World Cup 2018 – ‘Best Ever’?

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.

Kylian Mbappe - Image courtesy of Getty Images
Kylian Mbappe – Image courtesy of Getty Images

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;

  1. 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?

  1. 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?

  1. 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?
  2. 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.

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.

France - World Cup 2018 Winners
France – World Cup 2018 Winners

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:

  1. Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal vs Iran)
  2. Denis Cheryshev ( Russia vs Croatia)
  3. Benjamin Pavard ( France vs Argentina)
  4. Philippe Coutinho ( Brazil vs Switzerland)
  5. Musa Idriss ( 1st goal – Nigeria vs Iceland)

Top 5 Brands:

FIFA - Brand Partners and Sponsors - Image courtesy of
FIFA – Brand Partners and Sponsors – Image courtesy of
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. CocaCola – 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.



Figures from ; additional info from and and Twitter account @Sporf

World Cup 2018 – 1st Round – 5 of Our Best Moments

By Richard Wanjohi

29th June 2018 , two weeks and the World Cup’s biggest extravaganza takes it’s first break as it gets to the knock-out round. Funny how time flies fast when you’re having fun. It’s been a flurry of action, emotions, disappointment and triumph depending on where your interests lie.

As promised, we’ll look at the 5 best moments so far from the World Cup action in Russia thus far. Let’s get kickin’;

  1. Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland (Group H): Being only their second World Cup, Senegal came into this with a steely determination to prove they are no mere walkovers. In 2002, they started with the famous win over France.
    Senegal’s Aliou Cisse shows us why they are the Lions of Teranga

    In 2018, Poland was more fancied and at worst, the game was likely to be a draw. The Lions of Teranga had other ideas – even with the contentious second goal that the Polish team bitterly complained about.

  2. South Korea’s win 2-0 over Germany in Group F: South Korea qualified for the 2018 WC for the 9th consecutive time. They have been one of the hardest working teams with the players showing a rare work rate and runs all over the pitch. As Manuel Neuer of Germany who made the mistake of chasing a goal for Germany only to leave an empty net for Son Heung-Min. That the Koreans were already on their way out but still found the strength to score 2 goals in added/injury time speaks volumes. Germany continued ignominy of defending World Cup champions eliminated in the first round ( joining Spain from 2014, Italy in 2010 and France in 2002).
  3. Portugal and Spain’s 3-3 draw in Group B: Being among the first games of the championship, there was huge expectation of a tough game for both European foes. With the current European champions Portugal facing the immediate former European champs Spain, it was a goal fest and sight to see. Helped in part by goalkeeping errors and the work ethic of top strikers Diego Costa (Spain) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) it did live up to its billing. Spain had just sacked their immediate coach and Fernando Hierro took over a team even before kicking the ball – talk of baptism by fire.
    SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 15:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores a free-kick for his team's third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
    SOCHI, RUSSIA – JUNE 15: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores a free-kick for his team’s third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

    On other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo has won scored many goals and won many trophies , is it his time to pick up the world’s most recognizable one?

  4. Iceland’s 1-1 draw with Argentina (Group D):

    The Nordic state of Iceland qualified for the 2018 World Cup as one of two first-timers for the edifice. Coming up against one of the most formidable teams, favourites and 2014 finalists, Argentina seemed like an overkill for the Icelanders. Argentina’s strike force is any coach’s envy but this did not overawe the smallest state participating. To hold them to a single goal helped keep the folklore of their journey into the championship. They have one of the best fan base and who doesn’t love the viking chant, too bad they left us at the Group stages…

  5. Russia’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in Group A: Hosting an event of such magnitude is no mean feat. Coming into the championship as dark, dark horses is also not easy – your own President doesn’t have much hope in your abilities and potent. Opening the games, two substitutes later and voila! Even the loudest of critiques swallow their words. Will they settle for 2nd as Sweden did in 1958 while hosting the event? In 1978 Argentina hosted and won the World Cup. In 1998 France hosted the championships and presto won it for the first time, twenty-years on, is this Russia’s time?

1st of July, the knock-out phase OR Round of 16 starts…may the best team(s) win!