France won the 2018 World Cup with a 4-2 victory over Croatia in the Final on Sunday. This was dubbed by many as “the Best World Cup Ever” and it is hard to argue with that sentiment. There was excitement throughout the tournament and numerous surprises. Before the tournament, it was easy to be skeptical about the World Cup as 5 of the Top 25 teams in the world rankings did not qualify. But once the tournament began, it lived up to the hype as the world’s greatest sporting event. Some storylines that we thought would be big (like the institution of VAR) turned out to be small factors and for the most part made the correct decisions. FOX’s coverage of their first World Cup got slammed, but in comparison to their debut coverage of the U.S. Open, it wasn’t that bad. Thankfully no major incidents occurred in Russia during the tournament, allowing the play on the field to dominate the storylines.
- France was deserving champions. They had a roster loaded with talent that came together and did not lose a game the entire tournament. Their listless draw against Denmark was the only match they did not win in regulation.
- Croatia shocked many with their run to the final, but they also dominated a group which featured Argentina, Nigeria, and Iceland. Luca Modric was outstanding and has certainly put himself at the front of the Ballon d’Or.
- Argentina was tactically a disaster and miraculously made it through the group stage thanks to a late goal over Nigeria. That said, their only losses were to finalist Croatia in group play and a 4-3 defeat by Champions France.
- England made believers out of many with their run to the semifinals. The Three Lions have a dearth of young talent. Not only did they reach the semifinals in Russia, but their youth teams won the U-20 and U-17 World Cups in recent years. While this tournament may have ended in disappointment, the future is bright.
- Belgium had the best offense of the tournament, but when it mattered the most could not find a goal against France. Nevertheless, this was the best finish ever for the Red Devils.
- Sweden won the “Group of Death” and reached the quarterfinals, proving that there is life after Zlatan. Emil Forsberg is a star in the making in the midfield.
- What could have been for Colombia? They put themselves in a bad position by taking an early red card then losing to Japan. After barely squeaking through to the knockout stage, they held a lead against England on penalty kicks then missed two in a row, allowing England to advance.
- Even though no African teams advanced, Senegal won the hearts of many with their fun and fast play. If they had held on for a draw against Colombia they would have reached the knockout stage, but wound up losing on Fair Play Points.
- Cristiano Ronaldo was the early star, with a hat trick to earn Portugal a draw with Spain. Ultimately, the two Iberian nations who many thought had a chance for a deep run bowed out in the Round of 16, mostly due to an inability to make tactical adjustments.
- Uruguay did not allow a goal during the group stage and it would have been interesting to see if they could have solved the French defense in the quarterfinals if Edison Cavani had been available. Also, Luis Suarez didn’t bite anyone, so I guess that’s progress.
- The host nation typically out-performs expectations at the World Cup, and Russia was no different. They were an offensive powerhouse through two games then surprisingly toppled Spain in a shootout before falling to Croatia on penalties. Their run to the quarterfinals was the best since the USSR took 4th place in 1966.
- Seven straight World Cups, seven straight losses in the Round of 16 for Mexico. After a strong start with wins over Germany and South Korea, they did not score a goal in their last two matches.
- Speaking of Germany, the curse of the “Defending Champions” patch is real. The last Defending World Cup Champion to make it out of the Group Stage was Brazil in 2006.
Best Tweets Of The World Cup
With limited/no World Cup video for our show, we will improvise. My daughter drew Saudi Arabia/Russia for last night. Could have been worse than 5-0. Saudi’s only had one guy. Anyway…send your (kids?) art to #DrawTheWorldCup and we’ll pick a few each day. pic.twitter.com/RUXFhkUlYZ
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) June 15, 2018
Suarez biting another person sure seems unlikely, but you'd have said the same thing before he went and bit a second and third person.
