November 17, 2019
The biggest spectacle of the summer finally came to an end on Sunday as France lifted their second World Cup trophy after beating Croatia 4-2 in Moscow.Several experts felt it was one of the best World Cups in recent times. From glorious moments and technology making its debut in the World Cup to numerous record-breaking achievements, the 32 days in Russia were filled with drama and tension.And in a high-octane tournament like the FIFA World Cup, there were bound to be heroes as well as villains, hits and flops.Reputations were made, reputations were dented. A few young men stepped up while some legends of the game fell by the wayside.Big players disappointed, hardened coaches buckled under pressure even as new stars were born.2018 FIFA WORLD CUP: FULL COVERAGEWith the World Cup now over, it is as good a time as any to look back at the last four weeks and figure out who the biggest hits and flops were:HEROESLuka Modric Luka Modric has been Croatia’s best performer in the World Cup in Russia (AP Photo)Luka Modric led Croatia’s campaign from the front and put his hand up whenever the team needed him. He missed a penalty against Denmark at the round-of-16 but came back and converted from the spot during the penalty shootout as the Croates advanced to the last eight.The Real Madrid man showed nerves of steel and orchestrated the whole game from the midfield as Zlatko Dalic’s men bettered their ‘golden generation’, who reached the semi-finals in 1998 and lost to France.advertisementModric bagging the trophy also meant that the second World Cup in a row, a player on the losing side in the final wins the golden ball award for best player in the tournament. He is also the first Croatian player in World Cup history to win the Golden Ball for best player at the tournament.Kylian Mbappe Kylian Mbappe scored in the final of World Cup 2018 against Croatia (AP Photo)The French teenager had already showed his class in Europe for AS Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain but he announced himself to the world in this year’s World Cup with some sensational performances.The PSG forward scored four goals including a stunner in the final to help France beat Croatia 4-2 and lift the trophy in Moscow.He also became the second youngest player to score in a FIFA World Cup final after Pele, who scored at the age of 17 years and 249 days in 1958 for Brazil.The 19-year-old terrorised defenders and they struggled to keep up with the pace and strength of the Frenchman, who bullied the defenders throughout the World Cup.Danijel Subasic Danijel Subasic starred for Croatia in their penalty shootout victories over Denmark and Russia (Reuters Photp)Croatia’s goalkeeper single handedly carried them through to the final of the World Cup with a string of phenomenal performances in the knockout phases.Subasic saved three penalties against Denmark in the round-of-16 clash and became the only player other than Portugal’s Ricardo to do so in a penalty shootout in a World Cup. Following that, he again carried the team forward when it was all down to him in the quarter-finals. He again emerged as the hero and saved two penalties to knock hosts Russia out of the World Cup in the last eight stage.In the semi-final, the game didn’t go to spot kicks but the Croates did need extra-time to go past England in Moscow. The 33-year-old pulled off some brilliant saves in regulation time before pulling his hamstring and injuring himself in the process. Croatia were out of substitutions and him going off meant that they would have been playing with 10 men and an outfielder player as a golie but he stayed on and then went onto play extra-time as well. The AS Monaco keeper also made some key saves before Mario Mandzukic’s goal tilted the game in their favour.France put four goals past him in the final but his hand in getting them to the summit clash was nothing short of heroic.Denis Cheryshev Denis Cheryshev scored four goals in this year’s World Cup (Reuters Photo)The former Real Madrid player played a key role in Russia’s dream run in the World Cup. He scored four goals in this year’s World Cup and finished as the second-joint top-scorer with Romelu Lukaku, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo.Russia reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup despite being the lowest ranked team in the tournament and it was led by Cheryshev’s clinical display.advertisementThe 27-year-old scored three goals in Russia’s opening two games against Saudi Arabia (2) and Egypt (1) in the group stages and then again made is mark in the knockout stage, where he score an important goal against Croatia. The goal was also a brilliant curler from outside the box to give the hosts the lead.Unfortunately, their run came to an end and his quest for the Golden Boot came to an end but he certainly made his mark at the biggest stage of them all.VILLAINSNeymar Neymar has been heavily criticised for going down too easily during the World Cup (Reuters Photo)The Brazilian enjoyed a great World Cup and was one of Brazil’s standout performers despite not being able to score as much as he would have liked but his theatrics earned him severe criticism around the world.Even fans who appreciate Neymar’s unquestionable brilliance were turned off by the antics of a player who too often comes across as spoilt and immature. There were memes out on social media and even journalists bashed the Paris Saint-Germain’s playacting in Russia.According to reports, Neymar was down for five minutes and 29 seconds total in the match against Mexcio in the round-of-16 clash. The biggest interruption in the match came in the 72nd minute when he writhed about after Mexican Miguel Layun appeared to step on his ankle.But he didn’t look to have put pressure on Neymar’s leg, and the player’s delayed and exaggerated response was the subject of heated debate, especially coming after similarly petulant displays in earlier matches.The 26-year-old, who has been fouled the most in this World Cup, has spent around 15 minutes on the turf in Russia, where Brazil were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Belgium.David De Gea David De Gea has only saved one shot at goal in this year’s World Cup (Reuters Photo)The Spaniard had a World Cup to forget for Spain and he has been heavily criticised at home especially for his performances in this year’s World Cup.De Gea made only one save in this year’s World Cup and conceded seven goals (excluding penalty shootouts) in Russia. The Manchester United man also made a massive blunder during Spain’s campaign opener against Portugal. De Gea failed to hold a straight forward Cristiano Ronaldo shot and the ball made his way into the goal. The goal broke Spain’s tempo and gave Portugal a crucial lead going into half-time. After the match, he was slaughtered by the Spanish media for his error and also asked coach Fernando Hierro to replace him.The 27-year-old didn’t do himself any favours in the upcoming matches as he failed to bring his ‘Manchester United game’ to the World Cup and Spain were eventually knocked out by hosts Russia in the pre-quarters after DDG failed to save a single Russian penalty from the shootout.Jorge Sampaoli Jorge Sampaoli has left the post of the Argentina coach on Monday (Reuters Photo)Argentina, despite having a scary qualifying campaign, were expected to come good at the big stage in Russia. However, Argentina had the worst possible start where they drew 1-1 with Iceland. They were then demolished 3-0 by Croatia and managed to edge Nigeria with a last-gasp goal to reach last 16.advertisementIn the Round of 16, they were outplayed by France and particularly Kylian Mbappe and went down 4-3.Argentina’s poor campaign was largely affected by the problems off the field, where players were reportedly unhappy with Sampaoli’s tactics and even asked him to step down ahead of their final group game against Nigeria. It was said that he has lost the players and they want him gone. But, he stayed on and somehow managed to take the team to the last 16, where they were outplayed by France.Sampaoli eventually stepped down on Monday after just one year in charge.