The 2018 World Cup is over, as the trophy will spend the next four years in Paris. In what many are now calling the greatest ever World Cup, here are the best ten games from the tournament:
10. Nigeria 1-2 Argentina (Group D)
After the tumultuous 3-0 hammering from Croatia and ensuing minutes silence on Argentine television, Messi and company found themselves needing to win their final group match to qualify for the last sixteen. Their opponents, Nigeria, needed just a point to qualify after an impressive win over Iceland.
Argentina got a perfect start after Ever Banega’s brilliant deep ball picked out Messi, who’s angled drive handed Argentina the lead. The midfield of Nigeria wouldn’t go away, as Odion Ighalo caused Argentina’s shaky backline plenty of problems. When Javier Mascherano needlessly gave away a corner, Nigeria was back on track thanks to Victor Moses’ spot kick.
Argentina was threatening to lose their discipline, meanwhile Ighalo blew two chances to seal the win for Nigeria. As Argentina became more desperate in the dying minutes, a stunning volley from defender Marcos Rojo sealed Argentina’s victory and a date with France.
9. Germany 2-1 Sweden (Group F)
After their defeat to Mexico, we were all getting ready to dance on Germany’s grave until Toni Kroos struck a stunning free kick to keep their title defense alive five minutes into injury time.
Germany started on the front foot, but their early pressure didn’t pay off. Yet again their defense looked vulnerable on the counter, and Sweden should have had a penalty when the abysmal Jerome Boetang hauled back Marcus Berg. After 35 minutes, Sweden breached the German defense through Ola Toivonen’s deft finish.
Germany changed tactics for the second half, and it paid an instant dividend when Marco Reus prodded home on 47 minutes. Germany pushed forward, but Sweden appeared to have weathered the storm with Boateng sent off 8 minutes from time. Sweden had their chances to finish it, but gave away a poor free kick in the 95th minute on the corner of their box, leading Kroos to curl home a strike to keep Germany alive for their group decider with South Korea.
8. Portugal 1-2 Uruguay (Second Round)
This clash of mirror image sides is always likely to be tight, and it ultimately proved a case of having two superstars is better than one, with Uruguay’s deadly duo of Edinson Cavani & Luis Suarez trumping Ronaldo.
After just 7 minutes, Cavani picked out Suarez on the left-wing, who delivered a beautifully weighted cross im which Cavani sprinted forward to head home for 1-0. The game turned into a midfield battle with Cavani often dropping back to give Uruguay five bodies in the middle of the park. Meanwhile, Diego Godin & Jose Jimenez closely marshaled Ronaldo as Uruguay took their lead into halftime.
Ten minutes into the second half, Portugal was level when Pepe thundered home a header from a corner. However, Uruguay remained calm, and just seven minutes after drawing level, Portugal was behind once again when a goal kick caught Pepe out of position and Cavani found himself free on the edge of the box to drill home a first-time shot. Portugal threw everything forward, but Uruguay held on for the win.
7. Mexico 1-0 Germany (Group F)
There was little question as to who were the early pace-setters in this World Cup, and it wasn’t Germany. Mexico arrived with an enticing blend of attacking impudence and defensive strength, while Germany was the favorite to retain the title they won in Brazil.
Fans packed Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium with fans expecting another routine win, but Mexico had other ideas. Their quicksilver attack made Germany’s midfield duo of Khedira & Kroos look painfully slow as they were constantly caught out by Mexico’s incisive Hirving Lozano, who turned Mesut Ozil inside out before slotting home to give Mexico a deserving first half lead.
Germany improved after the break, but couldn’t fashion a clear-cut chance as Mexico’s backline held firm with Julian Brandt’s flashing drive being the closest they got, as Mexico held out for a shock 1-0 win. This wasn’t quite up there with Cameroon shocking Argentina at Italia ’90 or Senegal stunning France in Senegal twelve years later, but it was a far better match than either of those and set the tone for fancied sides struggling in the group phase.
6. Serbia 1-2 Switzerland (Group E)
The most politically-charged game of the tournament saw Serbia take on a Switzerland side featuring two players in Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka of Kosovo-Albanian extraction.
Serbia started strong and took the lead when Akexsander Mitrovic headed home early on. Mitrovic was a revelation after his wasteful display against Costa Rica as Switzerland was on the ropes.
In the second half, Switzerland regained their composure and equalized through Xhaka’s superb first-time shot. The team was gaining the upper-hand with Shaqiri playing a constant menace, but Mitrovic should have won a penalty when he was hauled down in the box by two defenders.
In the last minutes, it was Switzerland’s Shaqiri who stole a yard on defender Dusko Tosic and outpaced him on a break from the center circle before neatly slotting the ball under the advancing goalkeeper for a dramatic victory. Both Shaqiri and Xhaka courted controversy by making the sign of the Albanian eagle after scoring, an act that almost landed them both a ban. In result, both were reprieved by FIFA and the result condemned Serbia to needing a win over Brazil to stay alive.
Picture credits: 101greatgoals.com, dw.com, RT.com, SI.com,