EAW World Cup Review

Bloody hell, that was a bit great, wasn’t it?

Well we here at EAW aren’t ready to let go of the World Cup just yet. So we’ve done a (pretty extensive) review. Enjoy!

 

 

What was the high point of the tournament for you?

@GwladysOptimist – Think for me the high point of the tournament has been the quality of nearly every game, especially in the group stages where there seemed to be drama at every turn, last minute goals, screamers galore, it’s been so exciting from start to finish. Don’t think I ever remember any tournament, club or international, that’s thrown up so many talking points, it’s been incredibly entertaining.

Mat Flusk (@MatFlusk) – Being able to enjoy England again, because they’re not a detestable collection of individuals led by a racist, which granted is the lowest of bars. Southgate has set the tone with his considered thoughtful manner and caused ripples beyond football with a lot of columns being penned about a new English identity that he seems to embody.

@thechicoazul – The Ronaldo goal v Spain on the first Friday. A classic World Cup game and one which I think perfectly set the tone for the weeks ahead. Plus at that moment you were thinking “cor, I’ve got a month of this to go yet”.

Michael De Asha (@MichaelDeAsha) – It has to be France vs Argentina, it had everything you could want from a game of football: Excellent counter attacking, Mbappe arriving on the biggest stage, Pavard scoring the goal of the tournament (you’re dead weird if you thought it was Chadli’s against Japan, by the way) the narrative of Messi carrying the entire squad, properly awful defending and Paulo Dybala passive-aggressively picking his nails every time an Argentinian substitution was made. How could you not love that?

A special mention for Iran’s snidery and limbs against Spain too.

@keef1985_2 – It’s hard to pin down a single high point for me, the unrelenting commitment to shenanigans from all parties was great. If pushed, I’d have to say the Iranian full back attempting and failing to deliver a somersault throw in in the 95th minute while chasing an equaliser will go down as a moment of World Cup folklore. Honourable mention goes to the successful deployment of VAR.

Ed McCosh (@EdMc_Cosh) – Spain 3-3 Portugal. Not only was it beautifully entertaining, but it intimated that we’d see a proper festival of football in Russia. The games that followed didn’t disappoint.

Rob Vera (@TheRobVera) – To attempt to pick a single moment or match feels almost criminal. That’s how good the entirety of this tournament has been. The closest thing to an answer I can give in terms of a high point would be the group stages as a whole. Given the time difference and a job that enables me to work from home, I woke up every day for weeks feeling like I had a gift waiting for me. And man, did the group stages ever deliver. Tight matches, endless storylines, petty bitterness between players and teams, big upsets, late drama—the group stages had it all. The fact that people were debating whether this had been the greatest World Cup of their lifetime well before the knockouts started tells you all you need to know about how much the group matches delivered.

Chris Smith (@cdsmith789) – Pickford’s penalty save v Colombia. Although his save in regular time was better, the save of the tournament in fact, the penalty save changed England’s fate, both in the shootout and historically. Hopefully it will be the moment Pickford progressed from being very good to being brilliant.

 

 

And, alternatively, what was the low point?

@GwladysOptimist – Lowest point was probably the ending to Group B. I’ve been someone who’s happy to at least give VAR the benefit of the doubt, and more often than not it’s been effective when used, but that night everything seemed to be complete chaos, which I don’t mind in itself it’s just that VAR made the whole thing more confusing than it needed to be.

Mat Flusk (@MatFlusk) – Again, this is going to have a slight England bias, but I thought Colombia’s conduct in the round of 16 put a downer on what was a positive and sporting tournament. A lot of that was down to the referee who totally failed to keep control of the game.

@thechicoazul – The Ikea shitheads. The perfect fusion of their team winning, drinking with their mates and a barmy hot heatwave wasn’t enough to sedate their need to be attention seeking bantertwats. Well in lads.

Michael De Asha (@MichaelDeAsha) – Japan just stopping with 15 minutes to go against Poland, despite losing the game and not being guaranteed qualification. The fact that they ended up going through at Senegal’s expense (on yellow cards!!) is proof that evil will always triumph over good.

