It has been a wonderful summer of football, with some describing the 2018 World Cup as the best World Cup of all time. However, while it has been excellent spectacle overall, it has been more kind to some compared to others.
While France were the overall winners, and with the likes of Germany, Spain, Argentina and Brazil all facing early exits, we look at who were the five big winners and losers from the World Cup in Russia.
Winner – Gareth Southgate
While nobody expected much from England, Gareth Southgate’s side inspired a nation to believe once again.
While the incessant ‘It’s coming home’ memes were becoming tiresome, the fact they were so prevalent was a sign of how well the team were progressing through the tournament, and a lot of this was due to Gareth Southgate.
He left a few big names at home, and made some bold decisions regarding team formation and selection, but England’s progress into the depths of the tournament (easy side of the draw aside) shows how his decisions paid off.
Loser – Neymar
Neymar came into the tournament as one of the favourites for the golden boot, and with a chance to stake his claim as one of the best in the world.
However, he was forced to return to Brazil after the quarter-final stage, scoring only two goals.
While he was the most creative player in the tournament until his exit, the only thing he enhanced in Russia was his reputation as a pathetic, play acting softy – going down at the slightest touch before rolling round like he had been shot. Disappointing to see.
Winner – Kylian Mbappe
While Neymar was a big loser, his PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe was one of the tournaments brightest lights, and is now even being touted as a potential Ballon d’Or winner.
He helped France win their second World Cup, with his four goals ensuring that he finished joint second in the race for the Golden Boot behind Harry Kane.
Announced himself to the world as a true superstar, not just for the future, but for the present.
Loser – David de Gea
Widely regarded as one of the best ‘keepers in the World, but the Manchester United man made some hugely uncharacteristic errors, as Spain were dumped out of the tournament in the last 16.
During his four games at the World Cup, he conceded six goals, including a horrific blunder against Portugal to practically gift Ronaldo the second goal of his impressive hat-trick.
Made just one save all tournament, and was widely slated by the Spanish press after the 2010 World Champions were knocked out by Russia in the round of 16.
Winner – Roberto Martinez
A surprise choice when appointed by the Belgian FA, but the former Wigan and Everton boss had his side playing some excellent football, managing to convert his abundance of Premier League stars into being a functional team playing an attractive brand of football.
While they went into the tournament as dark horses, their third placed finish was still the best in the Red Devils history, with their impressive quarter final victory over Brazil the standout performance.
Loser – Lionel Messi
One of the greatest of all time, but once again, Lionel Messi was unable to impress on the greatest stage in world football.
While Argentina’s exit wasn’t solely down to Messi, the Barcelona star only managed one goal, and failed to take any of their games by the scruff of the neck as he so often does at club level.
Winner – Russia
There was plenty of controversy when Russia was awarded the rights to host the World Cup, while more recent fears have been around the potential for racism, homophobia, and violence.
However, what has transpired has been the Russians putting on one of the greatest World Cups in history.
Not only has it been a fantastic spectacle, the Russian national team provided plenty of excitement for the home support too, going into the tournament as one of the worst sides in Russian history, but going on to make it to the quarter finals, sensationally dumping Spain out in the process.
Loser – Africa
The African teams always add to World Cup, and there is often one that goes deep into the competition, such as Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana, Nigeria and Algeria more recently.
However, this time round, not a single team from Africa made it out of the group stages.
Tunisia were the best ranked African team according to the FIFA rankings, while Senegal had one of the most talented squads with the likes of Idrissa Gueye and Sadio Mane in their ranks. Meanwhile a Mo Salah led Egypt were also considered to have had an outside chance of progressing – but all ultimately failed.
Senegal did come closest, but became the first team in World Cup history to be knocked out on recently introduced fair play criteria, after finishing with an identical record to Japan in the group stages, but having accumulated more yellow cards.
Winner – Croatia
While the small Balkan nation possess two of the world’s best midfielders in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in their ranks, and of course the self proclaimed ‘best defender in the world,’ Dejan Lovren, nothing special was expected of the Croatians this summer.
However, the well drilled side made it all the way to the World Cup final earning plenty of plaudits along the way.
They comfortably topped Group D, smashing Argentina 3-0 along the way, as well as grinding out wins against Nigeria and Iceland. They then knocked out Denmark, Russia and England on route to the first final in their short history.
Loser – All other sports
It has been a fantastic four weeks of football, and so good has the action been in Russia, other sports have suffered. Since the start of the World Cup, there has been three F1 Grand Prix’s, the whole of Wimbledon, and a whole host of cricket…not that anyone has noticed though.