The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia ended in a dramatic conclusion, with France clinching the trophy for the second time. The tournament produced exciting and entertaining fixtures, along with several surprises as well. The Sports Courant team provided Best Football Betting Guide to its readers throughout the World Cup, and we take a look at the five most surprising moments of the mega event.
Argentina’s issues certainly stood out, as manager Jorge Sampaoli simply could not get his squad playing at an optimal level.
It took a late strike from Marcos Rojo in their final group game to reach the knockout stages, where they would fall 4-3 to Les Bleus in what may have been Lionel Messi’s last appearance for La Albiceleste.
Sweden’s run in the competition was nothing short of remarkable. Needing a victory in a play-off with Italy just to qualify, they finished on top of Group F and reached the quarter-final round. All this without their former talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic shows the talent and depth Sweden brought to this tournament.
With countless other great moments throughout the summer to remember, these are the five moments that surprised fans the most at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Germany crash out in the group stage
This year’s competition will be remembered as one where the favourites disappointed, and no other nation lived up to that statement quite like Germany. For the first time in their history, Die Mannschaft failed to progress past the group stage of a World Cup.
It all seemed to crumble right from the start, with a shocking 1-0 loss to Mexico in their first match. A late winner from Toni Kroos against Sweden kept their hopes alive, only for South Korea to send manager Joachim Löw’s side home much earlier than expected.
Spain eliminated by Russia in the Round of 16
Spain started the drama before any of the action began, as manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked after the announcement that he would be taking the vacant Real Madrid job following the World Cup. But Fernando Hierro stepped in, Spain were able to win Group B and set up an encounter with host nation Russia.
While many assumed this would not be a difficult result for La Roja, the heroics of captain Igor Akinfeev guided the Russians to a famous victory on penalties that earned a place in the quarter-finals.
Croatia’s marathon to make the final
Croatia did not have one more victory left in them against France, but the journey to that match alone was amazing. In order to reach their first-ever World Cup final, manager Zlatko Dalić’s team triumphed in three consecutive games that brought extra-time.
Wins against Denmark and Russia required penalties, while Mario Mandžukić put them into the last match thanks to his semi-final goal versus England in the 109th minute. Stamina was definitely not a problem for the Croatians.
Ranked number eight in the world by FIFA entering the tournament, Poland returned home quickly due to losses against Senegal and Colombia.
Just as surprising as the results, star striker Robert Lewandowski failed to score a goal in their three group stage fixtures.
Football almost came home
It started off as a phrase, and it became a movement. England reached the semi-finals for the first time since 1990, and captivated a nation along the way.
Harry Kane led the charge in the final third, while Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford showcased fantastic shot-stopping skills. Although the Three Lions were unable to reach the final, the 2018 FIFA World Cup could be the start of something special for this England team.