Russia 2018 was a surreal, heart-breaking, mind-blowing, magnificent World Cup. A middle-class rebellion took place as Sweden, Belgium and Croatia dared to change the football world status-quo. Nevertheless, France emerged victorious thanks to a second golden generation led by Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté and rising star Kylian Mbappé, a colorful mosaic which stands for multiculturalism, integration and open borders. Let’s take a look to some of the most memorable highlights the FIFA World Cup brought us:
5. Revolution. The World Cup of surprises started with Mexico’s thrilling victory against then-world champions Germany thanks to Hirving Lozano’s shot in the first half. The feat inspired other teams like Switzerland - tied 1-1 with Brazil -, Morocco – taking Spain to the limits – and South Korea, national heroes after beating and eliminating Germany 2-0 in the last game of the Group F. The mood continued into the round of 16 and the quarterfinals as Spain’s 1,200 passes were absolutely useless in bringing down Russia’s wall and Akinfeev’s resistance.
4. Mbappé took our breathe away. The France and Argentina elimination match in Kazan was supposed to be a World Cup highlight. It didn’t disappoint. A thrilling contest with seven goals, an amazing comeback, marvelous goals and the final burst of the future Golden boy of football. Mbappé’s performance was, arguably, the most astonishing piece of individual football the 2018 World Cup saw. Unstoppable, torrential, an authentic nightmare for all Argentinian defenders, Mbappé’s speed (up to 32 km/h) and two goals buried ‘La Albiceleste’ and Lionel Messi’s dreams. Perhaps the best footballer of all time appears to have finished his last World Cup without earning the title.
3. The Neymar Challenge. The brazilian was a World Cup star, but not precisely because of his football magic. Instead, Neymar’s over-acting pirouttes after receiving a foul were mocked all around the world in several viralized videos and socia media posts. Juan Carlos Osorio, Coach of the Mexican side, was not thrilled with PSG’s superstar when he called Neymar “a clown”. The image we will remember about Neymar in this World Cup will be him laying on the grass, grabbing one of his legs.
2. VAR comes on stage. The Video Assistant Referee has arrived to change football for ever. The system was used more than 400 times during the World Cup, mostly with remarkable results. It has brought justice and certainty to the game and has lowed the percentage of referee mistakes. Some decisions taken with the help of VAR changed the course of the tournament, as in the Colombian victory over Senegal, when Sadio Mané was denied a penalty given by Davinson Sanchez.
1. Allez Les Bleus. France achieved its second all-time world championship after beating Croatia 4-2 in a wonderful 90 minute finale at Luzhniki Stadium, the perfect ending for an exciting World Cup. In fact, the final match was a reliable summary of the World Cup: a middle-class rebellion thanks to a spirited Croatia, the VAR conceding a penalty for the Frenchmen after a Perisic handball, two different football ideas in the maximum of their capacities, grotesque goalkeeper’s mistakes, and counter-attacking defining the match. The storm after the game made the aftermath and the celebration even more beautiful.