Now that the World Cup is over, let’s take a look at the memorable moments of this summer’s spectacle…
FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME
All tournament long, English fans chanted “It’s coming home” thinking this might be the year they won the World Cup for the first time since 1966. England eventually finished 4th, and although football isn’t coming home to the Three Lions, the chant drew a lot of buzz from fans worldwide, and made England believe in their team again.
This was the first World Cup to include video assistant referees, and boy was it pivotal. VAR determined the outcome of Group B’s final standings, sent Germany packing early, and gave France a controversial penalty in the final at Croatia’s expense. Ultimately, the use of VAR proved its flaws and benefits to the game, and it will definitely take some time to get used to.
RUSSIA’S FAIRY TALE RUN
It’s fair to say not many predicted Russia to make it past the group stage, let alone reach the quarterfinal. However, the hosts defied expectations, and were a penalty shootout away from reaching the semifinals. Led by a large home crowd and an enigmatic manager, Russia managed to upset Spain in the second round, and their World Cup displays certainly proved their doubters wrong.
BIG NATIONS BOW OUT
A common theme in three of the last four World Cup’s has been the holders getting eliminated in the group stage, and the trend continued again this summer. Germany finished bottom of their group, with their undetermined displays much to blame for their exit. Elsewhere, the sacking of manager Julen Lopetegui 2 days before the opener led to chaos in Spain’s preparations, and they shockingly exited the tournament to hosts Russia in the Round of 16. Finally, Argentina needed a last-gasp winner in the final group game against Nigeria to finish second, after a horrendous defeat to Croatia left them bottom with a match to play. They faced off against eventual champions France in the second round, where Les Blues proved to be too much, and Argentina left the tournament with a single win to their name.
Many fans agree diving ruins the beautiful game, and this summer’s World Cup unfortunately had its share of theatrics, with Neymar being at the center stage. According to RTS, Brazil’s talisman spent almost 14 minutes on the floor, and many fans and pundits were fed up with his antics, with some going as far as labeling him a “disgrace”. Other notable divers include Portugal defender Pepe’s bizarre fall against Morocco, and Kylian Mbappe’s ridiculous flop vs Uruguay.
Considering the amount of top goalkeepers on display during the World Cup, it was shocking to see the many blunders fans witnessed. The most notable ones include David de Gea’s error against Portugal, which brought back memories of a certain Robert Green. Second is Willy Caballero’s errant pass attempt which led to Ante Rebic’s thunderous volley in the disasterclass against Croatia. Lastly we have Hugo Lloris’ inexplicable mistake in the final that led to unwanted comparisons to Loris Karius.
FAIR PLAY RULE
Senegal fell hard done by FIFA’s newly implemented fair play rule, as they became the first nation in World Cup history to be eliminated based on yellow card accumulation. The West African side finished Group H level on points and goal differential with Japan, but since they picked up 6 yellow cards to Japan’s 4, the Blue Samurai finished second and advanced to the second round. Senegal’s elimination is one for the history (and trivia) books.
A record 12 own goals were scored in this year’s World Cup, doubling the previous tally set back in France 1998. In addition, the tournament also saw the first ever own goal in a World Cup final. Moreover, an own goal was scored in every round, except for the semifinals.
Millions of people tune in to watch the World Cup, and plenty of antics were in display. Argentina legend Diego Maradona’s crazed behavior in the crowd caught the attention of many viewers, as his over the top celebrations led to a health scare and eventual hospitalization. Next is German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, whose decision to leave his goal and play as an auxiliary midfielder during the game vs South Korea led to a goal on the other end and was needless to say the least. Furthermore, Michy Batshuayi celebrated Belgium’s goal vs England by smashing the ball back into the net, only for the ball to bounce off the post and hit his face. Lastly, there’s Iran defender Milad Mohammadi’s failed attempt at a somersault throw in, a bizarre moment we can all look back on with joy.
With the big nations failing to live up to expectations, the World Cup saw a number of underdogs take the big stage. Sweden capitalized on Germany’s failures and finished top of Group F, going as far as the quarterfinal before losing to England. As aforementioned, hosts Russia took out Spain and themselves made it to the quarters as well. But the biggest story has to be Croatia. A side that are by no means pushovers played an exceptional tournament, defeating the likes of Argentina and England, and were very unlucky to fall short in the final. The tiny nation gained many supporters in this tournament, and deserve all the praise they have received in the aftermath.