So after four weeks, 64 games and 169 goals, the World Cup has come to an end. There were shocks, sensational matches, and it all ended on Sunday with France taking home the world title after a 4-2 victory over Croatia in the final.
There is no doubting that this has been one of the greatest World Cups we have ever seen. Almost every game seemed to produce a memorable moment, and some of the football we have seen has been simply superb.
The tournament was full of drama. In the group stages, 2014 champions Germany were knocked out, following defeats to Mexico and South Korea. Argentina snuck through thanks to Marcos Rojo’s late volley against Nigeria, while Japan went through at Senegal’s expense in a battle decided by disciplinary record.
In the round of 16, France and Argentina produced one of the games of the tournament, with the French going through in a game lit up by Kylian Mbappe, while Belgium came from two goals down to beat Japan. Spain were the surprise casualties, as they were knocked out on penalties by hosts Russia. Another team to win on penalties were England, who had previously lost six shoot outs in a row before beating Colombia.
The quarter finals saw the favourites Brazil’s hopes of a sixth world title end with a defeat to Belgium, who produced one of the best performances of the World Cup to progress to the semis. It also saw the end for hosts Russia, who were dumped out by Croatia on penalties.
In the semi-finals, Belgium were denied their first ever final appearance by France, who reached their third final in six World Cups. In the other semi-final, England’s dreams of a first final since 1966 came to an end as Croatia reached their first final.
It was France who came away from the final with their second world title. They were much the better team on the day, and fully deserved their victory. Mario Mandzukic’s goal was the 169th scored in Russia, and here are the ten best.
10 Nacer Chadli v Japan
n their round of 16 match with Japan, Belgium came from two goals down to win 3-2, and they secured their win with a brilliant counter attacking goal in the final minute. It came straight from a Japan corner, which was caught by ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois, and bowled out into the path of Kevin de Bruyne. The Manchester City man carried the ball over the halfway line, before setting Thomas Meunier into space on the right. His cross was stepped over by Lukaku, leaving Chadli with the task of putting the ball into the net. It was a brilliant team goal, and worthy of winning any match.
9 Lionel Messi v Nigeria
There weren’t many high points for Argentina in Russia. It was a pretty disastrous tournament, that saw them exit at the round of 16, with a lot of discontent behind the scenes. Lionel Messi struggled to perform, and his side came into the game with Nigeria needing to win. And not long after the game began, we got Messi’s moment of magic. Ever Banega floated an excellent pass over the defence into the path of Messi, who controlled it beautifully on his thigh, knocked it ahead of himself, and fired past Francis Uzoho into the far corner.
8 Denis Cheryshev v Croatia
Russia surprised everyone at the tournament, perhaps even themselves. They progressed from the groups with a game to spare, before pulling off a brilliant win over Spain in the round of 16. They were beaten in the quarter finals by Croatia, but still scored one of the goals of the tournament in that match. After half an hour, Artem Dzyuba played a pass into the path of Cheryshev 25 yards out, who shifted it onto his left foot, before firing a superb shot into the top corner.
7 Toni Kroos v Sweden
It was a truly forgettable World Cup for Germany. They came into the tournament as holders, and many expected them to retain the title in Russia. However, after an opening game loss to Mexico, they were in desperate need of a win against Sweden. As the game entered the 95th minute, the scores were level at 1-1, and Germany had a free kick out on the left. Kroos, with the help of Marco Reus shifted the free kick slightly more central, before whipping an inch-perfect effort into the far corner and into the net
6 Jesse Lingard v Panama
Panama were arguably the poorest team at this World Cup. They were comfortably beaten by Belgium and England, and then lost to Tunisia in their final match. England wiped the floor with them, running out 6-1 winners. The third goal was the highlight though, and that was scored by Jesse Lingard. The Manchester United midfielder picked up the ball out on the left, played a clever one-two with Raheem Sterling, before curling a brilliant effort into the top corner.
5 Ricardo Quaresma v Iran
It took a while for Ricardo Quaresma to get a go at the World Cup. He missed out on selection for the opening two matches, but was bought into the side for the final group game with Iran. Quaresma has made a name for himself by scoring spectacular goals with the outside of his right foot, and he produced yet another one of those against Iran. He came in off the right wing, before brilliantly bending a shot into the far corner.
4 Nacho v Portugal
Of all the talent on the pitch in the group B game between Portugal and Spain, not many people would have expected Nacho to come up with a moment of brilliance. This was one of the games of the tournament, and had some of the goals of the tournament in it. With the game at 2-2, the ball broke to Nacho on the edge of the box, and he unleashed a stunning half volley from just outside the box, that came off the inside of the far post, and into the net.
3 Cristiano Ronaldo v Spain
However good Nacho’s goal was, it wasn’t even the best of the game. It was almost a one man show for Portugal in that game. And that man was inevitably Ronaldo. He had already scored two, one of which from the spot, when his side won a free kick just over 20 yards out in the final minute, 3-2 down. He stepped up, and brilliantly curled his shot up and over the wall, and into the top corner. It wasn’t his usual free kick technique either. He didn’t use his laces, he hit it with the inside of his foot, and hit it to perfection.
2 Angel di Maria v France
Argentina’s first half performance against France was a really poor one. They didn’t create many chances, they were slow in possession, and it looked likely that they would go in at half time a goal down. That was until di Maria picked the ball up around 30 yards out, moved it onto his left foot, and hit a rasping drive into the corner of the net. It was a terrific strike, but it was about as good as it got for Argentina at the World Cup, as they lost that second round match with France 4-3.
1 Benjamin Pavard v Argentina
A month ago, not many people would have expected Pavard to be the man to score the goal of the tournament. He was a little-known name when the World Cup began, but he produced one of the most memorable moments in Russia. When Theo Hernandez over hit a cross early on in the second half against Argentina, few would have expected what was to come. Pavard moved his body into a position where he was able to catch the ball to perfection, and hit it with power, and unerring accuracy that saw it drift from outside the line of the post into the top corner. It was a quite spectacular goal.