WHAT A FINAL! This World Cup has been amazing and this final had everything a football fan could want. France opened the scoring in the 18th minute after Mandzukić deflected the ball into his own net via a Griezmann cross. The goal came against the run of play as Croatia had created the better chances. Perisić soon equalised for Croatia with a brilliant goal in the 28th minute. Perisić was again involved in the 38th minute after handling the ball in his penalty box. The decision was referred to VAR and the referee decided that it was a penalty, whether it was a penalty is up for discussion but in my personal opinion it was because it came directly of the cross. France went into half time 2-1 up but Croatia played the better game. Croatia continued to attack as the game carried on and France having the lead decided to play on the counter as spaces opened up. Pogba added France’s third goal in the 59th minute after his initial shot rebounded of the defender and he curled the next shot in. Croatia poured more men forward and France added their fourth on the counter via Mbappé whose brilliant shot found the net in the 65th minute. Mandzukić got one back for Croatia in the 69th minute after Lloris was found napping on the ball, but what can you can expect from a Spurs player. The rest of the game continued in similar fashion as Croatia gave it their all and France defended well to lift the 2018 FIFA World Cup!.
Mbappé was named Young Player of the Tournament, Modrić was given the golden ball for his amazing performances throughout the tournament, Harry Kane got the golden shoe after scoring 6 goals and thereby continuing his trend of outscoring players but never winning anything, and Courtois was awarded the golden glove.
The World Cup came to an end and with that the countdown to 2022 began, four years from now new players would have emerged, several players would have retired and new technologies will be in use, but this World Cup was something else. The atmosphere was amazing, the football was epic, VAR was used properly and gave a good account of itself to the fans, and Russia did a fantastic job of hosting the competition.
Now as the players who reached the latter stages of the competition take rest, we as football fans will pivot to club football and if this summer’s transfer window is anything to go by then this season could be the best yet!
Belgium beat England for the second time this tournament to take home the bronze medal for this World Cup. Meunier opened the scoring in the 4th minute and Eden Hazard sealed the deal with brilliant goal in the 82nd minute. England created quite a few chances but failed to convert any of them. England have still done extremely well to reach this place in the tournament and their target will be the 2022 and 2020 tournaments. Belgium are steadily improving and the Euro’s and World Cup will be the final tournaments for Belgium’s current golden generation.
France play Croatia in the final of the World Cup. At the beginning of the tournament I felt that France could be one of the teams to reach the final, but I never expected Croatia to reach it. France have beaten top teams to reach the final and in all honesty are favourites to lift the trophy on Sunday. Croatia have been dark horses throughout and have shown two sides to their gameplay, being able to pulverise teams while also being able to grind out results through penalties. France and Croatia had a counter attacking approach to their semi-finals and I expect the same for the final as well. If a goal is scored early then expect the game to be an open affair while if the game drags out without a goal then expect it to be a cagier game. After the disappointment at the Euros 2 years ago France will be taking this final very seriously and in all honesty even though Croatia have done extremely well to reach this far I can only see France lifting the trophy. France to win but it should be a physical and tough match for both teams.
These two teams meet again for the bronze medal game after having played each other in the group stage with nothing at stake. Belgium went out against France after a lacklustre performance from some of their stars while England went out after having lost fuel as the game progressed. The game is not ideal for both teams as they would prefer to go home but a medal is better than no medal. We could very well see a replay of the group game where it was basically the two teams B squads playing against each other. Hopefully the managers feel that they owe their fans a spectacle and each team starts their top players. This game has a interesting vibe around it and while it could be close England might edge ahead to grab the medal.
It’s not coming home, while as the tournament it started to look increasingly likely. England got the perfect start to the game as Trippier scored a Beckhamesque free-kick to give the British a lead in the 5th minute. England continued to dominate the whole first half creating several chances to double or triple the scoreline but not being clinical enough. As England came out for the second half still in the lead Croatia had begun to grow into the game and Modrić was beginning to run the show from midfield. Perisić scored a brilliant goal to equalise in the 68th minute and England began for the first time in this tournament to dwindle. The game stretched to extra time and Mandzukić gave Croatia the lead in the 109th minute having a scored a poacher’s goal. England tried to get back into the game but as the stat’s showed Croatia were comfortably dominating all areas of the pitch at that point. England bow out, at the beginning of the tournament expectations were that if they got out of the group stage then they would have done well. England exceeded those expectations with an inexperienced squad who managed to reach the Semi-finals. For England it will hurt but this tournament will provide much needed experience to the players and for the upcoming Euros in two years and the World Cup in four years they should be raring to go. Croatia have been the dark horses and they have managed to reach the final against France, defensively they have been strong and they have managed to pull through in every occasion. Belgium against England for the third place game while the final follows on the next day.
Belgium started the better of the two sides in the semi-final and for the opening 20 minutes they dominated possession and created several chances but failed to convert them. France slowly grew into the game and while Belgium were playing a more possession based game France preferred to play on the counter. The first half went through without any major talking points just a lot of missed chances by both sides. A corner in the 51st minute led to Umtiti’s powerful header which gave France the lead. France continued to counter but failed to convert their chances, Belgium began to keep hold of the ball but failed to enter the penalty box. Giroud clearly fouled Hazard right outside the box in the latter stages of the game but the foul was not given. This further aggravated the Belgium’s and similar to how Chelsea play they kept of hold of the ball without creating any chances. At the end of the game the better team won, the referee did make some dubious decisions but France were clinical and took their chance. Hazard ran the show but was not at his clinical best while De Bruyne and Lukaku were non existent for large parts of the game. Belgium still have a youthful side and most of these players will at least play another World Cup, hopefully the experience will do them well.
