THIS is the World Cup they said could never work — but one which has run like clockwork.
I was one of those who had doubts about a winter tournament, about playing it halfway through the season and about it being in Qatar.
But it’s been a success you couldn’t have imagined.
And despite all the scare stories beforehand, it has been a real enjoyment every way you look at it.
Conditions have been fantastic for the players, it’s not been roasting hot and we’re not having stoppages every game to throw bottles of water over them.
The football’s been great, we’ve had plenty of shocks — and as long as it doesn’t include England, we always love that — but most of all it has been fun.
One of the huge things that sticks out for me is how everyone — and I mean EVERYONE — is saying how safe it’s been.
Look, we all know the issues about having it in Qatar, and I’m not going to sit here and start saying everything there is rosy.
But, in terms of this tournament, I think back to how everyone was kicking off at the thought of not being able to have a drink at the games, and it’s laughable.
Yes, there’s a different culture towards drinking over there.
But it’s their culture, their country and you can’t say it hasn’t been a better World Cup all round because of it.
Has everyone forgotten those scenes at Wembley for the Euro final?
What about all the fighting in France in 2016?
How many times have the headlines been about fighting and aggro?
And it’s always when people have been on the drink.
We could take a big leaf out of their book in terms of the approach to it, although I’m not daft enough to think we will change our mentality over it.
But this will go down as the World Cup when we all felt so safe, where the fans were behaving and we weren’t rattling up the number of arrests.
Supporters are still lighting up the stadiums, singing and dancing on the Metro and in the streets, where women, kids, and families are having the time of their lives.
In fact it’s been such a success that I’d have no problem with the Middle East staging the World Cup again — or with it being in the middle of our season either.
And on the pitch there have been some huge shocks. Who thought Morocco would win their group and Belgium go out? Or Japan would beat Spain AND Germany.
There was one of the biggest upsets ever when Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia and Cameroon became the first African nation ever to beat Brazil.
Of course, the big names have stood out like we always hoped and thought they would.
Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo… they’ve all been headline news at one stage or another.
But the one player to leave a huge impression on me is Harry Souttar, the centre-half born in Scotland who plays for Stoke and was sensational for Australia.
If I was still a Premier League manager, he’d be the one I’d be trying to sign.
I saw him three years ago on loan at Fleetwood and thought he had a real chance then and have kept an eye on him ever since.
He got a real bad injury a year ago and only came back just before the World Cup.
Harry’s 6ft 6in, quick, strong, he can pass a ball and knows the English game – he’d be a great buy for someone.
He reminds me of Dan Burn, who went round the houses on loan, went to Brighton and then ended up at Newcastle and everyone’s raving about him.
But, all in all, it will go down as a fantastic World Cup — and the great thing is we’ve still got another week to go!
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