Oh yeah, and those dickheads lashing beer as well.

@keef1985_2 – France and Denmark playing out a matinee of meh to ensure they both qualified for the knockout stages. In a tournament resplendent of goals, both stunning and scruffy, this goalless draw was a blight on an otherwise exciting tournament.

Ed McCosh (@EdMc_Cosh) – Being German-born, die Mannschaft’s humiliating and traumatic exit amid a backdrop of gloating and light xenophobia really hurt. Also everything that came out of Glenn Hoddle’s mouth.

Rob Vera (@TheRobVera) – The final whistle of England-Croatia, easily. As a “man without a country” in this tournament, it was hard not to get caught up a bit in the Cinderella run of England—especially with an Everton keeper putting in a star-making turn. I generally view the majority of international football as the unwelcome interruption to the Premier League season—usually right as it gets into a groove. But seeing an unexpected run by an England team finally liberated of the same, tired “names” that could never seemingly play together was validation for those persistent voices who have long advocated team-building based on true chemistry as opposed to a fantasy football mandate. Ultimately, it was much harder to dislike this England team compared to many that had come before it. Seeing their magical run halted in extra time when it FELT like the Cup was in reach was a jarring comedown after weeks riding the dragon.

Chris Smith (@cdsmith789) – Watching Russia do well and seeing Putin’s smug face.

 

 

Who was your player of the tournament?

@GwladysOptimist – I think he’s probably going to be most people’s choice but has to be Luka Modric. He plays like he’s walking on air, floating effortlessly around the pitch, almost as if time and space are completely standing still. I’m a sucker for a diminutive midfielder with a low centre of gravity but it seems that during this tournament his game his reached even greater heights than the standards he’s already set at Real Madrid.

Mat Flusk (@MatFlusk) – Writing this after the final it seems an easy pick given that he’s the official winner, but ever since before the semi-final it was looking like Modric first, daylight second. He’s always been one of those quietly brilliant midfielders who sets the pace of games, and leading his team by example to the World Cup final.

@thechicoazul – Modric. He’s still held in personal high esteem for effortlessly sexing Boston Hospital XI’s midfield in Kiev just before the tournament, but during this World Cup he’s been a dominant controlling force. All the nicer to see as he’s not reliant on the power and pace thing the modern game prefers, but just a wee technical centre circle pixie picking holes in midfield that you didn’t know was there.

Michael De Asha (@MichaelDeAsha) – If you’d asked me after the group stage (you haven’t but I’m going to tell you who it is anyway) I’d have said Phillipe Coutinho. He was sensational and stepped up to the plate while Neymar seemed distracted with making sure he was the centre of attention. But when the going got tough Coutinho wilted, along with the rest of the Brazil team, and up stepped Luka Modric. You can’t argue with him winning the Player of the Tournament award. He was the driving force behind a truly remarkable World Cup run for Croatia.

@keef1985_2 – Luka Modric. When all the biggest names were struggling to make a real impact, the unassuming Croat stepped up and showed that he’s on a level not far below that of Messi and Cristiano. Everything good about Croatia’s run to the final was orchestrated through him. Close runner up was Kylian Mbappe who at 19 is showing all the attributes and potential that we saw in Ronaldo in the run up to France 98.

Ed McCosh (@EdMc_Cosh) – I think FIFA actually got this one right. Luka Modric was just magnificent throughout, injecting world class quality into a Croatia side with a suspect defence (Vrsaljko aside) and a tough-looking group. His complete schooling of the England midfield was a big part of taking Croatia to a generation-defining final. Pity about the perjury…

Rob Vera (@TheRobVera) – Luka Modric. The most magical footballing hobbit in all of middle earth was truly a giant among men. For all the great performances by great players, no superstar did more to carry his team through the brutal gauntlet of the World Cup than did Modric. In a sport that reveres its superstars and its legendary leaders like no other, seeing one man wear both mantles simultaneously and seamlessly on the world’s greatest stage will not soon be forgotten.

Chris Smith (@cdsmith789) – Luka Modric. He’s the best player in the world and proved it in Russia.

 

 

Who was your breakout player of the tournament?

