm-up game in midweek suggested a burden had been lifted, and his goal against Jordan after just 13 minutes will have done him the world of good.
He can be a real asset in Qatar for La Roja, and any associated boost in confidence will be a bonus for Barca.
For Ronald Araujo, this World Cup has come far too soon after his injury for him to have any meaningful impact, but that hasn’t stopped the centre-back from travelling with the Uruguay squad.
He has promised Barcelona staff that he won’t push himself too hard in Qatar, but the question as to whether he should be there at all is one worth asking.
The temptation to help his country will be overwhelming, particularly if they make it through to the knockout stages.
Given that he should still have at least another month of recuperation from his surgery before even attempting to kick a ball, the Uruguayan FA are certainly playing with fire.
Culers have seen first hand just how brittle the youngster actually is, and would surely be far happier knowing that he was spending the tournament at home with his feet up.
After all, there’s still half a season of Spanish top-flight football to get through, for which the club will need all hands on deck.