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.

FMM18 World Cup Day 31

Read from the introduction.

Re-read the third place playoff between Belgium and South Korea.

It’s the final day of the tournament and there’s one game; the biggest game in world football. Re-read how Portugal and Italy reached the World Cup Final.

World Cup Final: Portugal V Italy

The current European champions take on the four-time winners on a warm, windy day in Moscow. The last three World Cup Finals have required extra time to settle the argument, with the previous two seeing no goals scored in normal time. The Final follows the pattern of the last two, with neither side able to find a goal. Ten minutes into extra time, there’s a goal; Portugal’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo puts the European champions twenty minutes away from their first ever World Cup and the completion of a European/World Cup double. Italy go in desperate search of an equaliser and get one with eight minutes to go as Andrea Belotti pulls the Italians level. The seconds and minutes tick away and it’s going to penalties, something that the Italians have fond memories of from the 2006 World Cup Final. 120 minutes are on the clock and the referee is checking his watch. Italy have one final chance to win the game without requiring penalties and it falls to Belotti. He scores! In the final minute of extra time! Portuguese players slump to the floor, whilst the Italian team pile on to Belotti as the bench erupts. The game kicks off after fairly lengthy Italian celebrations, but Portugal have no chance to equalise and force penalties. Italy are champions of the world for the fifth time.

FMM18 World Cup Day 30

Read from the introduction.

The penultimate day of the tournament sees one game; re-read how Belgium and South Korea ended up in the penultimate match.

Third Place Playoff – Belgium V South Korea

Both sides need to pick themselves up after a two-goal Semi Final loss. The Third Placed Playoff is often described as the game that no-one want to be in and for Vincent Kompany, he’s only involved for three minutes before injury forces him to leave the field. Belgium shrug off the loss of Kompany and take the lead through Yannick Carrasco with 26 minutes on the clock. Belgium don’t add to their lead in the first half, but maintain it going into the break. They double the lead within a minute of the second half kicking off; Carrasco adds his and Belgium’s second. The situation is looking desperate for South Korea, but looks to become impossible in the 74th minute when Mousa Dembele adds Belgium’s third goal. Thomas Vermaelen is sent off in the 75th minute in another blow to the Belgium defence, but the ten men see out the victory to claim third place.

Find out what happens on Day 31.

Russia 2018 – The Final

Read my Semi-Final predictions.

And then there were two. France and Croatia. It’s a match that I predicted would happen at the World Cup. It’s just a bit later than I predicted. Either France will lift the World Cup for the second time or Croatia will lift it for the first time. But who will it be?

France have overcome Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium in the knockout stages and won each match inside 90 minutes. They were excellent against Belgium in the semi-final and kept a potent Belgian front line quiet. Croatia overcame Denmark, Russia and England in the knockout stages and all three matches went to extra time, with the first two requiring penalties. England had the better of the first half in their semi-final, but Croatia came into the game more as it progressed and deservedly won.

Which is all very well and good, but who wins? I can’t look beyond France. They’ve been solid when they need to be and have goal threats across the forwards. If the Croatian full backs try to push on as they did against England to pin wide players back, it will leave a lot of space for Mbappe to run into and he will be difficult to catch. If Croatia stay deep, I fancy France to be able to create chances from Giroud knocking balls down and linking up play. I predict a 2-0 victory for France.

Leave a comment with: who you think will win the World Cup Final; why; the score.

FMM18 World Cup Day 29

Read from the introduction.

There are no games today, so lets look at how Italy reached the final.

Group E: V Australia, 5-0 (Andrea Belotti (3), Claudio Marchisio, Leonardo Bonucci)
Group E: V Chile, 4-0 (Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Belotti, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Petagna)
Group E: V Northern Ireland, 1-1 (Marco Veratti)
Last 16: V England, 1-0 (Andrea Petagna)
Quarter Final: V Argentina, 1-0 (Andrea Belotti)
Semi Final: V South Korea, 3-1 (Andrea Belotti, Roberto Gagliardini, Alessio Romagnoli)

Find out what happens on Day 30.

FMM18 World Cup Day 28

Read from the introduction.

There are no games today, so lets take a look at how Portugal have reached the final:

Group C: V Ghana, 5-0 (Andre Silva (3), Joao Mario, Andre Gomes)
Group C: V USA, 1-0 (Andre Silva)
Group C: V Ukraine, 0-5
Last 16: V Colombia, 1-0 AET (Andre Silva)
Quarter Final: V Iceland, 3-1 (William Carvalho, Raphael Guerreiro, Adrien Silva)
Semi Final: V Belgium, 2-0 (Joao Mario, Cristiano Ronaldo)

Find out what happens on Day 29.