International football is a strange beast.
Bring together players who are not usually team-mates, ship them thousands of miles around the world, stoke expectations beyond all reasonable measure and let them play.
Could the World Cup be understood in isolation? A half-tournament, half-fever dream in which events rely more on randomness than destiny or logic? In short, does form matter?
To clarify, this is not referring to individual form — whether a striker is in a purple patch or whether a goalkeeper is filled with confidence — in the days preceding the tournament.
This is analysing the form of a team, ie, their collective results in the five games preceding the tournament.
It is particularly pressing for sides such as England, the United States, Germany and France. The latter three nations have only won one game in their last five, and England have failed to win in their last six matches.
On the other hand, sides such as Brazil, Argentina and the Netherlands — who have not lost between them in their last five matches — will want to ensure the likelihood of their form being rewarded in Qatar.