Arguably, 2021 should count as one of the most memorable years in the history of international football.
And watching two fall-off-your-seat top-class continental championships one after the other was the perfect respite for football fans reeling from a pandemic that has overstayed its welcome.
I was rooting for both Argentina and Italy to win their respective finals matches, and what a joy it was to witness both teams emerge triumphant.
There were certain elements that made this year’s Copa America and European Championship truly memorable.
First, both host nations—Brazil and England—lost despite having the monumental advantage of enjoying the deafening support of the home crowd. Second, both underdogs—Argentina and Italy—went on to lift their respective championship trophies against the odds.
And finally, both winners were sentimental favorites especially among neutrals: Argentina for Messi to win his first major trophy ever, and for Italy to redeem themselves after failing to qualify in the previous World Cup for the first time in 63 years.
Also, the 1-0 win over Brazil gave Argentina its first Copa America title in 28 years, while the shootout victory over England won Italy its first Euro trophy in 53 years.
Us neutrals are just happy for all the Argentinian and Italian football fans as they deserve this beautiful moment for sticking it out with their team through thick and thin.
And yet both champion teams and their fans have less than two months to relish these much overdue triumphs as they turn their attention to the biggest prize in football: the 2022 World Cup.
As the World Cup qualifiers resume in September, Argentina and Italy will be both hard-pressed to sustain their momentum and advance to the big stage slated to kick off on Nov. 21, 2022 in Qatar.
Argentina is currently in second place just behind Brazil in the South American Football Confederation grouping, which has four slots for outright qualification to the 2022 World Cup.
Italy, meanwhile, leads Group G in Europe, which has 10 groups in all with the top two from each group advancing to the 2022 World Cup.
And while some of you now might be asking who would win the 2022 World Cup, a more interesting question would be this: What if it’s Argentina vs. Italy in a dream final between two continental champions?
That definitely would rank for consideration as the most epic final in World Cup history.