France enter the final as heavy favourites and after having reached the Euro 2016 final as well we might be seeing an era of French dominance.
Croatia have silently gone under the radar to reach the semi-final’s as attention has mainly been on the likes of England, Belgium, France etc. Croatia beat the likes of Argentina to reach the knockout phase and have since won both their games on penalties. England came into the tournament with relatively modest expectations, making the knockout phase and maybe the Quarter-Finals would have been enough, but that has not been the case. After being handed a relatively easy group they have gone on to play Colombia who they beat on penalties and easily dispatched Sweden. Compared to the other teams in the competition England have had the easiest run to the final stages. This is Croatia’s golden generation and for several of these players it might be their last World Cup while for many of England’s players it is their first. England and Croatia are brilliant all over the pitch and this game could reach penalties although if it is to be sorted in 90 minutes then the weakest defence will lose. England to reach the final.
The first semi final comes to us from Saint Petersburg as Euro 2016 finalists France take on Belgium’s golden generation of football. France have had to beat some strong competition to reach the semi-final namely Argentina and Uruguay while Belgium faced a strong Japan side as well as tournament favourites Brazil. This is game is too close to call because these teams are equally matched in almost every way. France and Belgium both have strong squads and quality around the pitch, both have beaten top opposition to reach this stage, and both have had positive and at times shaky performances on the pitch. This game could just come down to which goalie is not in top form during the game. Lloris has been known to have his moments in front of goal and while Courtois was amazing Brazil and this tournament in general, he has let in a few easy goals in the past season. In such a close game the forward lines of both nations will have to be clinical in the chances they create, both teams play an attacking brand of football although both teams can also play on the counter as they have plenty of pace. While this has been the best French team in a while, the Belgium side is going through a period of years in which they have a team filled with stars. Too many great players in two great teams but, Belgium might edge into the final.
England dominated the game when it came to possession, shots on target and most importantly goal. Maguire gave England the lead in the 30th minute with a powerful header. Sweden seemed to have not shown up for the game and their performance reinforced the idea that their qualification had a big factor of luck involved. Dele Alli scored another trademark header to double England’s lead in the 58th minute. England move into the semi-finals are now two steps away from bringing it home.
Russia 2 (3) – (4) 2 Croatia
In a firecracker of a game Russia fought to take the game to penalties but fell at the final hurdle. Croatia began by dominating game but Cheryshev gave Russia the lead in the 31st minute with an amazing driven shot. Croatia kept dominating the game and Kramarić levelled in the 39th minute with a header. With all their possession and shots on goal Croatia failed to convert any of that into goals and so the game entered extra time. Vida gave Croatia the lead in the 100th minute which silenced the whole stadium but Russia had other plans. The crowd began to roar as they were encouraged by the players and the manager. Dzagoev crossed the ball in the 115th minute which was met by Fernandes’s head to equalise for the Russians and send the game into penalties. Smolov’s shot was saved while Brozović scored. Dzagoev scored and Kovacić missed to level the score. Fernandes missed and Modrić scored. Ignashevich scored while Vida also scored. Kuzayev converted Russia’s final penalty but Rakitić also managed to score to send Croatia into the semi-final’s. Russia have had an amazing World Cup and have scored some amazing goals. They exceeded expectations by reaching the Quarter-Final’s after many expected them to not make it out of the group. Croatia grind out another result and come up against a confident England side with nothing to lose.
France dominated possession but had the teams had equal chances in what was a close Quarter Final. France started the livelier of the two teams but Uruguay grew into the game which provided some great attacking football from both sides. France got the lead in the 40th minute after Varane rose highest to head the ball into the goal. Uruguay clearly missed Cavani during this game and did not look as sharp up front as they have in previous games. Uruguay had it all to do in the second half but it was France who doubled their lead in the 61st minute after a Griezmann shot was comically deflected by Muslera into his own goal. France defended brilliantly in the final minutes of the game to seal passage into the semi-finals. This World Cup has been the last one for several players and for Cavani, Suarez, Godin, and a few others it could be their final one. France go on and are now a game away from the final in Moscow.
Brazil 1 vs. 2 Belgium
In what was a brilliant tactical plan by Roberto Martinez, Belgium progressed into the semi-finals having beat tournament favourites Brazil. From the very start of the game there was brilliant end to end attacking football although Belgium seemed to be soaking more of the pressure as they played on the counter attack. One of these attacks led to a corner which gave Belgium the lead in the 13th minute after Fernandinho flicked the ball into his own net. Brazil responded brightly and continued to attack but Belgium countered well. Lukaku broke through the Brazilian midfield to pass to De Bruyne outside the box, De Bruyne brilliantly shot from distance to double Belgium’s lead in the 31st minute. As the game progressed in the second half Brazil began to gain more possession of the ball and thereby created more chances but while there were 27 shots in total only 9 were on target during the game. Brazil got a goal back in the 76th minute via Renato Augusto. Belgium held on and they made it to the semi-final’s while Neymar and Brazil went out with barely a whimper. Belgium will be relishing their game against France and will be once again involved in the showpiece game of the round. The front three of Hazard, Lukaku, and De Bruyne linked up well and rotated amongst the positions to provide problems to Brazil, although I could see a different tactical setup against a confident French team.