World Cup Winners and Losers
After what was an exciting and memorable month of World Cup soccer, the unquestionable greatest sporting event in the world. Let’s take a look back at the Winners and Losers of The World Cup 2018. In no particular order.
Mark Gieger – Loser
MLS fans know him well, and not for his spectacular refereeing either. Gieger totally lost control of the Colombia v England game. As MLS fans watched on in delight, Gieger couldn’t stop the anarchy from both sides as the match went on. He did not show US refs in a kind light but did reinforce MLS fans notion of just how crap he is.
Kieran Trippier – Winner
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England’s best player throughout their run to the semi-finals. Trippier created 24 chances off of his impeccable crosses, allowed to roam forward as a right wing-back, Trips came to play. He scored a beautiful free kick that put England ahead against Croatia in the semi’s, and up until he limped off in tears towards the end of the match he was creating much of the attack for his squad. Pochettino’s decision to sell Kyle Walker and play Trippier for Tottenham looks like a genius move. How much is he worth after his performance in Russia?
Neymar – Loser
One of the games global superstars. Neymar turned himself into a meme with his play-acting, fake injuries, and outright shameful behavior. On top of all of his theatrics, he didn’t do nearly enough while actually playing to help Brazil advance and goes home in shame. Neymar’s brand is tarnished. His antics are not what you want the youth to see with so many of them with their eyes on this beautiful game.
Kylian Mbappe – Winner
If Neymar’s global brand took a hit at this World Cup, Mbappe’s brand skyrocketed. Most around the world didn’t even know who this 19-year-old wonder “kid” even was before he landed in Russia. His speed, his drive, his shot are all glorious. His signature arms crossed celebration iconic. France doesn’t win this World Cup without him. Expect to see 10-year-olds ditch their Neymar jerseys for Mbappe’s jersey real quick, and rightly so. I talked about Trippier increasing his value. Mbappe’s value is whatever he and his agent want it to be. Know the name, know the face, this isn’t the last you’ve heard of Kylian Mbappe.
England – Winners
It’s not coming home, but this team got a nation to finally believe even for just a few days that hey, maybe, just maybe, it could. The Three Lions took care of business in the group stage, where past iterations couldn’t even do that. They won on PENALTIES against Colombia. Let me say that again, THEY WON ON PENALTIES. England efficiently dispatched Sweden with surprising ease. At that point, Southgate’s men were playing with house money. To make it to the semi-finals is beyond what almost everyone expected. They came up against a more experienced Croatian side who never tired as expected. England, in the end, lacked some mid-field creativity, but at no point did this team do anything other than make their supporters proud. Bring on the Euros.
VAR (Video Assisted Referee) – Winner
Look I’ve hated the idea of VAR since the moment it was introduced. I’m against reviews in soccer. I don’t want to turn this beautiful game into the NFL. But I’ll admit when I’m wrong, VAR worked. Decisions were relatively quick and painless. VAR got the calls right. The system kept a lot of controversy out of incredibly important moments. I was wrong, there is a place for it if done properly, and it done really well in Russia.
Set Pieces – Winner
This was a major shift from previous tournaments. Prior to the final, 40% of all goals came from a set piece, up almost 10% from 2014. Now fouls 30 yards out became dangerous scoring opportunities. The rise in efficiency came in part thanks to VAR. In previous tournaments, defending teams could basically tackle an offensive player to ensure they couldn’t get their head on the ball. VAR squashed that thankfully and allowed Refs to award a penalty kick for such aggressive play, thus opening up and creating more drama on each crucial free kick. Long may it continue.
Alexi Lalas – Loser
Well known curmudgeon, Alexi Lalas, was peak Lalas all tournament. Annoying, dickish, uncooperative, and straight up mean throughout every pre and post-game segment. I’m not sure if he was trying to be soccer’s Mike Milbury, but Fox better re-think his role in future broadcasts. He was universally shit on by viewers across the states on social media, which gave a sour taste to the entire Fox broadcast.
Stuart Holden – Winner
Look if I’m going to slam Lalas I need to praise Holden. I wasn’t always a fan of his work, but as the tournament went on I came to appreciate him. Holden’s knowledge of the game is evident, and his ability to bring value to the broadcast at the right moments worked. So hey, way to go Fox for seeing his skills and using him. Now if you could only use that same vision in reverse and get rid of Alexi Lalas.
