Another FIFA World Cup has come and gone but not without leaving the world with some surprising moments. Many of the favourites fell early in the competition leaving the dark horses with plenty of cause to be optimistic. Perhaps the earliest upset occurred when Mexico beat Germany in their first group game. Germany went into the World Cup as favourites, leaving everyone surprised and adding to the drama of the tournament. There is no doubt about it, the World Cup can be considered a success for many of the teams competing at the World Cup. Here are just a few of them that gained praise from around the world.
When Croatia faced France in the World Cup Final at Luzhniki Stadium, the event was hands-down the most important event sporting event in the history Croatia’s history. Much of the team’s success can be attributed to key players including Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic. Modric has also proved to be an invaluable leader as the team’s captain. As they progressed through the brackets of the World Cup, the team relied on extra time to pull out the wins needed to make it to the final against France. Initially, the Croatians did quite well in the first half proving why they deserved to be in the final. Dominating the early stages, Croatia relied on a pressing game. However, Croatia failed to convert their dominance into goals, and the class of France shone through. When France scored their 3rd goal, the team seemed rather dejected which was worsened by the fourth. A silver lining came following their defeat in the final, Luka Modric was voted as best player of the World Cup, winning the Golden Ball.
As the country to win the first ever World Cup in 1930, Uruguay also won a championship in 1950. While this really means little today, their best finish in recent years was 4th in 2010. At the last World Cup, they crashed out in the round of 16 with a 2-0 defeat to Colombia, so a defeat in the quarter final in 2018 is a definite improvement. Making it to the quarter finals, Uruguay eventually fell to winner France in a 0-2 defeat. However, their match against Portugal was memorable as it was dubbed the battle of the strikers with two of the world’s most talked about players, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez. In the end it was Edinson Cavani that clinched the win for Uruguay with breathtaking goals. Uruguay’s improvement is maybe not too much of a surprise, the figures suggest that they are on the rise, who knows, maybe they can go one step further in the next campaign.
Of the final 16 teams in the World Cup, Russia started with the lowest ranking. Their victory over Spain got them a spot in the quarter finals. This stunned many as Russia’s odds of winning the world cup were an astonishing 50-1. Of course, being the host of the team always provide some emotional momentum which could account for some their success. Their penalty shootout victory over the Spaniards will live long in the memory of the Russians. Spain, the 2010 World Cup winner, looked sharp early in the game, controlling the passing. Spain controlled the game with 75% possession, but they simply couldn’t break Russia down. In the end, Russia ran out winners on penalties, before being on the end of a defeat to Croatia in the quarter final.
Sweden made it all the way to the quarter final in this year’s World Cup. This is the first time this has happened since 1994. They secured their spot in the quarter final with a 1-0 victory over Switzerland. There were a total of 18 opportunities for Switzerland to score with 9 being thwarted by Sweden’s goalkeeper. Swedish hit the Swiss on the break and scored against the run of play. Sweden succeeded against all odds, they failed to qualify for the previous two tournaments and they were without their poster boy, Zlatan Ibrahimović. In the end, they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to England 2-0, but they can still consider the tournament as a success.