Fans are eagerly marking their calendars for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup that will be hosted in Qatar later this year, which remains as the most highly anticipated and vastly popular sporting event on the planet.
As the months countdown before the opening encounter of the prestigious tournament, fans are already placing their upcoming football betting predictions on who they may sight as being the overlapping favourites to lift the coveted golden World Cup crown and which names are expected to be the standout stars for their respected country.
Ahead of the latest instalment of the fabled competition, we look back at the greatest highlights and moments from the previous competition held in Russia back in 2018, which provided fans with a glut of impeccable goals, highlights and shocking upsets, leaving many to name the 2018 rendition as one of the best World Cup competitions of all time.
Germany’s abrupt exit in the Group Stage:
It has been rough sailing for the former world champions Germany in recent years following on from their empathic showing at the 2014 World Cup that saw the country lift its fourth world title.
The 2018 World Cup continued the strange tradition of the previous World Cup winners being dumped out of the competition at a much earlier stage than previously anticipated, as the reigning champions were shockingly eliminated in the Group Stage of the event.
Germany was drawn into a group that featured the likes of Sweden, Mexico and South Korea, which left many to tip the Germans as being early favourites to gain passage into the knockout stage, however everything completely fell apart in the German camp that began with an opening matchday defeat to Mexico before scrapping a last-minute winner past Sweden thanks to a spectacular free kick from Toni Kroos.
Germany entered their final group game needing a win against South Korea who had already been eliminated from the competition, yet with the entire footballing world watching, the Germans were stunned by South Korea who defeat the world champions 2-0 sending them packing from the World Cup in the most dramatic fashion, which remains as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
England’s penalty showdown vs Colombia:
The 2018 World Cup saw England reach the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 1990 as Gareth Southgate took charge of his first major tournament following Roy Hodgson’s sacking after his disastrous 2016 Euros stint, that culminated in England being defeat by Iceland in the Last 16.
Southgate’s side edged past Tunisia before thrashing Panama in the Group Stage to earn passage into the knockout rounds, however a final group game defeat to Belgium ensured that England would be facing Colombia in the next round rather than Japan who Belgium went onto beat in a thriller.
England’s encounter against Colombia, who were missing their star-studded midfielder James Rodriguez, resulted in an intense game as the Colombian players played some of the roughest defence that the competition had ever witnessed.
After a Harry Kane penalty put England 1-0 up early in the second half, Colombia defender Yerry Mina headed home in the 93rd minute to send the game to extra time that resulted in another tense 30 minutes of play which was capped off by a tremendous diving save from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
With the game still at a stalemate after the 120 minutes, England players and fans held their breath ahead of the inevitable penalty shootout, a matter that has haunted England in numerous competitions.
After the first five penalties were converted, Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson stepped up to the plate and saw his shot saved by David Ospina.
However, Porto midfielder Mateus Uribe failed to score his spot kick that struck the post with England tying the game back up thanks to Kieran Tripper.
With the intensity continuing to build throughout the stadium, Jordan Pickford was once again the hero for England as his diving heroics denied Carlos Bacca, which left Eric Dier with the chance to win the game and send England into the Quarterfinals.
Dier stepped up and struck his shot home as the entire nation blared out the famous ‘Three Lions’ anthem as the Brits enjoyed a tremendous tournament that was further ignited with a 2-0 win over Sweden in the Quarters before a heart-breaking defeat to Croatia in the Semi-Finals.
Milad Mohammadi’s strange throw-in attempt:
It may seem strange to include a usually moderate part of football, that being a typical throw-in from the side-lines, but this moment still stole the show and made Milad Mohammad a household name for the weirdest of reasons.
During the final seconds of a group game against Spain, Iran was trailing 1-0 when the ball was knocked out of play deep into Spanish territory giving the heavy underdogs Iran a chance for one last throw at the dice.
Iran’s winger and current AEK Athens player Milad Mohammadi would look to attempt a long throw-in deep into the Spanish penalty area in the hopes that someone could potentially latch onto the ball and give the Iranian team major hope of qualifying for the knockout rounds.
However, instead of just simply throwing the ball into the box, Mohammadi seemed to attempt a front roll while holding the ball before being told to head back to his starting position by the official.
It remains as one of the most peculiar moments that fans have ever witnessed at a World Cup event which in turn was all in vain as Spain held on for the final whistle as Iran were soon eliminated from the group stage.
VAR the talk of the town:
For the first time in the event’s history, VAR was introduced in all games throughout the 2018 World Cup, which led many to question the existence and execution of the concept throughout the event that has since spanned into all major football leagues with varying degrees of success.
There are many questionable checks and close decisions that were decided by VAR throughout the entire event. Perhaps the most famous decision was the Ivan Perisic handball monitor check during the World Cup final that ultimately decided the game after it was awarded a penalty in favour of France. This was dubiously converted by Antoine Griezmann which helped the French claim their second World Cup title.
The decision was met with varying degrees of criticism and praise with a number of sports fans and pundits alike still remaining wary of the inclusion of VAR throughout such major footballing events to this day.
Kylian Mbappe’s sublime tournament:
While there were a number of excellent star performances from a select array of players including the likes of Paul Pogba, Luka Modric, Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane, Jordan Pickford and N’Golo Kante, none may have been more impressive than the stupendous and utterly outrageous plays of the young French superstar Kylian Mbappe who was instrumental towards his nation’s World Cup glory.
Following on from his breakout seasons with Monaco and PSG, Mbappe soon established himself as a superstar calibre name following on from the 2018 rendition of the World Cup as the French wonderkid scored a remarkable four goals across the entire tournament that earnt him the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player accolade as France steamrolled to a decisive finals victory over Croatia with Mbappe scoring the pick of the goals.
Mbappe has already established himself as one of the brightest talents that world football has to offer with the likes of PSG and following on from his successes at the 2018 World Cup, he is already pictured as the future face of the sport and a likely Ballon d’Or winner for years to come.