@GwladysOptimist – Easy one for me, Kylian Mbappe. Reminds of a young Ronaldo (Lima) the way in which he can run at defenders at full pelt and spreads fear amongst opposition back lines. Trickery and confidence, coupled with an eye for goal, his potential at 19 is terrifying.

Mat Flusk (@MatFlusk) – We’re all going for Pickford right? It’s no surprise to us Evertonians but he really announced himself onto the world stage as a top goalkeeper in the making. I’m not bundling him into a taxi just yet like some are.

Or that VAR fella.

@thechicoazul – There was already a lot of hype about Mbappe before the tournament but in Russia I think he gained a worldwide audience and showed a talent that looks likely to be prominent in world football for some years to come.

Michael De Asha (@MichaelDeAsha) – I don’t think you could say Mbappe, purely because he has been a sensational talent for two solid seasons now, no matter how good he was during the tournament. Although it feels a long time ago now, Hirving Lozano’s performances against Germany and South Korea were exactly what you think of when someone says ‘breakout talent’ to you. He lit up those games and alerted a worldwide audience to his talents.

@keef1985_2 – Juan Quintero of Colombia. Just as his compatriot James Rodriguez did in Brazil four years ago, Quintero has chosen the game’s biggest stage to truly showcase his talents. With James struggling with injury, the youngster stepped up and dragged his nation through the group stages against the odds to make the second round. His under the wall free kick against Japan was a real highlight.

Ed McCosh (@EdMc_Cosh) – It gets harder to tell, because you don’t really get unknown quantities any more – especially with the self-professed experts who dose Twitter users with condescension. I’ll go for Benjamin Pavard. He impressed with a Stuttgart side who only conceded nine home league goals all season, but he might have been considered a weak link pre-tournament for France. Now he’s a World Cup winner, with a move to a bigger club imminent, and he scored *that* brilliant/slightly fortuitous goal.

Rob Vera (@TheRobVera) – Kylian Mbappé. If you’re someone like me whose exposure to club football is generally confined to the Premier League, seeing great players outside of England that you’ve heard of live up to all the hype in spectacular fashion is truly a wonder to behold. Mbappé—somehow at the age of only 19—is a rare athlete and footballer who actually felt like he was more impressive to the eye than the seemingly hyperbolic word of mouth had suggested was possible. He may be the future, but it’s hard to argue he isn’t also the present. In short, he was the most dangerous, game-changing force of nature for the world champions. And if you’ve never had the chance to watch him play before now like many of us, he felt like the kind of revelation that suddenly makes your world that much bigger.

Chris Smith (@cdsmith789) – Ante Rebic. Aside from Modric and Ivan Perisic, Rebic was Croatia’s best performer in the games I saw. I knew very little about him before the tournament so watching him play with confidence and conviction made quite an impression.

 

 

Which player disappointed you the most?

@GwladysOptimist – Without a doubt Neymar. Am a strong defender of the type of player Neymar is, on his day he can be completely unstoppable, but I genuinely believe something wrong has happened since he’s gone to PSG. Whether the league is too easy for him is irrelevant his complete lack of professionalism quite frankly stunk. Coutinho basically showed him up as the main man for Brazil, Neymar’s performances were borderline embarrassing.

Mat Flusk (@MatFlusk) – Neymar without a doubt. A lot of the top players have had reputations for play acting over the years, but few as consistently ludicrous as Neymar. Added on top of that, he spent most of the tournament blowing out of his arse, throwing a strop and generally not justifying the massive price tag that looks more and more like creative accounting on the part of the next hosts.

@thechicoazul – Probably Neymar because he’s way beyond levels of acceptable shithousing and now into the parody stage. All that talent yet the propensity to act a texan was almost overshadowing it. Get him the 051 Barber Shop and a winter in the Zingari and he’ll be sound.

Michael De Asha (@MichaelDeAsha) – Emil Forsberg. He didn’t have his best season for Leipzig after the ridiculousness of 16/17, but he still far below the level I expected of him. Forsberg should really be the main man in that Sweden side now that Zlatan Ibrahimovich has retired, but unfortunately he just didn’t step up to the plate in Russia.