— Guillotinho (@comradeyouspurs) June 15, 2018
The Iberian Derby lived up to the hype.
the VAR ruling here rests on the little known FIFA bylaw "because he did it to Pepe it's ok"
— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) June 15, 2018
Spain tried to get in Ronaldo’s head…
Bravo ??….dropping this the day of their #WorldCup game: “Cristiano Ronaldo pleads guilty and reaches an agreement with Spain’s tax agency: 2 years of a suspended jail sentence and €18.8m in fines”. https://t.co/rcxCKlhJO5
— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) June 15, 2018
…but then Ronaldo did this:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 16, 2018
The Portuguese Pulisic gets it done.
— Nicholas Mendola (@NicholasMendola) June 15, 2018
Morocco lost to Iran on an Own Goal then lost the 2026 World Cup bid to the joint USA/Mexico/Canada bid.
I think this has already been decided, in a rout more decisive than 5-0. https://t.co/fHaIOqUpNc
— Michael DeCourcy (@tsnmike) June 15, 2018
Morocco 0-2 on the week
— Ben Swain (@TheBenSwain) June 15, 2018
The Group Stage was fun.
Reminder that Peru's manager looks like Rumplestiltskin from Once Upon A Time.
— The Steelers n'at (@thesteelersnat) June 16, 2018
England trying to win on heart while completely ignoring sensible tactics is the most Jon Snow thing ever
— Ben Swain (@TheBenSwain) June 18, 2018
Senegal's Aliou Cissé with one of the great World Cup coaching celebrations. You may meme this if you would like, internets. pic.twitter.com/zVkaWiotky
— Miriti Murungi (@NutmegRadio) June 19, 2018
Ronaldo growing a goatee and celebrating goals by grabbing imaginary goat whiskers—in response to Messi’s G.O.A.T. portrait with a real live goat—is my favorite petty World Cup subplot ? https://t.co/8ef6cepP94
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 20, 2018
It seems like the key is to always fire your coach before the tournament!
— Sean's Ramblings (@seansramblings) June 26, 2018
We even got a reminder that Diego Maradona is still Diego Maradona.
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) June 26, 2018
Love the shot of Diego Maradona using both hands to count the number of Argentina goals for the fans below
— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) June 26, 2018
Germany shocked the world by bowing out in the Group Stage.
I mean Germany suffering a humiliating defeat in Russia, who could've seen that coming?
— Alex Olshansky (@atosoccer) June 27, 2018
I picked Virginia to win the NCAA hoops tournament and Germany to win the World Cup. No wonder people call me the smartest sports fan they’ve ever met.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) June 27, 2018
Once we got to the knockout stage, it got even better.
Don’t cry 4-3 Argentina
— Falkland Islands (@falklands_utd) June 30, 2018
Rather than Messi and Ronaldo facing off in the #WorldCup quarterfinals next weekend, they get to face off on the golf course instead
— The Steelers n'at (@thesteelersnat) June 30, 2018
we lost to people who eat beans on toast……. what the fuck…………….
— g a b y (@gabydvj) July 3, 2018
That couldn’t have been more English if the Queen had headed the own goal past Dr. Who.
— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) July 3, 2018
First time England has benefitted from a shootout since the Burr-Hamilton duel deprived America of Hamilton's leadership in the War of 1812.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) July 3, 2018
Congrats England on a great July 3rd win!!! #WorldCup. And pre-congratulations USA on a win over England on July 4th!!
— Eric Stangel (@EricStangel) July 3, 2018
Some England fans jumped the gun a bit…
— Peter Wilson (@peteyw09) July 10, 2018
Unlucky Belgium, your World Cup journey isn’t over yet tho, still got your 3rd/4th place match against Croatia on Saturday
— Jamie (@jamie_elford21) July 10, 2018
Russia and Croatia playing for the right to play in the 3rd/4th place playoff game Saturday.
