Reviewing Russia 2018

The World Cup has finished with France lifting the trophy for the second time. Below are my thoughts about the tournament; leave a comment with your thoughts.

Game of the tournament: Spain 3-3 Portugal. The second day of the tournament and the first evening game was an absolute cracker. It started off quickly and the game got better and more absorbing as it continued. A good game early on can help set the tone for the tournament and this match lived up to its billing.

Goal of the tournament: Pavard. A fantastic strike from the French right-back in their Last 16 game against Argentina. He was outside the area, cut across the ball and it flew into the top corner giving the goalkeeper no chance. Not bad for a first international goal!

Player of the tournament: Eden Hazard. A constant threat whenever he got the ball. No matter how many players tried to close him down, he seemed to be able to either find a way through or a pass to take them out of the game. The key player in an side full of attacking talent.

Tournament overachievers: Russia. The lowest ranked side at the tournament made the Quarter-Finals, helped no doubt by strong support. A big victory in the opening game set them on their way, with the highlight being getting past Spain in the Last 16. Their run came to an end when they met their competitors for overachievers, Croatia.

Tournament underachievers: Germany. Germany won the World Cup in 2014; three years later they won the Confederations Cup with many of their stars not taking part. Things looked ominous for the rest of the world when their stars returned, but getting out of a tough group was not achieved as they fell at the first hurdle.

Moment of the tournament: England win a penalty shootout. A bit of bias here, but England had been the better side for much of the match. When extra time ended, the ending seemed inevitable, especially when Henderson’s penalty was saved. Four penalties later, up stepped Eric Dier to win it. Not a great penalty, but it went in. England had finally won a penalty shootout at the World Cup!

Comedy moment of the tournament: Michy Batshuyai. England and Belgium had both won their first two matches, making the last group stage game a playoff for who would top the group. Both sides made plenty of changes and Adnan Januzaj put Belgium in to the lead in the second half. As the Belgian players ran off celebrating, Batshuyai picked the ball out of the net and looked to kick it into the crowd. He succeeded in kicking the ball into the post and it rebounded into his own face.

Best thing about the tournament: Referees letting games flow. Tournaments tend to see a focus on certain things by officials and a flurry of cards, especially in the opening games. This didn’t happen at the World Cup, with players being encouraged to get back up. Players being allowed to decide games was very welcome and kept the flow of games going.

Worst thing about the tournament: Penalties. Some debatable penalties given by VAR (and others not given) and how long it took to take a penalty; the team who had conceded it seemed to spend forever debating it and putting off the penalty taker, with Colombia taking things a step further by roughing up the penalty spot. Just let them get taken please.

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