@keef1985_2 – I think Dele Alli had a particularly poor tournament although he wasn’t helped by injury. This might also sound a tad ridiculous given that he won the golden boot but I felt Harry Kane was a bit of a let down, particularly in the semi-final defeat to Croatia where he missed a goal line chance to double the early lead and put the game beyond their opponents.

Ed McCosh (@EdMc_Cosh) – Easily Timo Werner. Bloody hell.

Rob Vera (@TheRobVera) – Lionel Messi. And of course there are a myriad of extenuating circumstances including the absolute mess of an Argentina team he played with. But for a player who I’ve often told the uninitiated in America is more dominant in his sport than LeBron James is in his, it was disappointing to see him not flourish in front of so many fresh eyeballs. Messi’s relatively lackluster turn in this World Cup once again showed that being the greatest is awesome, but it doesn’t guarantee success on a stage with such a uniquely illusive combination of pressure and fortune.

Chris Smith (@cdsmith789) – Lionel Messi. Argentina are obviously dreadful, Sampaoli has been woeful, the squad is imbalanced, and confidence is low. Even with all that taken into account, I was disappointed with how ineffective Messi was. He’s the best player in the world and is capable of passing, moving and shooting far better than he did. Great goal against Nigeria though.

 

 

Which country did you enjoy watching the most?

@GwladysOptimist – I really enjoyed the madness that was Uruguay. Seeing two proper number 9’s on the pitch at the same time really is a throwback to yesteryear and I loved every minute of it. The rough and tumble, along with intense work rate and world class goal scoring ability made Suarez and Cavani a fascinating watch.

Mat Flusk (@MatFlusk) – Honestly, Croatia. They weren’t the most attractive at times, but their never say die attitude to pull it back from the brink is what knockout football is all about. And the way they conducted themselves in the final group game to keep the competition fair was superb.

@thechicoazul – Pondered this one hard and concluded it’s been the jamboree of front foot togger rather than any one team in particular, but if there had to be one then probably France. Sucker for a good counter attack here plus that crust headed right back’s spin-o goal was sensational.

Michael De Asha (@MichaelDeAsha) – Germany. Not because they were good, because they really weren’t. Because every game they were involved in was utterly entertaining. Mexico was thrilling, Sweden was dramatic and South Korea was ‘Mauel Neuer playing left wing’ levels of implosion. Lovely.

@keef1985_2 – Probably Belgium. Some of the passing football and rapid counterattacking was breathtaking to watch, although again it was lacking in the semi final when it mattered most. France were not at their free flowing best, but every time they faced quality opposition, they seemed to step their game up and do what needed to be done. Mbappe, Pogba and Griezmann were great to watch at times.

Ed McCosh (@EdMc_Cosh) – I loved watching Argentina, purely because the volatile chemistry of the side meant you had no idea what they’d do next. Roberto Martinez doing a heel turn and banking Belgium’s World Cup hopes on Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli was also great fun.

Rob Vera (@TheRobVera) – This will sound weird, but I enjoyed the hell out of Colombia. No team seemed to combine swashbuckling audaciousness with a willingness to wear the black hats quite like they did. They relished being the bad guys and I was there for it! It was a shame to see James Rodriguez miss the England game as they were a different side with all that he brought to the table, but from the emergence of guys like Yerry Mina, Wilmer Barrios, and Juan Quintero, etc. made for a really fun team to watch—especially for those of us who think having really good bad guys only elevates the movie that much more.

Chris Smith (@cdsmith789) – Mexico. I reckon I might have answered Mexico for the last two or three World Cups. They’re a perfect blend of direct attacking and reckless defending. I enjoyed watching all their games. Honourable mention to Croatia who were consistently well-balanced and competitive.

 

 

If Everton could realistically sign one player from this tournament, who would it be?

@GwladysOptimist – Such a tough one because at the moment we lack in so many areas feels a bit odd trying to pinpoint exactly what position needs the most attention, but if I had to pick one based on this tournament it would be Rodrigo Bentancur. Incredibly dynamic and full of energy, when Uruguay were on song he seemed to be the real heartbeat of the team.

