The 2018 FIFA World Cup was everything a football fan could ask for and more. At first, defending champions Germany crashed out in the group stages, then Argentina and Spain followed suit in the next round. Then we saw the controversial VAR technology and instant replays change the outcome of games on various occasions. But the biggest surprise of all was Croatia making it to the finals by defeating some of the strongest teams in the tournament. Even though they lost in the final game, they won the hearts of millions of football fans around the world.
The Croatians entered the tournament with the label of underdogs, but left with the title of heroes. Having become an independent country only in 1991, Croatia was a new name in the world cup scene. In the last four world cups, the country had gotten past the group stages only once, and that was two decades ago. So, when they played their first match in the 2018 world cup, no one had much hope for the Croatians. But, when they played their last game against France, over 68 percent of fans around the world were rooting for their victory. Even when the Croatians lost, the world sang songs of their four-week joyride that culminated in a historic performance, filled with grit and resilience. That’s the beauty of underdogs—they never lose. They either win the game itself or they win hearts with their sheer determination and persistence.
An underdog like Croatia reminds me of Rocky Balboa from the Rocky films. A symbol of hope and faith, Rocky is the biggest underdog story ever told in the world of cinema. An amateur boxer, who is mostly invisible to the outside world, dreams of becoming a boxing champion one day. With no coach or money to support his training, Rocky only has his will and perseverance to help him reach his goal. And, when he finally gets a shot at the title, he gives it everything he has. Every time he is knocked down, he gets back up on his feet; every time his body threatens to give up, his mind convinces him to try one more time. That’s what all underdogs do—they keep at it.