The 2018 World Cup was one for the record books despite heavy hitters like Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Portugal failing to live up to expectations.
However, the underdogs, including Peru, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Mexico, stepped up and bridged the perceived gap between the minnows and whales.
The result was one of the most evenly balanced World Cups, and people soon accepted that any team could beat any other.
New World Order
The 2018 World Cup proved that each tournament introduces a new football world order.
The capitulation of Germany and the rise of the underachievers like Sweden and Croatia were the first signs that the 2018 World Cup would be full of upsets.
The alleged revolt in the Argentina team was confirmed when the squad plunged into mediocrity despite having two of soccer’s brightest stars.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest winners in the tournament was not a player but the referees.
The debut of VAR was a runaway success in the 2018 World Cup. Let’s unravel the intrigues that make this World Cup unforgettable.
Bewilderment In The Group Stages
The group stage of the 2018 World Cup ended with its fair share of surprises.
For instance, Germany could not claw its way out of the group stage for the first time since 1938.
Furthermore, all African teams were knocked out in their group stage.
In an unexpected twist of the 2018 World Cup, Japan qualified under the fair play rule.
Not even a goal difference could separate them from Senegal.
Therefore, they got the nod to proceed to the knockout stages because they had received fewer yellow cards.
Here is a recap of the winners who emerged from the 2018 World Cup group stages.
2018 World Cup: Group Survivors
After the grueling opening weeks, sixteen teams emerged unscathed.
Here are the teams that outlasted their opposition in the group stages.
Group A: Uruguay advanced in first place, with Russia clinching second place.
Group B: Spain inches ahead of Portugal to clinch first place in the 2018 World Cup group stage.
Group C: Despite a goalless draw between France and Denmark in their final group game, they proceeded in first and second positions, respectively.
Group D: Croatia went undefeated after scoring a late winner against Iceland. Argentina was the runners-up.
Group E: Brazil won two of three games to take the top spot, and Switzerland settled for second.
Group F: Sweden forced Mexico to take the runners-up position after beating them in the final game.
Group G: Belgium took the top spot, with England settling for second in the 2018 World Cup group G.
Group H: Colombia led the group into the knockout stages. Japan qualified second, beating Senegal under the fair play rule.
The Winners Of the 2018 World Cup
The 2018 World Cup was Sweden’s time to shine despite missing their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
They survived the terrifying Group F that featured Germany, Mexico, and South Korea.
Determined to bring the 2018 World Cup trophy home, England got two impressive group stage wins and a hat trick for their skipper.
Despite playing free of expectation, the team showed the promise of going deep into the tournament.
The 2018 World Cup was Ronaldo and Messi’s chance to settle their 10-year Ballon d’Or back-and-forth.
Christiano’s opening hat-trick put him firmly in contention as the football GOAT.
On the other hand, Argentina’s lackluster performance cast a shadow over their star player, with a rumored revolt against the coach.
Many pundits, including their fans, feared the hosts would falter. However, the Russians impressive progression proved them wrong.
The Russians not only won on the field but off of it. Many people believed the 2018 World Cup to be the best hosting experience in a long time.
The Losers Of 2018 World Cup
Asia and Africa
Fans globally view the World Cup as the South America vs. Europe cup.
The myth appeared confirmed by the end of the group stage since only two out of sixteen teams were from outside Europe and South America.
Senegal missed out most unexpectedly after becoming the first team to lose by fair play.
Germany undoubtedly suffered the greatest upset of the 2018 World Cup.
After their group stage exit, even their goalkeeper admitted they did not deserve to progress to the knockout stage.
They barely survived the group stages amid rumors of a revolt, several stars not producing the goods, and a coach reportedly presiding by name only.
The 2018 World Cup went sour for Australia. They lost all three of their games and scored nothing from open play.
Despite a strong showing, their lack of finishing did them in and put them solidly in the tail end of Group C.
Australia’s desperate need for a world-class striker was evident from the beginning.
Enter The Underdogs
Argentina was the first to fall in the elimination round after receiving a 4-3 defeat from France.
Uruguay sent Portugal out of the 2018 World Cup on the same day.
These two defeats sent home Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, two of the greatest football stars.
Next up was Spain, which fell to Russia after a penalty shootout. Croatia handed Denmark their ticket home with a 3-2 defeat on penalties.
Brazil was the only team to go against the grain in their comfortable 2-0 win over Mexico.
In the next match, Belgium survived a knockout by recovering from two goals down to beat Japan 3-2.
Amid the barrage from the underdogs, France snaked its way through to meet the last standing underdog in the finals, Croatia.
Helped along by a freak own-goal by Croatia in the 18th minute, France rallied its troops to seal the deal and secure the 2018 World Cup title.
The 2018 World Cup seemed like going the way of the underdogs.
However, experience and raw skill enabled France to hold them off until the tournament’s final game.
They were more determined to bag the coveted trophy, but Croatia gave them a run for their money in a thoroughly entertaining final.
The VAR worked in the Frenchmen’s favor when the referee awarded them a penalty after Perisic handled the ball.
Ultimately, the 2018 World Cup was a battle of the Davids and Goliaths of Football, with the Goliaths carrying the day.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!