From Russia with love: Our top 10 World Cup moments
You can pack a lot into a month and 64 games of football. But this summer’s World Cup gave us memories to last a lifetime.
It was arguably the most entertaining football tournament of all-time – certainly of what we’ve witnessed. There were thrills and spills galore with feel-good stories and heartbreaking failures.
So, in no particular order, here’s our X favourite moments of the World Cup in Russia.
After their 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the opener, Germany were on the edge of practical elimination at 1-1 v Sweden. The game pulsed like a bulging vein as Die Mannschaft searched for an elusive winner.
Up stepped Toni Kroos with the final kick of the game. The Real Madrid dynamo let loose with a thunderbolt into the top right-hand corner to win it for ze Germans.
The post and Michy Batshuayi
In any month-long tournament, there’s always a handful of some proper LOL moments. And Batshuayi provided us with one of the best.
Adnan Januzaj had just rocked in a pearler against England to put Belgium ahead. Batshuayi grabbed the ball out of the net and booted it against the post.
But the post wasn’t having it and the ball rebounded like a bullet, cracking the Chelsea striker plum in the face. What a plonker!
Messi magic against Nigeria
It was a traumatic tournament overall for Lionel Messi. The Barcelona superstar didn’t look himself as Argentina looked on the verge of crumbling.
But when La Albiceleste needed him, Messi delivered. The little magician took a stupendous pass from Ever Banega on the run. First off his thigh from slightly behind him, then a first-time touch and move away from the defender.
Still out on the right, moving away from goal, Messi unleashed a powerful strike that nestled in the far corner. A goal only he could score.
England penalty redemption
Italia 90. Euro 96. France 98. Euro 2004. Germany 06. The ghosts of England penalty shootouts were finally laid to rest in the last-16 clash with Colombia.
It all looked like it history was going to repeat itself as the South American side came roaring back to level it in stoppage time.
However, the game edged its way to spot-kicks and the old feelings of despair crept back in. But Jordan Pickford was the hero saving two before Eric Dier scored the decider and drove a nation wild.
South Korea stun Germany
Germany were odds-on to qualify for the knockout phase after victory against Sweden. However, Joachim Low’s side unravelled in the most unlikely circumstances.
The World Cup holders huffed and puffed but they failed to lay a finger on the Saeguk Warriors.
Instead, the Asian team broke away twice in stoppage time with goals from Kim Young-Gwon and Son Heung-Min to send the Germans home.
It’s slightly harsh to say the World Cup peaked on the second night. But Portugal v Spain was a game for the ages.
The Spanish came from 1-0 and 2-1 down to lead 3-2 right up until the final few moments of the game. But up stepped Cristiano Ronaldo to score a screamer against David de Gea and level it at 3-3.
It was the Selecao das Quinas captain’s third of the night and capped an incredible individual performance from Ronaldo.
Iran’s Rory Delap
Your side is 1-0 down, deep in the bowels of a World Cup group clash. You’ve got a throw-in near the opposition’s goal. What do you do? Attempt a somersault throw-in, that’s what.
Milad Mohammadi picked up the ball on the touch-line and looked set for a Rory Delap special. But instead, he tried a somersault special, flipping head-over-heels to fire the ball in.
It didn’t go to plan. And we all howled.
Rojo wins it for Argentina
Despite Messi’s magic earlier in the game, Argentina were on the verge of heart-breaking elimination against Nigeria.
The Super Eagles levelled it at 1-1 and should have been ahead but for poor finishing. Jorge Sampaoli’s side pressed for a winner, though.
And up stepped an unlikely source when they needed it most. Marcos Rojo’s volleyed finish to win it for the Argentines and electrified a tournament already packed with incredible moments.
While Danny Murphy will take credit for discovering him, Kylian Mbappe was already a big name before this World Cup.
However, the 19-year-old was the stand-out name in Russia. His scintillating displays for France meant he was awarded the Young Player of the Tournament.
The two-goal salvo and that special run against Argentina will live long in the memory.
Belgium break Japanese hearts
10 seconds from front to back. Three passes. Seven touches. Belgium win it from 2-0 down with one of the finest counter-attacking goals in recent memory.
Japan were brilliant throughout, 2-0 up in what was a fearless performance. But the Red Devils came roaring back to level it at 2-2.
It looked like it was going to extra-time. But Japan took a corner. Thibaut Courtois claimed it and slid it to Kevin De Bruyne. The Manchester City ace carried it to mid-way before passing to Thomas Meunier on the right.
The PSG full-back pushed it back across the box for the waiting Romelu Lukaku. The striker had the presence of mind to dummy it for the on-rushing Nacer Chadli to score and send Belgium into the quarter-finals.