Hey everyone. So last week I said that there may be one final World Cup article to wrap up the whole tournament. And you can believe me when I say, it’s here. The ninth and final World Cup article for this year. Basically, we’re just going to be cycling through some of the highlights, some of the moments that made history, and more. So let’s get right to it.
In General: This year’s World Cup was definitely one to remember. From the moment it opened, to the first match, to the upsets, the thrills, the spills, the technology, the knockout rounds, the history, the Final. Everything about this World Cup was unique. Each game was exciting in its own way, and so many goals were scored. There were two new teams. The English had so much hope. The hosts, Russia, played better than anyone thought they ever would. Belgium brought their A-game. The Champions curse reigned supreme once again and Germany found themselves crashing out. Croatia made so much history. And France proved to do just enough every time to win their matches, ultimately taking the Final and the Cup. What a tournament it was.
The Highlights: There were so many highlights at this World Cup, and so here’s a few of the best ones:
⁃ Croatia’s rise to the top, winning every match they played apart from the Final. For a team that had never made it to the Final in World Cup History, this was a victory in itself for them.
⁃ Belgium’s brilliant play. Of particular note was the comeback from 2-0 down against Japan in the Round of 16. The header from Vertonghen was spectacular, and the last minute play for a third and final match winning goal was just pure class.
⁃ The somewhat stunning rise of England. Some would say they got lucky, playing against easier teams, but there was a lot of class there from the English, and it was great to see the fans lapping it up, especially with the classic line ‘It’s Coming Home!’
⁃ Seeing Australia actually play a decent World Cup was great. They were unlucky not to draw with France, and unlucky not to get a win against Denmark, but it all seemed to fall apart with Peru. However, they did play well, and it was nice to see them with a chance this year going into their third Group Stage match.
⁃ Senegal’s head coach Aliou Cisse was brilliant. The youngest and the only black head coach at the World Cup, he was refreshing, and almost coached his side to the knockout rounds. Senegal were a great team and played brilliant football, and were unlucky not to progress from their Group, especially due to the Fair Play rule. But well done to them, and Cisse will be remembered for his celebrations for sure.
⁃ Russia’s big 5-0 win at the beginning of the tournament against Saudi Arabia was something to behold. It was unexpected, but entertaining.
⁃ Speaking of big wins and high scoring games, England’s 6-1 win against Panama and Belgium’s 5-2 win against Tunisia were both brilliant matches, and ones that definitely provided entertainment.
⁃ France taking out their second World Cup victory in 20 years was great to see, and it was particularly a wonder to see 19 year old Kylian Mbappe making such a great impact on the tournament, and scoring a goal in the Final.
These are just a few of the highlights. There were so many more.
The Controversies: This World Cup was one that saw a lot of controversy added into the game. With the addition of technology, there was bound to be some questionable decisions. Let’s have a look at a few of the controversial moments of this World Cup:
⁃ The VAR: The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was something which changed the game dramatically this year. Intervening when it shouldn’t be, and not intervening when it should, it was questionable as to whether this technology should be included in the world of football. There were some decisions reviewed and changed or held that made the VAR appear to be working. But then there were all the times it wasn’t working in the right ways, and these were the moments that had a major impact on the game. So the real question is: should it be allowed to stay in football? If you ask me, technology has no place in football. But some may disagree with this. It’s definitely something to think about before the next World Cup.
⁃ The Fair Play Rule: This year was the first time in the history of the World Cup that the Fair Play Rule was used in order to separate two teams in one Group that were tied on both points and goal difference at the end of the Group Stage. The Rule, which determines the successful team by means of number of yellow and red cards, was implemented to separate Senegal and Japan, and Japan took advantage of it by killing off their match against Poland, in which they had already conceded one goal, in order to progress ahead of Senegal. This was controversial, and it brought into question the integrity of this so called ‘Fair Play Rule’. The Rule was to be reviewed after the conclusion of the World Cup. Realistically, it should be eradicated and replaced with a different means of separating the two teams.
⁃ The Pitch Invaders: In the World Cup Final between France and Croatia, the match had to be brought to a halt in the second half due to something that interrupted the state of play. For the first time in World Cup History, pitch invaders had successfully infiltrated the pitch, with four members of an activist group managing to sneak past security and run rampant. This resulted in the match being paused until security had managed to escort the pitch invaders from the field, and then the match was allowed to continue. The four pitch invaders, three females and one male, have since been jailed for 15 days and banned from attending sporting events for three years.
The Upsets: This World Cup saw so many upsets, with some of the favourites finding themselves falling to teams which rose to the challenge and played to the best of their abilities. Here are some of the upsets from this year’s World Cup:
⁃ Argentina’s draw with Iceland. The Argentines started strong and should have been able to win the match, but Iceland struck back, and their keeper Hannes Halldorsson will go down in history as one of the keepers to save a penalty against Lionel Messi.
⁃ Mexico’s win against Germany. Mexico showed themselves to be a great team in the match, putting a lot of pressure on the Germans, especially in their counter attacks, which ultimately won them the match.
⁃ Japan’s win against Colombia, the Asian team becoming the first to claim a victory against a South American team.
