In a competition ripe with surprises, brilliant moments and the odd controversial moment; mainly involving the contentious use of VAR, the 2018 World Cup will surely go down as one of the best in recent memory.
It was a competition full of surprises- justifying why the World Cup is such a special occasion. Germany losing their opening game to Mexico and Argentina’s capitulation against Croatia are notable shocks but the biggest shock of them all was the Spanish failing to overcome the resilient hosts.
Already recognised as the weaker half of the draw, the Spanish were the notable stand out team and highly supported to reach at least the semi-finals. This all changed in the first knockout stage were a subdued and disappointing Spain team failed to create a notable chance in 120 minutes of football.
This was highlighted by the fact that even the goal that Spain scored was an own goal and they could only manage to hold on to the lead for 20 minutes- when they conceded one of the most ridiculous penalties of the tournament which Russia subsequently scored.
The hosts held on for penalties where misses from Gerard Pique and Koke helped the lowest ranked side left in the competition into the quarter finals.
Who could possibly forget that night on Tuesday 2nd July? It will be forever remembered as the night that England finally won a penalty shootout in the World Cup.
Every fan would have been thinking that the writing was on the wall once that final whistle was blown shortly after the 93rd minute Colombian equaliser. 30 nail-biting minutes of extra time followed just waiting for the penalties to begin.
Nerves would have been in shreds following Jordan Henderson’s missed penalty but that would be short lived as Colombia’s following two penalties were also missed. Handing Eric Dier the chance to put England into a World Cup quarter final, which he thankfully did. The penalty shoot-out hoo-doo finally put to rest.
In possibly the best game of the summer, Pavard reacted to a half cleared ball by Nicolas Otamendi to half volley a rapid approaching ball into the top left hand corner of the Argentinean goal. The technique was magical, he cut across the ball in such a way that it looked nearly impossible to put the ball where it ended up. It bent from outside of the post and around Argentine defender, Marcos Rojo to bend back into the goal.
The goal also gave France the lead in a tight game against Lionel Messi’s Argentina team and effectively put the French on their way to glory.
So many players to choose from. France’s exciting Kylian Mbappewas excellent throughout, including his mesmeric performance against Argentina- which is probably the stand out individual performance of the whole tournament. Belgium’s Premier League pair of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne were brilliant for the consistent Belgian side. The pairing was lethal on the counter attack and left Japan and Brazil bemused by their power and pace.
However, England’s Tottenham Hotspur duo of Harry Kane and Kieran Trippier have stood out above the rest. Kane’s lethal finishing and leading from the front has been a revelation for the Three Lions throughout the competition and to finish as the top scorer is as BBC pundit Alan Shearer says: “life changing and truly career defining.”
There is only one team this can be awarded to, France. The 2018 champions were undoubtedly the best team on show. They flattered to deceive throughout the group and in parts throughout the knock out games but when the pressure was really on, they delivered. Boasting the best defensive pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane, dynamic midfieldersN’goloKante and Paul Pogba but then rounded off by Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe is just an embarrassment of riches.
Led by 1998 world champion Didier Deschamps, they just never looked like losing once they got back ahead in the final against the valiant Croatia. In a 15-minute spell they blew their opponents away, taking the game from 2-1 to 4-1.
Will they be able to regain their crown in four years time in Qatar? We will have to wait and see but I for one, cannot wait to see. Roll on 2022.
Betway certainly think so as France are currently the second favourites to win the 2022 World Cup. The current market leader is Brazil with a price of 9/2.