Commentary: The best and worst of the World Cup

Wednesday, 2018-07-18 22:37:46
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France players celebrate winning the World Cup following the 2018 FIFA World Cup final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo: Getty Images)
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Let’s take a look at some of the highlights, and lowlights of the World Cup in Russia, which concluded on Sunday when France beat Croatia 4-2 in the final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

Best player

Luka Modric of Croatia pose with the adidas Golden Ball award following the 2018 FIFA World Cup final. (Photo: FIFA)

Croatia's Luka Modric was a deserving winner of the Golden Ball, awarded to the World Cup's best player. The Real Madrid playmaker belied his 32 years by running more kilometers than any other midfielder while also providing the finesse that helped unlock rival defenses; his curling 30-yard strike against Argentina being a case in point.

Best goal

Frenchman Benjamin Pavard's goal in the round of 16 just edges out Modric's long-range effort against Argentina for goal of the tournament. The 22-year-old Stuttgart right-back latched onto a Lucas Hernandez cut-back by using the outside of his right boot to send a diagonal 25-yard shot fizzing past Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani.

Worst team

Making their maiden World Cup finals appearance, Panama conceded 11 goals and scored just two in their losses to Belgium, England and Tunisia. On Tuesday, the team's Colombian coach Hernan Dario Gomez unexpectedly quit, declaring it was "time to move my feet from the place where I have put my heart."

Best match

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal celebrates with teammates after scoring a penalty for his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Getty Images)

It is difficult to look past Spain and Portugal's opening Group B match on the second day of the competition in Sochi. Spain twice recovered from a goal down to take the lead via a Nacho Fernandez rocket that pin-balled in off both posts. Cristiano Ronaldo secured a hat-trick - and a point for Portugal - with a last-gasp free-kick that curled into the top corner.

Worst match

France and Denmark played out the dullest of goalless draw at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow in their final Group C fixture. Both teams showed little ambition as they secured the point they needed to advance to the last 16.

Biggest failure

The reigning champions' curse continued in Russia as Germany were eliminated before reaching the last 16 following losses to Mexico and Korea Republic. The last three title holders - Italy, Spain and Germany - have now been knocked out at the group stage of the following World Cup.

Biggest surprise

Ivan Perisic of Croatia celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup final. (Photo: Getty Images)

Despite boasting a raft of world-class players, few experts gave Croatia a chance of being crowned champions before the tournament. But led by their midfield maestro Modric, coach Zlatko Dalic's men fell at the final hurdle - a remarkable achievement for a nation with a population of just over four million.

Biggest disappointment

Neymar entered the tournament with hopes of leading Brazil to their sixth World Cup title and making himself a favourite to win this year's Ballon d'Or. But he left Russia with both of those objectives - and his reputation - in tatters. The Paris Saint-Germain forward scored just twice and was the laughing stock of social media for his theatrical rolling and diving.

Best new talent

Kylian Mbappe (R) and Paul Pogba of France celebrate victory with the World Cup Trophy following his side victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia final. (Photo: FIFA)

Without a doubt Kylian Mbappe wins this honour. Few doubted the 19-year-old's talent before the competition, but the Paris Saint-Germain forward's performances for France confirmed his status as football's newest superstar. Mbappe bagged four goals in Russia, including a stunning 30-yard drive in the final. His tournament highlight came in the round of 16 when he netted a brace and drew a penalty as Les Bleus beat Argentina 4-2. In doing so, Mbappe became only the second teenager to score twice in the same World Cup match. The other is Pele, who achieved the feat as a 17-year-old in 1958.

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