Mat Flusk (@MatFlusk) – Weighting this by what Everton currently need, it would have to be the somewhat unpopular choice of Vida. I thought he had an excellent tournament against some decent opposition and we can’t be sniffing at centre halves right now.

@thechicoazul – I’m honestly shite at this scouting thing but that Ziyech from Ajax looks a player doesn’t he?

Michael De Asha (@MichaelDeAsha) – I’d love to say Hirving Lozano, but I just don’t think it’s realistic. So I’d probably go with Marcelo Brozovic. Everton have been linked to him quite a lot in the past 18 months. He’s had a fantastic season at Inter Milan, but they’ve just signed Radja Nainggolan and we all know about Inter’s continuing FFP troubles. It’s a long shot, but I’d love it if Everton could pull it off.

@keef1985_2 – I’d love to see Ante Rebic of Croatia in a blue shirt. Fast, direct, skilful and a great crosser of the ball, he’s everything that’s been missing from the side for the last two seasons. The volley against Argentina was special, a moment of incredible technique.

Ed McCosh (@EdMc_Cosh) – We were already linked with Hirving Lozano, and I don’t see why that should change based on his World Cup performances. There’s plenty of room for development but he’s sharp, he works hard, and he’d add something going forward that the likes of Yannick Bolasie really haven’t.

Rob Vera (@TheRobVera) – Hirving Lozano of Mexico. I’ve heard it all about his size and the potential questions of how he would fit into the Premier League. But all I see is a one-man wrecking crew of a winger whose pace and ability to create chances for himself and others is the kind of disruptive force that Everton haven’t had in ages.

Chris Smith (@cdsmith789) – Possibly Rebic depending on how Eintracht want to play that one, or someone like Yann Sommer to provide genuine competition for Pickford. I was impressed with Senegal’s Youssouf Sabaly who, at approximately £6m, would strengthen our right-back options. More optimistically, Lozano. Given the Brands connection and Mexico’s lowkey exit limiting the hype.

 

 

Did you find yourself supporting England? Why/why not?

@GwladysOptimist – Yes I did. Being honestly I do every tournament but I think like most felt a massive disconnect with the whole England set up. Usually they would stumble in under a cloud of gloom, media foaming at the mouth waiting to pounce on any sort of mistake. When I was younger I probably saw one of the most talented teams England have ever produced rock up time and time again at tournaments and look nothing more than Championship standard. But this team was completely different. They were young, fearless and genuinely looked like they were having fun. For me growing up the World Cup was the pinnacle of everyone who kicked a ball and these players looked and played and acted like they grew up with the same feeling. Ultimately they fell short where I think the inexperience showed, but given the age this group are at it makes for exciting times for England moving forward.

Mat Flusk (@MatFlusk) – I’m one of those tedious scousers who spend all year slagging England off before getting completely sucked in come the tournament. But it felt much easier this time around for the reasons stated above.

@thechicoazul – Shitbag of a question this, well in. I don’t really get the feels for England so not really. I did watch most of their games and hasten to add that this likeable group of players and manager certainly didn’t have me wishing for the cruellest possible exit. Which is progress.

Michael De Asha (@MichaelDeAsha) – I don’t know if supporting is the right word. I haven’t actively wanted England to do well since 2002, when I was 9 years old. Maybe it was a sense of nostalgia for being that kid again, or maybe it was a bandwagoning on my part, I don’t know. But I definitely wanted them to do well. I didn’t celebrate any of the goals though and I wasn’t distraught when they got beat. The only bit that did really suck me in was the beating of Colombia on penalties. It was almost cathartic to see England win a World Cup penalty shootout, after all the failures when I was younger. I suppose it was better than the usual abject apathy anyway.

