France triumphant in ravishing Russia

  • France crowned World Cup champions for second time, Croatia claim second
  • Modric wins adidas Golden Ball, Kane takes home adidas Golden Boot
  • Bronze for Belgium, England finish fourth

The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ thrilled from beginning to end. The 21st edition of the world finals also produced countless moments that will endure in the collective memory of those who love the beautiful game. From Kaliningrad to Ekaterinburg from Saint Petersburg to Sochi, there were smiles and celebrations aplenty as millions came together to enjoy what was a true festival of football. There were goals aplenty: the first and only goalless draw at Russia 2018 came after 36 matches, which was the latest for a single edition in history. 

France were crowned champions for the second time in history and for the first since they were hosts in 1998 after defeating Croatia 4-2 in what will go down as one of the most thrilling World Cup finals ever. Nineteen-year-old Kylian Mbappe became the second teenager in history to score in a World Cup Final, following in the footsteps of Pele who did so as a 17-year-old in 1958. Goals and performances from midfielder Paul Pogba and forward Antoine Griezmann also proved vital in helping Les Bleus become world champions once more.

Defining moments
Giants fall in Kazan
Kazan Arena witnessed the elimination of multiple World Cup heavyweights. Holders Germany, for example, were defeated 2-0 by Korea Republic there and failed to progress from the group stage for the first time in the country’s proud World Cup history. The next giant to fall was Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the Round of 16. In one of the most thrilling matches of the tournament, France – led by the exhilarating youngster Mbappe – saw off La Albiceleste 4-3. Brazil, Argentina’s long-time South American rivals, were next, as Neymar and Co were beaten by an impressive Belgium side in the quarter-finals.

Surprise packages
Some nations scaled new heights at Russia 2018. The Red Devils of Belgium had their best-ever World Cup, finishing in third and eclipsing their fourth-place finish in 1986. Roberto Martinez’s side, who finished as the top scoring team (16), were one of three sides – the others being Uruguay and Croatia – who emerged from the group stage with maximum points. Russia’s quarter-final finish was their first at that stage since the former Soviet Union did it in 1970. Sweden reached the last eight for the first time since USA 1994, while Croatia contested the country’s first ever World Cup Final.

Fans, hosts create carnival atmosphere
Throughout the various FIFA Fan Fests, the streets of all the Host Cities and beyond and of course in the stadiums themselves, the fans made this a World Cup to treasure. Those supporters came with their chants, their colours and above all, an unrelenting support for their teams, and they were met in turn by warm and welcoming locals.

Breakout stars
If there were still some football fans who were unfamiliar with Mbappe before France and Argentina’s Round of 16 tie, they certainly knew all about him by the time the final whistle sounded. The 19-year-old starred with his electrifying pace, skill and finishing ability in Les Bleus’ epic 4-3 comeback win before becoming the second teenager to score in World Cup Final history in France’s 4-2 win over Croatia. Denis Cheryshev also had a tournament he will never forget. The Russia star bagged a brace in the hosts’ 5-0 Opening Match win over Saudi Arabia, put in two Man of the Match performances and scored a brilliant goal in their quarter-final defeat at the hands of the tournament’s runners-up. Colombia’s 23-year-old defender Yerry Mina was crucial in their run to the Round of 16, showcasing his aerial prowess to score in three consecutive matches for Los Cafeteros, a feat any forward would be content with, let alone a centre-back.

Legends bid farewell
Several of the game’s greats brought an end to their World Cup stories. Javier Mascherano played his 20th and final World Cup match for Argentina, Japan’s Keisuke Honda his 11th and last game for the Samurai Blue. Scorer of the winning goal in the 2010 Final, Andres Iniesta’s last outing in a Spain jersey was in La Roja’s penalty shootout defeat by the hosts in the Round of 16. As for Mexico stalwart Rafael Marquez, he became just the third player to play in five World Cups.

VAR makes its bow
Russia 2018 was historic for many reasons, but in the field of football technology it was the dawn of a new era with the introduction and use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). History was made in France’s 2-1 win over Australia, when Griezmann scored the first penalty kick resulting from a VAR review.

Stat of the tournament
19 – There were 19 goals scored in second-half injury time at Russia 2018, setting a new World Cup record. Neymar also scored the latest ever goal at a World Cup in regular time (90’+7’) when he doubled Brazil’s lead in their 2-0 win over Costa Rica. [Editor’s note: Injury time has been codified officially since 1998]

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