2018 World Cup in Russia
The World Cup, if all goes to plan, is like a fine wine: as the tournament matures into the final stages, the games become more exciting and much better quality. The 2018 FIFA World CupTM in Russia was certainly a top-shelf quality wine, or in this case, maybe vodka is a better metaphor. Either way, this summer’s tournament is going to be remembered for quite some time as one of the most entertaining and memorable competitions. Many of the expert picks were correct as France are world champs for the next 4 years. Let’s review what we were able to experience this past month and understand how this tournament stacks up to previous years.
World Cup in Review
This World Cup could easily be argued as the best & most dramatic we have ever seen. The culture of soccer has continued to grow around the world, superstar names are relevant across the planet, and social media has sparked a revolution of consuming content. With all of this said, the actual tournament provided us some ridiculous stats and high-profile performances.
So, the countries to keep an eye on coming into this tournament were undoubtedly Brazil, Germany, France, and Spain. There was also a lot of hype around individual players such as Neymar, Ronaldo, and Messi. Looking back, we saw Germany not even make it out of the Group Stage with both Brazil and Spain losing soon after their advancements into the Knockout Round which were all complete shockers. In terms of players, the “big 3” named above all showed up, but it can be argued that each of them in their own right were somewhat disappointing. Ultimately, the second youngest team in the tournament ended up lifting the trophy as France won their second title overall, their first since 1998. As we depart from Russia, there are some stats to soak in and some new names to get used to:
- There were 169 goals scored in this tournament with an average of 2.64 goals per match. This is just two total goals less than what was scored at the last tournament in Brazil making it the second highest goal total ever.
- 12 of those 169 goals were own goals which is the most we’ve seen in 20 years.
- Out of the 64 games, only one game was completely goalless!
- Not including extra-time, there were a total of 9 goals scored in the 90th minute or later which is the most we’ve ever experienced. In relation to this, there were 10 game-winning goals in the 90th minute or later to create extremely dramatic endings!
- VAR (Video Assistant Referee) made its presence in this World Cup and many people would say it was much more of a positive than negative.
- Russia’s win against Saudi Arabia extends the host nation staying victorious on opening day through all World Cups!
- For many experts, Belgium was actually the most consistent team despite finishing third. They taunted the most goals by a team (16) and the best goal difference (+10) at the tournament.
- We saw Cristiano Ronaldo put up a hat-trick and become the 4th player to ever score in 4 different World Cups.
- Kylian Mbappé is the first teenager to score in a World Cup since Pelé in the 1950’s.
- In terms of population size, Croatia (4.2 million people) became the smallest country to reach a World Cup final since the 1950 final when Uruguay took down Brazil.
- With France claiming the trophy, this is the 4th World Cup in a row that a European country has become World Cup champion.
World Cup 2018 Disappointments
- Lionel Messi – Although netting one goal and adding two assists, it just didn’t appear like he ever found his way. This surely wasn’t the GOAT standards we were expecting to see from Messi.
- Mohamed Salah – Given his injury, we understand his lack of form, however, it was tough to see him not perform after a record year in the Premier League.
- Robert Lewandowski – Poland’s leader played every minute of their World Cup, however, didn’t put one ball at the back of the net.
- All of Germany – Their roster was stacked, and they were defending champs, yet they finished 4th in their group. In the end, maybe it isn’t so shocking as Germany became the fourth defending World Cup champion in the last five World Cups to fall short and get eliminated in the Group Stage.
- Spain – The coaching controversy, their overall bland play, and seeing them go down earlier than expected was difficult to accept. This is the last time we will see Andres Iniesta in a Spanish jersey and it may be the last for Sergio Ramos as well.
World Cup 2018 Stars
- France – Somehow someway, they managed to secure the World Cup! They never seemed to be a dominant side, but they were the most consistent & made the most of their chances. Don’t blink either, this team may be a force for the next decade with back-to-back Young Player Award winners of Pogba (2014 World Cup) and now Mbappé (2018).
- Luka Modric – A small star, but only because of his physical stature, deservedly won the Golden Ball for best player of the tournament. He netted two goals and provided an assist this World Cup while playing the most minutes and number of miles covered.
- Belgium – Hazard, Lukaku, and De Bruyne all put on a show. Their 3rd place finish will be remembered as quite an accomplishment for years to come. Look out for this country to go head-to-head with the neighboring France as best team in the world for the next few years.
- England – They almost brought the cup home. Despite being an extremely young squad, they put England back in the discussion as a truly footballing powerhouse nation.
- Kylian Mbappé – There was a lot of hype and pressure on this 19-year old, but did he deliver! His 4 goals were all class and he got it done in the World Cup final to help his country raise the trophy…what more could you want!
On to the Next One
Russia held quite the tournament and many people who attended felt this was one of the most organized events. The drama and stats speak for themselves and the rising stars we continue to see will help keep this sport growing. Let’s now hope the USMNT team can get their act together in time for Qatar 2022.
Image Source: The Telegraph UK