The events of the 2018 FIFA World Cup shocked the world, no one could have predicted the upsets and drama that were to ensue after the opening match on June 14th in Moscow. Despite the highs and the lows, the shocks and the controversy, the tournament has now finished. We have a new world champion, but before that LEO BENNETT brings you the last of the action from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

As the tournament came to a close, I began asking myself whether changing my sleep schedule so drastically for the World Cup was worth it? In short, yes, the action and drama produced within this World Cup was worth all the hours of sleep that I lost, and more. I mean, where else can I watch a man compete for both the Golden Boot and a Golden Globe simultaneously?

The Semi Finals began with a screamer of a match, Belgium vs. France, two teams very capable of winning it all. Going into the match the French were the favourites, but not by much. The first 45 minutes remained goalless, neither team could break the deadlock. This changed however in the 6 minutes into the second half, France’s Antoine Griezmann curled a lovely ball into the centre off of a corner and French defender Samuel Umtiti managed to head the ball into the back of the net. This was Umtiti’s first ever International goal and it was one to remember. Belgium failed to answer back and the game ended 1-0, France were in the final once again.

Prior to this match there had been controversy surrounding French footballing Legend Thierry Henry working alongside the Belgium coaching staff. The French viewed this as somewhat of a betrayal and Henry became French public enemy No. 1. This controversy made the win all the more special for the French, they had beaten the traitor.

England and Croatia matched up for the second Semi Final and this match was set to be a thriller, these were both teams that we knew were capable of putting on a show. This was the first Semi Final that England had been to since 1990 before Croatia existed as the country we know it to be today. England did not waste any time and scored off of a free kick in the 5th minute. The Three Lions were ahead heading into half time. In the eyes of English fans across the world, they had already won. However, football is a game of 2 halves and Croatia managed to equalise in the 68th minute through a Perisic goal. This goal pushed the game into extra time where Croatia managed a second goal which won them the game. After trailing since the 5th minute in the Semi Final, Croatia was heading to the biggest stage that there is, the World Cup Final.

In a repeat of the Group G matchup, Belgium and England faced off in the Third Place Playoff. This match gave Belgium a chance to beat their best performance at a World Cup after coming fourth in 1986. This was a opportunity they took with goals from both Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard solidifying a 2-0 victory and in doing so placing themselves third overall. Both Belgium and England had amazing tournaments, with Belgium being the best attacking team and England reaching the Semi Finals with the least experienced squad in the World Cup.

Croatia was set to play in their first ever final, in only their fifth ever tournament. Croatia’s footballing history may be short but they have a chance to be world champions. Their road to the final has been far from easy however, in their opening match, Nikola Kalinic refused to play as he felt he was too good to be on the bench. He was subsequently sent home and had to watch his teammates play in the World Cup final on television. Before the final Croatia had played three back-to-back 2 hour games, two of which were decided on penalties. Fatigue would definitely be a factor in the Final.

France also wanted to make history of their own. The last time France were World Champions was back in 1998, when Didier Deschamps helped France to victory. Deschamps is now the Coach of the team he once played for and aimed to become only the third person to ever win the World Cup as both a player and a Coach.

90 minutes to decide it all. Croatia kicked off and held a majority of the possession for the first 15 minutes. In France’s first real attack they were awarded a free kick, Antoine Griezmann line up to take the kick and glided it into the penalty area. The ball did not find the head of a Frenchman, but rather the head of Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic who headed it into the back of the net. 1-0 France off of the first ever own goal in a World Cup final. Perisic quickly drew Croatia level but their nightmare hadn’t ended yet. As the ref checked the VAR and awarded a penalty to France in the 28th minute Croatian hearts across the world sunk. Croatia went into halftime 2-1 down.

If the second half was anything like the first we were in for an amazing match. Surely enough French midfielder Paul Pogba increased he French lead with a 59th minute goal. France’s victory seemed a sure thing. Kylian Mbappe made history once again when he scored, becoming the first teenager since Pele to score in a Word Cup final. With a 4-1 lead the French would never be caught. Mandzukic did somewhat make up for his earlier own goal, catching France’s goalkeeper off-guard and making the score 4-2. Despite their valiant efforts Croatia could not catch up and the game ended 4-2. France are World Champions once again.

Players from every team in the World Cup were not only competing to win the Cup, there are also individual awards. This year the Golden Ball award for best player at the tournament was awarded to Luka Modric of Croatia. Modric proved to the world how great a player he truly is and the World Cup gave him a platform to shine outside of his usual role in Barcelona. The Golden Boot award for most goals scored was awarded to England’s Harry Kane who scored six goals. The Best Young Player award was won by Frances Kylian Mbappe for his amazing, record breaking performance.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup was more than we could have ever imagined. We saw new stars emerge and past World Champions fall. The fears by many that this World Cup would not be a success were put to rest as it was clear from the get go that it would be amazing. Now that the tournament is over however, we must wait another four years in Qatar until we see more World Cup action.

Leo loves politics and whitewater kayaking. Don’t get him started on football, you won’t get a word in edgeways. Wants to be Harry Potter. You can check out more of his work below:

FIFA World Cup: What You Need To Know

FIFA World Cup: The Knockout Stages

In Review: LBJ