Summary by Richard Wanjohi and SK’s armchair analysts.
Oh how time flies when you’re having fun…that’s the feeling with the last game of the 2018 World Cup. Croatia coming undone by their own little errors and hasty referee decisions, Le Bleus finding glory after 20 years to get their second star on their jerseys and for both Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe to claim individual honours for sterling performances.
Pundits have claimed this to be the ‘best World Cup’ in recent history or was it?
First things first. It was a World Cup of a number of firsts including;
- Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR) – the second or third eye, depending on how you’d want to look at it, became a phenomenon for the first time on a global scale. With the teething problems expected, every player and manager started insisting on using this even when it did not warrant. What was interesting though is while there were a number of penalty-kicks given, the supposed culprits were mostly not punished or it went unnoticed. It is important to note the VAR was initiated to help make decisions on penalties, red cards or mistaken identity.
22 penalties were scored out of 29 awarded, the highest-ever scored in a World Cup. Did VAR affect this?
- 4th Substitute – this was the case for the games that spilled over to the extra-time period. This was brought about seeking to give teams the oomph and urge to win the game in extra time and where this did not happen, seek to replace one goalkeeper with a more experienced penalty-stopper.
Of 6 games that went into extra-time, only 1 was won within this period. The other 5 went into the dreaded penalty kicks. Maybe it’s time for a return to Golden Goal rule?
- First held in Eastern Europe (and 2 Continents) – thanks to the expansive land that is Russia. The tournament spread across the country that could easily call Europe and Asia its home. Does that qualify it as the first to be held on two different continents?
- Fair Play to decide qualification – for the uninitiated, FIFA introduced a Fair Play method which sees teams try not accumulate yellow and red cards which cost them in later stages. This was the case for Senegal which saw them miss qualification with Japan taking its place after they tied on points and goal difference.
🎩 Ronaldo's Hattrick
🇩🇪 Germany Out In Groups
⏰ Late Winners
🎯 Worldie Strikes
⚽ Penalty Shootout Drama
📺 VAR Controversy
😱 Memorable KO Matches
🏴 England In The Semis
🏆 Harry Kane Golden Boot
🥇 6 Goal Thriller In Final
— SPORF (@Sporf) July 15, 2018
Group Stages and Round of 16:
The tournament kicked off with the hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia as a team with a mission. Off the blocks with 5-0 win meant it would see a good number of goals. The hosts held good spirit to advance to the knock-out stages.
African teams would find it hard done not to have a qualifying team – albeit the Senegalese losing on a Fair Play technicality. The favoured teams such as Nigeria and Egypt left it too late to make an impact in the tournament.
Asian teams also found the going tough with only Japan moving to the knock-out phases – and lose to semi-finalists and 3rd– placed Belgium.
Germany continued the ignominy of immediate previous winners being eliminated in the first round – following in the footsteps of France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014. Champions curse?
As it were Europe carried the day with 10/16 teams in the knock-out round of 16. South America had 5 and Asia 1.
Then there were 8-4-2: Quarter-Finals, Semis and Finals
Europe once again carried the day with 6/8 team playing out in the quarter-finals. Some argued the weather being a factor, others blamed it on the exhausting European leagues. Whatever they chose, this was surely taking a Eurocentric twist.
Russia had continued with their fairy tale chase of honours which were halted by eventual finalists and 2nd –placed Croatia in a cracker of a match. Favoured teams in Brazil and Uruguay were hastily shown the door.
The semis looked in both games as final-before-finals as France battled fellow-French speaking Belgium and Croatia sought to ride the English 3-lions into the finals. Pundits and TV rights holders would have loved a French-English Final but the Croats had other ideas.
The Final was a first for Croatia while it was the third appearance for the French. The latter having won 1998 and lost in 2006 came with their tails wagging. Croatia on the other hand were novices in this space and it showed in conceding fouls which eventually cost them the game. Their comeback wings were clipped even before launching by FIFA Young Player of the Tournament – Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and an own goal by Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic who later scored Croatia’s second – earning the infamy of scoring on both ends of the goals in a Final.
Final Score: France 4 – Croatia 2.
Awards & Quick Numbers:
- Luka Modric (Croatia) – Player of the Tournament (Golden Ball Award)
- Kylian Mbappe (France) – Young Player of the Tournament
- Harry Kane (England) – Highest Number of Goals Scored (Golden Boot) – 6 Goals
- Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) – Most Saves 27 – Goalkeeper of the Tournament
- Ivan Perisic (Croatia) – Most Distance Covered – 72 kms
- Sergio Ramos (Spain) – Most Passes – 485
- Neymar (Brazil) – Most Attempts – 27
- 169:- Total number of Goals Scored; (including 12 own-goals the highest-ever);
- 4:- Red Cards (one of the lowest in recent history)
- $ 38 Million for the World Cup Winners – France; $ 28 Million for 2nd Place – Croatia and $24 mill for 3rd place
- $791 Million – Total Prize Money paid out by FIFA in the 2018 World Cup
Our Top 5 Goals of the Tournament:
- Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal vs Iran)
- Denis Cheryshev ( Russia vs Croatia)
- Benjamin Pavard ( France vs Argentina)
- Philippe Coutinho ( Brazil vs Switzerland)
- Musa Idriss ( 1st goal – Nigeria vs Iceland)
Top 5 Brands:
- Nike – with at least 3 of the top 4 teams being in their stable, the biggest coup would appear to be Nigeria’s shirt design which sold out minutes after being officially released.
- Adidas – seems odd that the competing apparel brands should be in the top 5 but yes Adidas did have a few wins with the less sponsorship deals and Telcra ball design.
- Hisense – it may have come in for some poor showing in this part of the world, but it resonated well with its audiences on social media platforms and activations. Let’s see what numbers it makes in the next few years.
- Budweiser – being the only other drink sponsor of the World Cup, it had some work to do playing catch up with Coke. It did deliver some interesting campaigns and has been having positive conversations online.
- Coca–Cola – for a brand synonymous with the World Cup, they’ve not let their guard and slept on the job. They keep challenging other sponsoring brands on how best to leverage their sponsorship deals.