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12 Moments to remember from Russia 18

Tuesday 17th July 2018

It’s over. Everyone is coming home whether they like it or not. For the most part, everyone not only liked this World Cup, they loved it.

What’s not to love? France won the tournament. Croatia proved football is the world’s game and doesn’t just belong to the eight nations who have won every tournament since 1930. England feels good about itself for the first time in a long time. Every match save France v Denmark featured at least one goal.

Of course, you can’t please everyone. Roy Keane isn’t one of those. After the final, he changed his mind, saying that Paul Pogba can dance and colour his hair as often and in any manner he likes. Graeme Souness stuck to his guns. Scoring in a World Cup final and creating a second apparently isn’t enough for the Scot who has forgotten his past as an extrovert.

Others aren’t sold on France, either, believing they’ll soon be exposed. But no one is going to run roughshod in the World Cup for 90 minutes match in and match out. There is no Everton v ATV Irdning at the top. There is too much quality to go around. Everyone is incredibly fit and technology allows coaches to prepare like never before. Football at the highest level is now about seeking out, recognising and exploiting one’s moments. France did that best.

The final was a microcosm of the theory. Croatia were carrying the play. Les Bleus didn’t deserve a free kick when Antoine Griezmann dove but the Atleti man sized up the moment and delivered a cross that Mario Mandzukic could only flick into his own net. Nor did Ivan Perisic deserve to be penalised for what was clearly ball to hand. Griezmann lived the moment again, however, sending Danijel Subasic the wrong way.

The key moment came in the second half, from Didier Deschamps this time. N’Golo Kante was playing nothing like the best holding mid in the world. Whether he was suffering the effects of Blaise Matuidi’s concussion or just couldn’t handle the moment, Deschamps made the critical decision to end his day when, ten minutes past the interval, Kante still hadn’t sorted himself. Steven Nzonzi came on. France settled. Croatia suddenly couldn’t get near Hugo Lloris. Six mutes ensued in which Pogba and Kylian Mbappe both seized their moments. The match was so over that Hugo Lloris fell asleep on Mandzukic and it didn’t matter.

Moments were what this World Cup delivered. So, with some help from my friends, I’ve compiled a few significant ones from throughout the tournament. A few will still be fresh in your mind. Others may have slipped into the divan cushions in your memory. All were pivotal, taking the tournament in new, unexpected directions. Relive them one more time.  

Stats For Football Players
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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