Insight article

Five defining moments of the World Cup so far

If journalism is the practice of picking up on the threads of existing stories, exploring how events of today impact those narratives, and exploring where the future could take us, then this year’s World Cup has already been a journalist’s dream.

So far the tournament has been full of twists, turns, and ‘defining moments’ – what we at The Storytellers call the meaningful and memorable moments in a long-term narrative, and that point to big change.

At The Storytellers, we know that ‘defining moments’ are essential towards how companies and organisations shift culture and mindsets – and at the World Cup, we have seen five ‘defining moments’ that have shifted five very different narratives:

Russia: in terms of hosting the World Cup, it is widely acknowledged that Russia has delivered above and beyond what was expected. Prior to the tournament, fears over the country’s problem with hooliganism and clashes with rival fans loomed large – and of course, the West’s frosty relationship with Putin soured the prospect of the tournament for many. What has happened thus far has actually been a carefully staged and violence-free carnival of football. As an event, Russia has gone a long way towards challenging the existing narrative about what kind of a country they are – this really could be a defining moment in the country’s history.

Germany: it’s pretty clear what poor Germany’s defining moment has been: this is the first time that Die Mannschaft have exited the tournament at the group stage, ever. As a team, the next four years will undoubtedly be a process of resetting the journey that they are on. In storytelling terms, they are certainly ready for the ‘Next Episode’ of how they achieve success on the global stage – and most likely, a new leader to give new meaning to those old objectives that once seemed so straightforward.

England: the fascinating thing about England’s campaign so far is the quietly shifting nature of how the public interact with the national team. There is the palpable sense of a nation finally reaching the final stages of grief after years of agonising losses and crushed optimism. Of course, as you read this, England may have already exited the tournament – but there is a sense of belief that under Gareth Southgate’s leadership, English football has quietly begun a new kind of journey towards success.

Messi and Ronaldo: after years of two players dominating the world of football, we have most likely seen the last of the mercurial Ronaldo and magical Messi at a World Cup. Tantalisingly, we might have seen a very different kind of defining moment, as the match between Portugal and Argentina – and a chance for one final showdown – was narrowly missed. So instead the story is that of a glorious era coming to an end – and just as they shared their years of success, how fitting that they both bowed out of the tournament on the same day. Truly a defining moment for these two giants of football.

VAR: after mixed successes at the domestic level, one gets the sense that this is a defining moment for how football uses technology to enhance the actual game itself. After years of controversial refereeing decisions, VAR (Video Assistant Referee) has put the thousands of different camera angles at the disposal of the referee and their team, to more accurately judge what has happened. The human touch remains of course – and while this is certainly a defining moment in that VAR is probably here to stay, the wider narrative of how humans interact and make best use of technology continues.


Daniel Castro

Daniel Castro