Even before the final ball is kicked in glory or anger in the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup today, the 21st edition of the biggest football tournament is already being hailed among the best of the lot.
France or Croatia will be crowned champions -- against all odds -- after booking their place in the final at the iconic Luzhniki Stadium, the sporting citadel of Russia where it all started on June 14 when the hosts thumped Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match.
Since then, the tournament that was initially viewed sceptically has been a gift that has continued giving, serving up rich drama at almost every turn, with scant respect to the so-called football giants who fell like a house of cards.
Here are some of the astonishing statistics that the spectacle that will be remembered for ages served up in the run-up to today’s final.
When the group stages ended on June 29, Russia 2018 had served some of the biggest shocks in football history, with the exit of titleholders Germany the biggest upset of all.
The thrills and spills of the preliminary stages set socialmedia alight as users posted millions of comments, especially on popular platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Mexico, who caused a sensation when they beat Germany 1-0 in their opening match, surprisingly had the highest mentions on social media after the group stages at 631 million, 7.6 million interactions and 48,677 results.
England, they of the ‘football is coming home’ refrain that enthralled and annoyed in equal measure, were next with 224 million mentions, 4.8 million interactions and 35,859 results.
The struggles of Argentina and star man Lionel Messi before they managed to crawl out to the knockout stages from a group of Croatia, Poland and Nigeria, also sparked intense debate, with the Albiceleste gaining 168 million mentions, 1.8 million interactions and 28,575 results.
Nigeria and their trending Nike kit was a hit in Russia and the fact that the Super Eagles are among the top five teams with the biggest number of mentions on socialmedia might even be more surprising than Mexico topping the ranking.
Nigeria had 96 million mentions, 1.2 million interactions and 27,588 results across social media platforms and of the top five nations, they had the biggest difference between positive (11,000) and negative (938) interactions.
Germany and the spectacular collapse of title defence completes the top five list of the biggest social mediadebate driver with a reach of 260 million, 6.3 million interactions and 22,252 results.
Tunisia (51), Sweden (76), South Korea (2,210), Morocco (2,274) and Serbia (2,587) were the top five teams with the lowest number of social media mentions at Russia 2018.
The top five teams that had the highest social mediareach, that is the estimated number of people that could have had contact with social media mentions containing the monitored phrases, were once again led by Mexico with 630,803,572.
Germany (243, 685, 004), England (225,296,265), Brazil -- driven by the theatrics of star man Neymar -- (220,558,432) and Argentina (167, 979, 821) sealed the top five on a score based on the number of authors talking about the monitored phrases in social media, the number of their followers/subscribers/friends and the typical visibility percentage for the selected social networks.
Mexico (9,838), Nigeria (6,054), Poland (4,743), Brazil (4,409) and Argentina (4,042) topped the list of the number of most active locations on social media.
In total, a staggering Sh63,126,360,000 billion was allocated for investment in local organisation of Russia 2018. The total investment budget for the 2018 FIFA World Cup amounted to over Sh191 billion.
About Sh40 billion was set aside for prize money for the participating teams, Sh24.2 billion for television production, Sh21 billion for club benefit programme to compensate for the use of their players in the tournament, Sh7.8 billion for information technology solutions, Sh6.8 billion for ticketing solutions, Sh4.8 billion for preparation costs of match arenas, Sh4 billion for teams’ accommodation, Sh3.2 billion for event insurance and Sh21.2 billion for other costs.
Domestic leagues with most players
It is no brainer here that the English Premier League topped with 108 followed by the Spanish Primera Division (LaLiga) with 78, German Bundesliga (62), Italian Serie A (58) and French Ligue 1 (47), underlining their status as the top five domestic football leagues on the planet.
Below them, the Russia Premier Liga (36), Saudi Professional League (30), Turkey’s Super Lig (22), English Second Division Championship (21) and Liga MX Apertura of Mexico (21) rounded off the top 10.
Players with the highest transfer value
Despite failing to lead Argentina to World Cup glory in what was probably his last shot at emulating retired legend, Diego Maradona, FC Barcelona super star Lionel Messi tied with Brazil’s Neymar as the highest valued players that took part in Russia 2018 with a market value of Sh21.2 billion. Mohammed Salah of Egypt, whose influence was limited by the shoulder injury he suffered playing for Liverpool FC in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid, ties with Kevin de Bryune of Belgium and Harry Kane of England at Sh17.6 billion.
France star Kylian Mbappe, who illuminated the knockout stages. particularly in the 4-2 demolition of Argentina in the last 16 round, comes in next at Sh14.1 billion, followed by Eden Hazard (Belgium/Sh12.9 billion), Phillipe Coutinho (Brazil/Sh11.7 billion), Dele Alli (England/Sh11.7 billion), Antoine Griezmann (France/Sh11.7 billion), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Sh11.7 billion) and the rarely used Paulo Dybala (Argentina/Sh11.7 billion).
Perhaps indicative of this market assessment, Ronaldo has just signed for Juventus from Real Madrid in a four-year deal worth Sh13.1 billion after leading Portugal to the round of 16 where they lost 2-1 to Uruguay.
National teams with the highest market/transfer value
France who are seeking a second World Cup title since winning the 1998 edition on home soil lead this category with Mbappe and company worth an eye-catching Sh212 billion.
Spain, who tanked 3-4 on penalties to home side Russia are next with a net value of Sh122 billion, with Brazil (Sh69.7 billion), Germany (Sh104.1 billion), England (Sh102.9 billion), Belgium (Sh89 billion), Argentina (Sh83.8 billion), Portugal (Sh54.8 billion), Uruguay (Sh43.2 billion) and finalists Croatia (Sh41.7 billion) seal the top 10.
Senegal, the best performing African side at the World Cup, only missing the knockout stages via the FIFA Fair Play Rules when they finished dead level with Japan, was the top ranked continental side among the five that took part, with a market value of Euros Sh34.1 billion and 11th overall among the 32 teams that took part. [Source: statista.com and talkwalker.com]