@keef1985_2 – No, I’m not allowed. Bound by years of Scottish patriotism, actively supporting England is heresy and would result in me being banned from drinking Irn Bru or eating lorne sausage. However, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever watched England in a tournament and not actively wanted them to get pumped rotten every time they set foot on the pitch. Progress, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Ed McCosh (@EdMc_Cosh) – I did, actually, though international football doesn’t stir up too much passion in me. The tension I felt at 1-1 in the semi-final equated to the nerves you get approximately two weeks before a Merseyside derby. But it was a likeable England team, it was great seeing Jordan Pickford getting the recognition he deserved, and I enjoyed how people felt there was an England bandwagon to get on. The meme-ification of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ was all a bit of fun, really.

Rob Vera (@TheRobVera) – Yes. As I articulated earlier, my support of England grew and grew with each passing day and with each big save from Jordan Pickford. In the same way I’ve been begging Everton to look forward with a system-driven youth movement, it was great to see England—a team who came in with a modest bar of expectation—put it all together in a manner finally worthy of the adoration that years of hype before had never managed to deliver.

Chris Smith (@cdsmith789) – A bit, but I immediately didn’t care when Mandzukic scored. There was a lot to respect and enjoy about England this time around, mainly Gareth Southgate, but I can’t say any of the goals/ wins meant that much to me, and neither did the semi-final defeat. Loads of set-piece goals robbed the matches of genuine tension, and I think I needed that to hook me back in. Felt like I was supporting Pickford more than England.

 

 

Was this the best international tournament you’ve ever seen?

@GwladysOptimist – Without a doubt, like I said before I can’t remember a tournament producing so many memories, coupled with the great weather it’s been a fantastic summer.

Mat Flusk (@MatFlusk) – Undoubtedly yes. It may be coloured by the 24/7 instant access to reaction, analysis and video but the twists and turns, the total lack of consideration for the footballing aristocracy, and the emergence of VAR have given us probably the last great World Cup for a long while. All that was missing was a spectacular off-field farce or scandal.

@thechicoazul – You know what? Probably, yeah. It was great wasn’t it? Everton returning is going to be like going back to work on a Monday after 2 weeks in the Caribbean.

Michael De Asha (@MichaelDeAsha) – Yes. One 0-0 draw just about sums it up. There was drama in every game apart from that Denmark-France game. VAR, in most cases, added suspense but didn’t detract from the spectacle of the match. The boring possession-fests were localised to Spain, who were eventually punished for playing in such a way. Seeing the likes of Argentina & Germany fall away early was so exciting and led to such unpredictability in the later rounds, with the likes of Croatia, England and Belgium adequately replacing the usual suspects with some truly memorable games. I’m not sure we’ll ever see a World Cup like it again, but at least we all saw it.

@keef1985_2 – On the whole, I’d say yes. Up until now it was probably France 98, having been just too young for Italia 90. This one though had everything, great drama, unbelievable matches, emerging stars and shock results. Throw in VAR, extra time extra substitutions and an Everton goalkeeper having the tournament of his life, it probably pips 20 years ago for me.

Ed McCosh (@EdMc_Cosh) – I mean, it’s no 2013 Confederations Cup, throwing Tahiti in against Spain and Uruguay…I’ll always have a soft spot for the first international tournament I remember properly, the 2002 World Cup. But this one was surely the best in many a decade, for the quality, the drama and the beautiful snide streak that even survived VAR. But hey, I’d rather watch Wolves vs Everton anyway.

Rob Vera (@TheRobVera) – Yes. A thousand times yes. While the 2002 World Cup probably did more to get me hooked as an American who had not really grown up with an appreciation of the magnitude of the game around the world, this tournament cemented my belief that the sport (yes, already the most popular in the world) is in the ascendancy moving forward. Watching the World Cup Final in a jam-packed bar in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (of all places) given that the US team hadn’t kicked a ball feels like a harbinger of even greater things to come and suggests a stage that will only get bigger and more expansive in the future. Russia 2018 will be hard act to follow, but it’s an act whose success promises an even bigger audience for the sequel.

Chris Smith (@cdsmith789) – Nah. It was really good but with Germany, Spain and Argentina being terrible, it felt like the tournament lacked quality. Also, no African teams in the last 16 was a letdown – I expected more from Senegal, Nigeria, and Egypt. And, fair play to Harry Kane, but it was an unenthralling Golden Boot contest.

Michael De Asha
Michael De Asha

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