Tuesday 09 October 2018, 19:02

Predictor champ’s unforgettable Russia 2018 adventure 

  • Geoff Guttmann predicted his way to a trip for two to Russia 2018

  • The Canadian raves about the France-Belgium atmosphere

  • He believes Kevin De Bruyne was the player of the tournament

“I’d done predictors for a while,” said Geoff Guttmann. “I do them for fun. I sometimes put a streak together, but I never imagined I’d win anything from one, yet alone the trip of a lifetime.”

But that’s exactly what the England-born Canadian scooped for himself and wife Mary. The 64-year-old Newcastle United and England supporter successfully predicted the outcome of 24 consecutive matches – his nearest challenger had 17 – to comfortably conquer the 2017 FIFA Predictor and a trip for two to Russia to watch a FIFA World Cup™ match.

“I knew I was on a good streak, and I mentioned it to Mary and friends, but I didn’t say too much because I kept expecting it to end,” Guttmann explained to FIFA.com. “When I set a target of 24, I knew that would be tough to beat, but you always think, ‘Someone will put a streak together’.

“When I won, it was an incredible feeling. We knew we’d be going to a match, but we didn’t know which one. So when we found out it would be the semi-final in Saint Petersburg, we were delighted. I actually felt like Belgium-France was the Final. Whoever won that was going to be champions.

“FIFA couldn’t have done more for us. Everything – sorting flights, getting us through the VIP check-in at the airport, the nice hotel, getting us on the VIP bus to the game, getting us nice seats at the stadium.

“The driver who picked us up from the airport – this was really kind of him – took us on a tour around Saint Petersburg, showing us the Anichkov Bridge and the Four Horsemen, the canals, the fort, the iconic churches, the Lenin Monument in Ploshchad Lenina, the State Hermitage Museum, explaining things to us. We went to the State Hermitage Museum the following day, which was really interesting.”

The brightest of highlights for Geoff and Mary was, naturally, the football – and it wasn’t their first World Cup experience.

“I was in England during the 1966 World Cup,” recalled Guttmann. “I really wanted to go, but I was only 12-years-old and didn’t get the chance.

“So when the World Cup came to USA in ’94 – I was living in USA at the time and we’d gotten married a couple of years before – I knew I had to go. We went to about six or seven matches, including the Final. England weren’t there, so I kind of adopted Sweden as my second team – [Thomas] Brolin, [Martin] Dahlin. It was an amazing experience.

Mary and Geoff at the France-Belgium semi-final

“We never imagined we’d get the opportunity to go to another, so we felt so grateful to be going to France-Belgium. The atmosphere was incredible. Both sets of supporters were singing the whole way through. There was no animosity, just supporters getting behind their team. It was fantastic. Even leaving at the end of the game, there was nothing untoward towards each other.

“I think France were deserved World Cup winners. Against Belgium they managed to bottle up Kevin De Bruyne, who I think deserved the [adidas] Golden Ball. I think he was very underestimated. Everything goes through him. He reads the game in a way that others can’t. He reminds me of [Franz] Beckenbauer in that respect. Beckenbauer would direct the game – he always knew where to put the ball. De Bruyne does it more subtly.

“I thought it was a great World Cup, one of the best, and something I really enjoyed was meeting people from other countries – I know French so I spoke to a lot of Europeans and Africans – seeing the supporters interact, taking it in.

“The atmosphere at a World Cup – not just at the matches but all over the country – is indescribable. I think it’s something every footy fan, if they can, should experience.”