Updated: Feb 21, 2019
As I write this today, France and Croatia have both won their respective semi-final matches and are now through to the last stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
And who would have predicted that as being the potential outcome when the tournament started all those weeks ago?
Indeed, this has been a World Cup to remember for a whole number of reasons (not least of which has been the quality of the football that has been played and the excitement generated by the tournament) and its matches have proved to be both unexpected and filled with potential.
You only have to look around London to see the effect that England's performance (regardless of its defeat by Croatia) has had on the capital and the success of the French team has had a similar impact back in France.
In an era of disruption, dispute and apparent disunity this World Cup has brought people together across a range of divides and revealed the power of hope over fear.
It has also demonstrated that ambition and skilled perseverance can overcome any obstacle and changed how we think about ourselves and (perhaps more importantly) about each other.
And one thing that has come shining through in the performance of all the teams in the tournament stage of the World Cup is that teamwork and strength of belief, when brought together, can achieve anything.
Or, to put it another way, when we work towards a common goal with genuine determination it is possible to fully realise that ambition.
But what is strength of belief? And how does it translate into our daily lives and what we do when we follow a fitness lifestyle outside of the competitive sporting arena?
As a rugby man I have experienced the authenticity of teamwork and have seen what it can deliver for a unified team. I have also felt the effect of such teamwork and its energising force in the face of adversity. In the gym, if you work out alone, with friends or with a workout partner, that sense of being part of a team can sometimes be missing, but that does not mean that the sense of belief that underpins it cannot be created and used to power a fitness programme that delivers results.
Self-belief comes from within the individual, regardless of whether he or she is part of a wider team. And because of that it can also be generted and utilised by individuals, simply by maintaining a focus on what is important and desired in the long-run.
In another context this strategic focus is sometimes called selfishness, and in one sense both focus and selfishness are the same thing, as they each concentrate thought and action on what is best for the individual. Maintaining this attention to how we exercise, sustain ourselves, recover from stress and measure our progress during our workout is what eventually delivers results.
It is also what gives us the rewards we need when we recognise our achievements in the gym, and which in turn keeps us on the right path to long-term strength and physical independence.
Working out can sometimes appear to be a mechanical, repetitive process (and there is obviously an element of truth in this observation!), though it is also just as much about developing a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals, of what is important to us and what we want to achieve with our physical form and abilities.
And that requires a mental process and a development of our self-control. Because without this we simply cannot adopt a fitness lifestyle, make the gains that we need to make and then recognise those gains when they are achieved.
Or, to put it another way, to be successful in the gym we need to foster our sense of self-belief in order to be able to attain what we set out to achieve when we exercise.
At which point anything is possible.
So good luck to all the players and their teams as they move forward under their own volition to the final of the World Cup.
And may the best team win.