A World Cup to Remember: 10 Things to Savor

France are your 2018 World Cup Champions. Lead by Griezmann, Mbappe, and Pogba, Les Bleus made the whole planet “take the L” on the way to a smash-and-grab 4-2 victory over dark horse finalists Croatia. But now, with the World Cup behind us and the empty weeks of July and early August ahead of us, before club football begins let’s take a moment to savor what was certainly an amazing tournament.

Goals Galore

Of the 64 games at the World Cup, only 1 was scoreless (France vs. Denmark). Unlike the 2010 World Cup where goals were hard to come by or the 2014 World Cup where goals flowed in the group stage but only dripped in the knockout rounds, the 2018 World Cup was high action throughout. In a stark departure from the 1-0 extra time wins in the finals of both 2010 and 2014, a 4-2 final in regular time was a fitting end to a consistently entertaining and goal-filled tournament.


This one is not going anywhere soon. Football traditionalists and casual fans alike were less than enthused at the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, to the biggest stage in world football. However, with very few exceptions, VAR fulfilled its duties, making its mark in the group stage and the final. There were a record number of penalties awarded, but very little dispute; oftentimes, VAR caught handballs that were just too instantaneous for a referee to process without the aid of replay. Giving TV viewers the full ability to watch what the referees see was a nice bit of transparency from an organization that is not terribly transparent. Oh, if only we had VAR in the semifinals of the 1986 tournament… 

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Maradona wouldn’t have gotten away with this 22 years later, would he? Image: The Guardian


Very few people outside of Stockholm would have predicted Sweden making the quarterfinals, and fewer perhaps saw Croatia making their way to the final. This tournament, by virtue of a ridiculously stacked bracket, saw many teams progress well beyond their typical ceiling, starting with Mexico dismantling the defending champions in their group stage opener. Uruguay took out Portugal, Japan were 45 minutes away from the quarterfinals, and Belgium eviscerated Brazil. This tournament had a distinct March Madness vibe to it, and for spectators this made it all the better.  

Messi and Ronaldo’s Last Dance?

While it wasn’t the swansong that either the Argentinian or the Portuguese men wanted, with both Argentina and Portugal going out in the Round of 16, this almost surely is the last World Cup featuring Messi or Ronaldo. The former just turned 31 and the latter is now 33. With Kylian Mbappe announcing himself on the world stage in Russia, the football universe seems to be shifting and the days of La Pulga and the Dark Invader bestriding the pitch are increasingly numbered.

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Are the two legends done for good on the international stage? Image: The Express Tribune

It’s Coming Home…

…Oh if only football did actually manage to find its way home from Russia, but we all get lost sometimes. What doesn’t appear to be lost is the direction of this young and driven England team. Their magical run displayed that The Three Lions have the platform to become consistent contenders on the international stage. Making the semi-finals is nothing to sneeze at, and the hysteria surrounding what began as an ironic meme transformed a normally pessimistic English fanbase into a collective that will be eagerly looking towards Euro 2020. Football didn’t come this year…but give it some time. We all find our way home eventually.

Golden Generations: Croatia and Belgium

Neither Croatia nor Belgium are historical soccer powerhouses, but the 2018 World Cup aligned with the primes of the best generations of players either nation may have ever had. While Croatia lacked depth, and Belgium never found an ideal formation, second and third place finishes respectively speak to the amazing moment both countries are experiencing. It may be a long time until these nations can compete at such a high level again.

Small Teams, Big Hearts

While the tournament was eventually won by a previous winner in France, “small countries” were certainly at the forefront. Starting in the group stage with Iran being a kick away from eliminating Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, and Mexico and South Korea condemning reigning champions Germany to a group stage elimination for the first time in history. Iceland displayed once again why the Viking Clap has taken the World by storm in their first World Cup appearance, and who would’ve expected Croatia, a nation the size of Oregon, to storm their way to the final, squashing superstar Lionel Messi on the way. The Blue Samurais of Japan and their raucous fans qualified from the group stage taking advantage of the first ever “fair play” qualification, and were minutes away from silencing Belgium’s golden generation. In the past month, Russia became the battleground for those who are small in population and stature, but heavy of heart.

Kylian Mbappe: The Apotheosis

Kylian Mbappe has officially become the heir to Messi and Ronaldo’s throne after this tournament. Even his most staunch doubters cannot argue against his raw pace and finesse anymore, after he brutalized defender after defender down the right wing this tournament. Mbappe may be only 19, but he has just wrapped up a 160 million euro transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, where he will look to continue to make his mark on Ligue Un and the Champions League. However, with a World Cup medal to his name, an eventual Ballon d’Or just seems more and more likely. He will have to compete with PSG teammate Neymar for that honor, but if Mbappe can etch his name into history at the age of 19, who knows how far he can rise.

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Kylian Mbappe, already a legend. Image: Metro UK

Summer World Cups: Qatar 2022

This week, Fifa officially announced what had been in the works for a long time: the 2022 World Cup will take place between November and December of 2022, ending the tradition of a summer tournament. This appointment casts further doubts on the decision to anoint Qatar as the hosts, as this change to accommodate potentially deathly summer temperatures will certainly disrupt club competitions across the globe. With the 1,200 deaths suffered by migrant workers building Qatari stadiums so far, one must wonder why FIFA would go so out of the way to accommodate a country with such a plethora of issues. For decades, the World Cup has been a football fan’s summer delight, yet that will be no more.

Top Class Football

Be prepared to wake up tomorrow, the morning of July 16th, rubbing your eyes and making your way down towards the television only to find the pinnacle of the beautiful game replaced by reruns of daytime soap operas. No longer will we be able to start our days with a healthy serving of golazos and silky passing. No more Colombian salsa dancing, no more last minute goal celebrations and no more river of manly tears streaming down the face of a freshly eliminated player. Regardless of shady political connections, the World Cup gives fans the chance to experience high stakes drama and elite soccer from the world’s top players almost every day. Having that be replaced by repeats of Family Feud is truly a slap in the face. Fret not however…club fútbol is right around the corner.


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