— Adam BARLOW (@ferretimp) July 7, 2018
No matter the outcome, never forget that England blew a 13-0 lead to the Colonies
— David Gardner (@byDavidGardner) July 11, 2018
— Steel Dad (@SteelDad) July 15, 2018
France add a second star to their crest! ⭐️⭐️ pic.twitter.com/Zs4YG2gME0
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 15, 2018
SCB Golden Ball
N’Golo Kante (FRA)
Choosing a defensive midfielder isn’t the sexiest pick for the Golden Ball, but Kante was absolutely the best player at this World Cup. Against Belgium, he (at times) single-handedly defended against the best attacking team in the tournament. Kante’s play in breaking up progress through the midfield and shuttling balls forward was a huge part of France’s success. Additionally, he marked some of the best players in the world during this tournament and shut them down.
Honorable Mentions: Luca Modric (CRO), Eden Hazard (BEL), De Bruyne (BEL)
SCB Golden Glove
Thibaut Courtois (BEL)
The Belgians had the highest-scoring offense in the tournament, but also had the best keeper on the back end. Courtois made a number of saves at key junctures – particularly against Japan and Brazil – to keep the Red Devils in the game. He had two amazing saves against Japan then capped off the game with his outlet pass after a free kick that sprung a break through the midfield which ended in the winning goal. Against Brazil, he made a diving save down the stretch with Brazil trailing by 1 to preserve Belgium’s lead and get them through to the semifinals.
Honorable Mentions: Hugo Lloris (FRA), Jordan Pickford (ENG)
SCB Best Young Player
Kylian Mbappe (France)
This was a runaway. Not even close. The 19-year old Mbappe exploded onto the international scene as one of the top attacking threats in the tournament. He scored two goals in a 5-minute span against Argentina to break open a tied game and put France ahead for good. His aggressive runs put constant pressure on opposing defenses and his speed was a difference-maker for the French.
SCB Best Games
Group Stage: Spain 3, Portugal 3
The second day of World Cup play featured the back-and-forth battle of the Iberian Derby. The first two games of the day were relative snoozers with Urugay scoring in the 89th minute to top Egypt and Iran scoring on a Moroccan own goal in the 95th minute. We did not have to wait nearly as long in this one with Cristiano Ronaldo drawing a penalty and converting in the 4th minute of the game. Spain got even with Diego Costa’s coal in the 24th minute after he strong-armed Pepe then used some masterful footwork to get free. La Roja nearly took the lead just a few minutes later but VAR determined the ball hit the crossbar and the goal line and did not entirely cross into the goal. Portugal would re-take the lead in the 44th minute as a Ronaldo blast from the top of the box would trickle past David de Gea. Spain came out determined after the half and drew even with a set piece goal where the free kick was volleyed back to the middle where Costa blasted it in. Spanish defender Nacho would redeem himself for taking the early penalty against Ronaldo by striking a ball out of the air and blasting it into the net for a 3-2 Spain lead just 3 minute later. Nacho’s strike was immediately being called the Goal of the Tournament, but that distinction would only last for 30 minutes. In the 88th minute, Portugal won a free kick and Ronaldo delivered once again. His hat trick goal was one of the best free kicks you’ll ever see, bending it around the top of the wall and into the net to tie the game for Portugal.
This game lived up to the hype.
Catch all the highlights from an epic Portugal-Spain game in our 90' in 90" ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/fHpaH4Fnov
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
Knockout Stage: Belgium 3, Japan 2
For a team that had sacked their manager just months before the tournament began, not much was expected of Japan. They surprisingly advanced out of Group H based on Fair Play Points (more on that in a minute) and no one gave them a chance against mighty Belgium. After a scoreless first half, it was Japan that opened the scoring with not one but TWO goals in the first ten minutes of the second half. A stunned Belgium team needed a few massive saves from Courtois to keep them in it. Jan Vertonghen scored to cut the lead in half in the 69th minute them Marouane Fellaini delivered a massive header in the 74th minute to pull even. Both teams exchanged chances down the stretch and the game looked destined for extra time. Japan got a free kick in the waning minutes and after a save, Courtois sprung the attack forward with a quick pass. Dashing through the midfield, Belgium suddenly had a break on Japan’s defense and Lukaku dummied acceptance of a pass through the box to stall the defense, allowing the ball to roll through to Nacer Chadli who banged it home. Pandemonium ensued as Belgium came from 2 goals back to win at the death in the 94th minute.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 3, 2018
SCB Best Group
Group H was largely considered the weakest group before the tournament but produced some of the most exciting games. Poland was the “seeded” team in the group and was eliminated after the second round of games. The first game saw Colombia take an early red card and go down to Japan. With only 10 men, Colombia battled back to tie before halftime but Japan scored a winner in the second half. After that, an upstart Senegal team showed a fun and fast attacking style of soccer in their 2-1 win over Poland. The two winners (Japan and Senegal) would play to a 2-2 draw while Colombia would eliminate Poland by a 3-0 score, finally getting to play with all 11 men.
