Let’s take a second to talk about the 2018 World Cup. I’d completely forgotten about it this Summer, what with everything else that’s been going on, but it seems like it’s been a pretty interesting tournament.
Italy were the biggest side not to even qualify after finishing 2nd in Group 7 of the European Qualifiers and getting knocked out of their play-off match by the Netherlands. The tie finished 4-3 on aggregate after the Netherlands turned it around with an impressive 3-0 win in the second leg.
England were the only side to qualify from the UK & Ireland, and promptly finished bottom of Group A below the Ivory Coast, Australia and host nation Russia, whose home advantage didn’t save them when Australia, who had an identical record to them in the group, were automatically chosen to proceed to the knockout stages at Russia’s expense.
There were some surprise faces in the Group Stage too. Uzbekistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Qatar all made it to Russia, but were all sent packing before the knockout stages began.
Without any other major surprises in the Group stage, the second round got underway. The USA, Spain, France (After extra time) and Portugal all progressed at the expense of Australia, Austria, Switzerland and our new resident nation Poland, while the 2 biggest South American nations, Brazil and Argentina, both went out against the Netherlands and Belgium respectively. Uruguay went one better than their neighbours, beating the Ivory Coast to progress to the quarter finals, but Belgium knocked them out too. Elsewhere in the quarters, Germany beat the Dutch, Spain knocked out the USA and France took a second extra time win in as many games against Portugal.
Germany got themselves past Belgium and France beat Spain to set up a tense final in Moscow, which France won on penalties despite Dimitri Payet’s 92nd minute red card.
So yeah, France are World Champions for the first time in 20 years. Man United’s Paul Pogba, who scored the champions’ only goal in the final, also won the competition’s Best Player award. Real Madrid’s 2017 £87M signing Eden Hazard and Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté came 2nd and 3rd respectively.
The Best Young Player award went to Portugal’s and PSG’s Gonçalo Guedes, an extremely talented young man who scored 3 goals and set up another 3 in only 4 matches.
Thibaut Courtois won the Best Goalkeeper award despite his Belgium side conceding 11 goals in 7 games in a style that’s being described globally as “Classic Martinez”.
And Edinson Cavani won the Golden Boot with 4 goals, but ahead of Paul Pogba by virtue of playing fewer matches. Guedes was in 3rd place.
The Dream Team doesn’t hold many surprises given everything that I’ve just told you, apart from the fact that Guedes is only named on the bench. But then, he had some serious competition. 6 of the 8 defence and midfield spots are made up of French players: Djibril Sidibé, Samuel Umtiti, Laurent Koscielny, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté and Antoine Griezmann. Raphaël Guerreiro of Portugal and Dortmund takes the other spot in defence, while Eden Hazard is the other man named in midfield. Courtois is in net of course, and Cavani is picked up front with his chompy compatriot Luis Suárez.
So that’s the 2018 World Cup then. Vive la France. I very, very nearly forgot to tell you about it but that’s just what happens when you spend half your Summer on the phone to your bastard of an ex-Chairman, and the other half getting peer-pressured into drinking pints of draft Wodka in the pub below your flat.
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