World Cup 2018: First final for Croatia, second title for France
As was the case in the last World Cup, the holders were knocked out in the first round.
Format: Group stage, knockouts
Golden Boot: Harry Kane (England)
Russia won the right to host the World Cup in a bidding process that included two joint bids (Portugal-Spain, Belgium-Netherlands) and a bid from England.
FIFA faced criticism from around the world due to Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, its handling of racism and discrimination against the LGBTQ community and handling of doping among its athletes.
The tournament, however, went ahead as planned and kicked off in a packed Luzhniki stadium in Moscow.
Russia raced to a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia, and then went on to beat Egypt in order to qualify for the round of 16.
As was the case in the last World Cup, the holders were knocked out in the first round. Germany faced the ignominy of losing two of their group games and scoring only two goals.
The quarter-finals brought heartbreak for the hosts as their unexpected run came to an end on a penalty shoot-out against Croatia.
Brazil and Uruguay, meanwhile, were knocked out by Belgium and France respectively.
England, powered by Harry Kane’s prolific goal-scoring form, fell short in the semi-finals but won acclaim for their run in the tournament.
Croatia made it to their first ever final, thanks to its golden generation, led by playmaker Luka Modric (winner of the tournament’s Golden Ball award).
France boasted a star lineup of its own, including Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and N’Golo Kante among others. Mario Mandzukic’s own goal opened the scoring for France, who then added three more and added another World Cup crown to their name.
VAR technology was introduced to assist referees with decision-making.
Fewer red cards were shown as compared with previous tournaments.
The smooth operations and lack of crowd violence was commended by experts.
Host selection was heavily criticised.
Three members of the Russian squad were allegedly found to be listed in a report detailing doping in Russian sport.