Poland was eliminated heading into the last game, but any combination of Japan, Senegal, and Colombia could advance. Poland scored in the 59th minute to go ahead of Japan, meaning Senegal and Colombia only needed to play to a draw in order for both to advance. But 15 minutes later Yerry Mina scored on a set piece for Colombia and Senegal was not able to find a goal for the rest of the game. This put Colombia on top of the group while Senegal and Japan were dead even on tiebreakers. This sent the tie to “Fair Play Points” based on the number of yellow and red cards received by each team. Japan had received fewer cards and was awarded the spot in the knockout stage while Senegal went home. While both Japan and Colombia lost in the round of 16, they both gave scares to their Group G opponents with Japan taking a 2-0 lead on Belgium and Colombia forcing a shootout against England then taking a slim lead after an England miss. Ultimately, Belgium stormed back to beat Japan and England topped Colombia, but we will not forget Senegal and their enjoyable performances and celebrations either.
SCB Biggest Surprises
Group Stage: Germany finishing last in their group
Germany, the defending World Cup and Confederations Cup Champions, not only failed to advance to the knockout stage for the first time since 1978, but somehow also finished last in their group. The Germans got off to a rough start with a 1-0 loss to Mexico then seemingly redeemed themselves with a late free kick goal to salvage a win over Sweden. Heading into the final game, Germany needed a win over South Korea to advance. But Germany could not find a way through South Korea’s defense and conceded a late goal in the 93rd minute then a shocking second in the 96th minute with the entire squad pressing up the pitch. How historic was this? Germany had finished in the Top 3 in each of the last 4 World Cups and reached at least the quarterfinals in 9 straight World Cups. They were the top-ranked team in the world coming into the tournament. One would have to go back to 1938 to find a tournament where Germany did not advance out of the group stage.
Knockout Stage: Croatia’s run to the Final
Just 10 months ago, Croatia’s qualification to the World Cup was in jeopardy. Then they sacked manager Ante Cacic and replaced him with Zlatko Dalic who got a 2-0 win over Ukraine in Kiev to secure their spot in the UEFA playoff where they defeated Greece. Croatia was 40-1 odds to win the World Cup at the start of the tournament, and even after sweeping through a group with Argentina, Nigeria, and Iceland they were considered long shots. Croatia trailed in three straight knockout stage games, only to tie them. They beat Denmark and Russia on penalty kicks. Then they topped England in extra time to earn their first trip to a World Cup final in national team history. Despite losing to France, they made it further than anyone expected through strong tactical play and a team-centered approach.
SCB Team of the Tournament
Keeper: Thibaut Courtois (BEL)
Defense: Umtiti (FRA), Varane (FRA), Diego Godin (URU), Trippier (ENG)
Midfield: N’Golo Kante (FRA), Luca Modric (CRO), Kevin De Bruyne (BEL)
Forwards: Kylian Mbappe (FRA), Eden Hazard (BEL), Harry Kane (ENG)
Keeper: Hugo Lloris (FRA)
Defense: Yerry Mina (COL), Sime Vrsaljko (CRO), Danny Rose (ENG), Dejan Lovren (CRO)
Midfield: Denis Cheryshev (RUS), Ivan Perisic (CRO), Takashi Inui (JPN), Emil Forsberg (SWE)
Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (BEL), Antoine Griezmann (FRA)