⁃ Senegal’s win against Poland, proving the Africans can get it done, and showing some top class in the process.
⁃ Croatia’s 3-0 demolition of Argentina. This was probably the greatest upset of the tournament. The Argentines had one of the worst days at the World Cup, and the Croatians went on a scoring spree, netting three magnificent goals, with Luka Modric’s goal being something else, and leaving the Argentines in tatters.
⁃ Morocco’s draw with Spain. Spain played somewhat poorly in this match, and realistically, they were lucky to come out with a draw. The Moroccans should have one the match, but due to a goal that should have been offside and a VAR decision that went against them, they were just unlucky.
⁃ Portugal’s draw with Iran. Again, the Iranians should have one this match, and were unlucky not to, again with decisions not going their way. Portugal only just escaped with a draw and progressed.
⁃ South Korea’s win over Germany. This was brilliant, with the Koreans going on a last minute scoring blitz, netting two and putting the Germans out of the tournament in the Group Stage for the first time in World Cup History, as well as making them the first Asian side to beat the Germans.
⁃ Spain’s loss to host nation Russia was a sight to behold. Spain could have won the game if it wasn’t for a costly mistake by defender Gerard Pique, with a handball in the box just before the end of the first half gifting Russia a penalty which they converted with ease. And so, a penalty shootout saw Spain eliminated by the Russians.
⁃ The English knocking the Colombians out of the tournament was also somewhat of an upset. England proved to be a renewed force in the Cup, and after winning the penalty shootout against Colombia, they broke free of their World Cup penalty curse, and kept their dream alive.
⁃ Belgium’s 2-1 win against Brazil in the Quarter Finals was somewhat of an upset, although the Belgians has already proven that they could beat the bigger teams.
And that’s it for the upsets. Definitely an exciting World Cup this year.
The History: There was a lot of history made at this year’s World Cup. Let’s take a look at some of it:
⁃ Croatia made their first ever World Cup Final.
⁃ The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used for the first time in the World Cup, and was also used for the first time in a World Cup Final.
⁃ Iceland and Panama participated in their first ever World Cup tournament after qualifying for the first time. Both teams also scored their first ever goals at the World Cup.
⁃ Germany were knocked out in the Group Stage for the first time.
⁃ Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic scored the first ever own goal in a World Cup Final.
⁃ France’s 19 year old Kylian Mbappe became just the second teenager to score in a World Cup Final, only after Pele scored two in the 1958 World Cup Final.
⁃ Pitch invaders infiltrated the pitch in the World Cup Final for the first time.
⁃ The Final was only the second World Cup Final to attain a scoreline of 4-2, with 6 goals in total, equal with that of the highest scoring Final, that being the 1966 World Cup Final in which England won 4-2 in extra time against West Germany.
⁃ The Fair Play Rule was used for the first time to separate Senegal and Japan in Group H at the end of the Group Stage.
⁃ Japan became the first Asian team to win a match against a South American team after edging Colombia 2-1.
⁃ South Korea became the first Asian team to beat Germany, after two late goals saw them win 2-0 against the Germans.
⁃ There were a total of 12 own goals scored at this year’s World Cup, the previous record being 6 at the 1998 World Cup in France.
⁃ Senegalese Head Coach Aliou Cisse was the only black coach at the World Cup, and was also the youngest this year. He said he would like to see more coaches of colour coaching their teams in the World Cup.
⁃ Tim Cahill became the first Australian to play at four consecutive World Cups. Mark Milligan was also in the squad for four consecutive World Cups but only played at 2.
⁃ This was the most expensive World Cup, with a cost estimated at over $14.2 billion.
There’s probably a few more things that I haven’t included, but this is what I have. Lots of history there.
The Awards: Now at the end of the tournament, there are a number of awards given out to some of the most outstanding players at the World Cup. This year’s winners were:
⁃ Golden Ball (for most outstanding player): Luka Modric (Croatia)
⁃ Golden Boot (for most goals): Harry Kane – 6 goals (England)
⁃ Golden Glove (for most outstanding goalkeeper): Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
⁃ FIFA Young Player Award (for most outstanding young player): Kylian Mbappe – 19 years old (France)
⁃ FIFA Fair Play Award (for the fairest team – least amount of cards): Spain
Well done to all these players and team for winning these awards. Some top talent at this year’s World Cup.
To Wrap Up: The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia was one of the best I’ve personally seen. It was a really high quality, highly entertaining tournament, with some of the greatest matches you’ll ever see. It was filled with some of the greatest footballing talent in the world, and some of the world’s best teams. And it was exciting, thrilling. The amount of history created in this World Cup alone was amazing, something to marvel at. And I’m sure we’ll all look forward to the next World Cup in 2022, which will be held in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar. That tournament will also make history, being the first ever World Cup to be played in the winter in many parts of the world, and summer here in Australia. It will be played between the 21st of November and the 18th of December, and will mark the first time in which leagues around the world will have to be paused for the tournament. It will also be the first time Qatar will actually be featured in a World Cup, having never previously qualified. It will be an interesting one to say the least, and one to look forward to. But for now, it’s goodbye from me for this World Cup. I’ll see you in four years for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Bye for now.