The 2018 World Cup concluded on Sunday with a fittingly frantic final between France and Croatia. The ball bulged the goal netting six times, making it the highest scoring final since 1958 and France were left with the smiles on their faces, the medals around their necks and the World Cup trophy in their hands. The Croatian players may have been dejected, but images that came from the country showed that their people could hardly feel any different. This generation has surpassed the class of 1998, who were also the first to represent Croatia in a World Cup. But, as exciting as the final was, this tournament simply can’t be remembered for that due to the number of giant-felling, goal-fests and nail-biting penalty shootouts we have seen before it.
France are here to stay
This World Cup victory could mark a golden age of sorts for the French national team. Among those that started on Sunday, only Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi and Hugo Lloris are in their 30s while only N’Golo Kante and Antoine Griezmann were above 27. France had the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Corentin Tolisso, Nabil Fekir and Benjamin Mendy among their subs. They are some of the most sought-after talents in club football and they are all below the age of 25. France is a country that is teeming with footballing talent.
Strength on paper means nothing
Germany are the greatest example of a team that came in with a truckload of big names and left empty handed. Any of their players, including the ones that were dropped, could easily make the squads if they were playing for the other teams that were in Germany’s group. And yet, they were dumped out early. Brazil showed the flair it should possess considering the kind of names they have on their roster in their final group match and in the Round of 16 but were completely outclassed by Belgium in the quarter-finals. Spain’s star-studded squad were blocked and beaten by 70th ranked Russia. Argentina tumbled around cluelessly before finally being knocked out by the eventual champions. All these teams had names that can be usually found in the latter stages of the Champions League every year. None of that mattered in the World Cup.
World Cup is not a trial ground (VAR)
FIFA was criticised for its decision to include VAR in the World Cup and after the tournament, the criticism stands. It may have made some right decisions but at the same time, there were many instances when it looked VAR was as open to human error as an on-field referee would be. The World Cup is the biggest football tournament there could possibly be and it should not have been used as a trial ground for a technology as untested as the VAR.
Messi vs Ronaldo is a flop on the international stage
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have ruled the roost for over a decade and a World Cup trophy was the only piece of silverware missing from their trophy cabinets. Russia 2018 could well have been the last chance they had to change that but it was not to be with Portugal and Argentina being eliminated in the Round of 16. Ronaldo was in imperious form in the group stage but could not take his team past the Round of 16. Messi, whose brilliance is one of the main reasons Argentina qualified for the World Cup, could do precious little with a disjointed and ageing squad with him. Instead, this tournament gave a glimpse into what a post-Messi vs Ronaldo world would look like.
Ailing South America
Russia 2018 featured an all-European semi-final. Among the South American teams, Brazil were the only ones who looked capable of going all the way but they were completely outclassed by Belgium in the quarter-final and the same could be said about Uruguay against France. Argentina looked disjointed and unsure of themselves throughout the tournament. Colombia just about made it to the Round of 16 where they resorted to playing dirty once pushed by England and fell in the penalty shootout. Chile didn’t even make it to the tournament. This tournament would probably be seen as a chance for many of these South American countries to embark on an overhaul of their approach towards setting up their national squads.