Jordan Pickford – Winner
A rosy-cheeked warrior. A rookie in international play, Pickford journeyed through every level of the English system. He was dug out by fellow Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois for being too short to be good. But with his countries hopes and dreams on the line, this man stood as tall as anyone. Pickford made saves in the biggest of moments. I wrote in my pre-tournament England article, that the goalkeeping spot just needed to not be Rob Green-esk. Pickford did that and so much more, making a HUGE save in the dying minutes against Colombia as well as in the penalty shootout. Along with Trippier and Harry Kane, Pickford was England’s heart and soul throughout this tournament.
Penalty Kicks – Winner
Look it’s a shitty way to end an uber-important team game, a 1 on 1 skills competition. But these players and these teams put on a show that the entire world was lucky enough to witness. You never want your team to go out on penalties, but boy oh boy are they intense even for a neutral. They made for dramatic and must watch television throughout the tournament.
South American teams – Losers
Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Uruguay did not do their continent proud. None of them advanced past the quarterfinals, for only the 5th time in the tournament’s history. None of the countries showed the flair and creativity they are known for. What they did show was a lack of organization, a lack of mental strength and their sorry theatrics of flopping and overreacting. They all seemed like they expect to win just because of where they were from, and not how they were playing.
Messi – Loser
While Argentina as a whole is to blame far more than the greatest player on earth, Messi comes out of this as a failure. As the superstar who couldn’t get the job done. The thousand yard stare from Messi as Argentina went home in shame said it all. Until Argentina learns to play as a team, and not Messi plus ten randoms they will never return to the Argentina we all had come to fear. Maybe they don’t have to worry about that, as Messi may retire from International Play after this.
Youth – Winners
The youth is maybe the biggest storyline of this tournament. Mbappe 19 years old, Golden Boot winner Harry Kane 24 years old. The youthful exuberance from teams like Nigeria, France, and England, shown throughout this tournament. The youth movement was a huge factor in why this is one of the best tournaments in recent memory.
Old Guard – Losers
Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain. The stalwarts of the International scene faded away. Not to mention Italy and Netherlands who didn’t even make the tournament. Their departure left the playing field wide open for the likes of Russia, Croatia, Belgium, and eventual winners France. The old guard exiting the competition much earlier than expected added to the excitement and unpredictability of the knockout rounds. Will this continue in 4 years time in Qatar? Or will the usual suspects gather themselves and come back with a vengeance?
Maradona – Loser
The world saw his disgraceful display during the Argentina game, flipping the double bird to Nigerian fans. Then having to be carried out of the stands by medics due to “exhaustion”. On top of that, he has the nerve to come out after the England Colombia game and call England Cheaters. REALLY Diego? You are going to call a team out for cheating, Mr. Hand of God. Whatever. Look I know he was an amazing footballer, but if I never have to hear or see him ever again that would be ok by me.
Mexico – Losers
The face of CONCACAF this tournament couldn’t shake the Round of 16 curse, failing to advance for the 5th straight time. Mexico played their hearts out, but couldn’t get over the hump once again. Somewhere Landon Donovan is wiping his tears with Wells Fargo money because his beloved Mexico failed once again.
France – Winners
I mean duh, they won the whole thing! Les Bleus ran the table, they played as a team. A team as diverse as the country itself. Sons of immigrants, and native French alike. They played together, as one nation to bring the championship home. A stark contrast to just four years ago that’s for sure.
Vladamir Putin – Loser
Really, dude, you’re not going to give the only umbrella to the lady standing in the pouring rain? That lady was Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović by the way. What a gentleman. Loser.
The World Cup – Winner
Fox has dubbed this World Cup, as the greatest of all time. I can only remember about seven World Cups, but this one does go down to me as the best one I’ve witnessed. It had it all. The group stages were exciting. The knock out rounds had multiple games go all the way to penalty kicks. David’s slayed Goliath’s. We had global icons born. We also had goals. Only one game, Denmark v France in the group stages ended 0-0. To top it all off, we had a final that was in itself fitting of such an amazing World Cup. The final itself encapsulated everything we have seen in this tournament. A V.A.R. Review, a Penalty Kick, an Own Goal from a set piece, and a goal from a 19-year-old wunderkind.
The Women’s World Cup in France next summer has a lot to live up to after this. If 2015 is any indication, we are in for a wild ride.