An Ode to Competitive Balance
The Russia 2018 World Cup was one of the most exciting WC tournaments ever. Its level of competitive balance was outstanding resulting in an unforgettable competition. The fan engagement during the WC was unbelievable and created remarkable images, such as Senegal and Japan’s fans cleaning the stadium after their teams’ matches.
Once again, it has been proven that the key to win this type of competition is to put every individual talent serving the team’s interest above all others. France presented the most talented group of players and with remarkable teamwork they have shown the world of football how good they can be as a team, and even overtake some lack of experience.
It all must start at some point and so do I, so I will go chronologically in my analysis of the unfolding history of this Russia 2018 WC.
On the other hand, Japan and Sweden were the two greatest surprises in the group stage with great performances: the Asians technically and the Nordics tactically, both being classified as one of the best sixteen teams in the tournament.
Round of 16
The first major combat in this stage came with France defeating Argentina, in a match where the score was clearly more balanced than it should have been, and where a brand-new star came to the world proving that football could soon have a new hero, his name Kylian Mbappé. Cristiano Ronaldo’s and its people were also surprised by a solid and very clinic Uruguay, which had an inspired Edinson Cavani scoring twice and sending the European champions back home.
The home team provided us another big moment in this competition eliminating the Spanish boys in the penalty-shootout. Spain’s efforts have to be recognized, however, given that they had their head coach dismissed just two days before the competition’s start causing a lot of instability to the team.
Croatia also needed the penalty-shootout to overtake a solid Denmark in a match with a very intense start which ended to be one of the most closed ones in this stage, with their goalkeeper Subasic having a tremendous performance with three penalties saved.
Brazil easily won their match against the Mexicans, who were only able to truly compete with the canarinha in the first thirty minutes. The Brazilians dominated the remaining time and scored two goals that classified them.
Belgium had a breath-taking match against Japan and won in the last ball of the game, after being down for two goals. A match that will be remembered for decades as one of the most emotive in the history of the competition.
Sweden’s tactical strength and teamwork led them to the quarter-finals after a great victory against Switzerland, who never seemed to be good enough to create problems in the Nordic’s defensive line.
Colombia scored a stoppage time equaliser against England, which took the winner decision to extra time and after that to penalty-shootout. Finally, history was made, and England was able to win penalty-shootout decision and make part of the best eight teams in the competition for the first time in twelve years.
Uruguay accused too much Cavani’s injury and France took advantage: les bleus won the match for a comfortable two goals margin proving once again how solid and strong they were looking in this tournament.
Belgium faced Brazil in the quarter-finals duel which created
the greatest expectations among the football community. The red devils made some very important tactical changes for this match which led them to a surprising two goals advantage at half-time. Despite Brazil’s good reaction in the second half, the game always seemed to be under control for Roberto Martinez’s men who went to the semi-finals with more comfort than expected.
England had their greatest performance in the competition up to that moment, defeating a very defensive Sweden who struggled to create problems to Her Majesty’s defensive wall. The English aerial power and Jesse Lingard creativity between lines put the Nordics under great trouble and secured a two-nil score for the British.
The most emotive match in the quarter-finals was played between Russia and Croatia, with Luka Modric and his troops winning once again in the penalty-shootout. The home team stroke first with an amazing long shot from Cheryshev surprising Subasic, but Croatia equalised it before half-time. The second half was softer and as foreseen it all went to extra time, when Vida’s goal put the Croatians in the lead for four minutes only before Mario Fernandes’s header gave the home fans the possibility to decide it all in the penalty-shootout. Once again, Croatia showed their great ability to score and stop penalties and made it through the semi- finals after twenty years.
Croatia faced England in a match where the three lions started winning with an early free-kick from Trippier in the fifth minute. Nevertheless Croatia didn’t seem to be affected with the goal and created several chances to equalise until Ivan Perisic’s goal right in the middle of the second half.Semi- finals
After that, once again, Croatia dominated the match but continued to miss opportunities to score. Extra time came and the trend remained the same until Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the second half of extra time, giving the Croatians their first final ever in a major tournament.
The other semi final put France against their neighbours, Belgium, a very expected battle between two great teams. As expected, the match was very intense in the tactic field and at the individual duels level. The difference was made in set pieces with Samuel Umtiti scoring a winning goal after a great deliver from Antoine Griezmann. The red devils tried hard until the end to score an equalising goal, but the French wall seemed to be unbreakable, as it we got used to see during the entire tournament.
The World Cup Final is the most expected football match every four years and it is the highest point of any career in football. All the world stops to watch ninety minutes of the best within the best, the Holy Grail of football.
We hope you enjoyed our Russia '18 overview!
Article by Guest Writer:
Footballaholic at SAK
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