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Top memorable moments at Russia 2018

A day after the World Cup: Top memorable moments at Russia 2018

July 16, 2018 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
Some of these moments will, without doubt, linger in minds for many years to come.

Russia 2018, for as long as it lasted, served up a lot of priceless moments for both fans and players alike. For this reason and many more, the narrative that it may be by far the best-ever organized World Cup arguably stands true.

For 31 days, fans were treated to one spectacular show after the other and the competition lived up to the hype with France being crowned champions having seen off Croatia via a 4-2 thumping. It's been just a day since Les Bleus, guided by Didier Deschamps, sealed their supremacy on the planet by clinching their second-ever World Cup trophy.

However, for some of us as fans who have been spoilt in the month-long campaign, it already feels like forever. Without much ado, let's reminisce some of the best moments:

  • Russia's 5-0 demolishing of Saudi Arabia

The World Cup kicked off on a high note when the rampant host nation showed no mercy to their Asian opponent in the competition's curtain raiser. The game saw substitute Denis Cheryshev playing a starring role and, as a result, securing a spot in the starting XI in subsequent games after contributing two stunning goals to add up to what was scored by Gazinsky, Dzuyba, and Golovin.

With a sense of belief coagulating in camp, Russia - who was ranked the lowest ahead of the competition - went all the way to the quarter-final. However, they fell to eventual finalists Croatia despite eliminating Spain in a dramatic penalty shootout at the Round of 16 stage.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick vs Spain

First, he opened the scoring from the penalty spot and then he got another after Diego Costa's equalizer. With Nacho's sublime volley and Diego Costa's second almost handing the win to La Roja in the second Group B match, Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to ensure that spoils were shared.

A trademark freekick he hit into the top-right corner of the Spanish goal in the 88th-minute capped off the ding-dong battle between the Iberian neighbors and only rehashed why the meeting was one of the most anticipated matches ahead of Russia 2018.

  • Germany's shock group stage exit

The defending champions were earmarked as one of the favorites to win the World Cup trophy coming into Russia. However, the supposed bad omen associated with lifting the 18-carat gold accolade in the past three editions seems to have found its way into the camp of Die Mannschaft.

Joachim Low and his men joined Spain and Italy as the third successive champions to have exited the World Cup at the group stages. Their plight was instigated after a surprising 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the opening group game.

Despite attracting some hope following Toni Kroos' superb last-ditch free-kick which sealed the 2-1 win over Sweden, the gloomy cloud landed at the doorstep of the Germans when they were torpedoed with two late goals against South Korea in the final group game.

  • Maradona shows two "middle fingers"

Diego Maradona, as part of FIFA's high-profile delegation, was mostly in attendance to cheer on his homeland at Russia 2018. The Argentine legend, however, developed a subplot and made headlines during his homeland's most crucial group-stage encounter against Nigeria.

The former Albiceste skipper was pictured a number of times portraying different gestures and reactions and was at one point seen during his country's 2-1 win over Nigeria raising the middle finger of both hands. It was certainly nothing close to his famed "Hand of God."

  • Japan vs Belgium thriller

Russia 2018's third-place side could not have achieved their fate had it not been for a miraculous turn-around in their Round of 16 encounter with Japan. Belgium seemed to be heading for doom after conceding two goals to the Blue Samurai in quick succession in the preliminary stage of the second half.

Their comeback started in full-swing with Thomas Meunier's 69th-minute header before substitute Marouane Fellaini tied the game with another header five minutes later. With the game seemingly heading for extra-time, Japan was cruelly eliminated after a brilliant counter-attacking play involving Courtois, De Bruyne, Meunier and Lukaku was buried by Nacer Chadli with the very last major action of the game.

  • The Neymar Challenge

The fact that a whole challenge was generated from this on social media basically sums up how much of a sensation it became. Neymar Jr was supposed to be the stars at Russia 2018 but ended up becoming somewhat of a comic piece.

The 26-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward was frequently seen in games exaggerating fouls in gross dramaturgical fashion. Aside the GIFs, memes, and other troll materials, there is an alphabet board modeled after his many antics.

  • England breaking the penalty hoodoo

The Three Lions after two wins in the group-stage set-up a Round of 16 date with Colombia. For the first time in many attempts, they finally progressed to the next round of the knockout phase via penalty shoot-outs. This came after Harry Kane's goal was equalized very late during regulation time by Yerry Mina.

From the spot-kicks, despite Jordan Henderson making a total mess of his attempt, Jordan Pickford pulled through and made a stunning save to keep the hopes alive after Uribe had skied his effort. Eric Dier then proved to be the night's hero with the deciding penalty kick in the 4-3 victory.

Well, even if football could not come home, that is something to be cheerful about, right?

  • The Kylian Mbappe show

Not many teenagers have the potential to carry the majority of a country's weight on their shoulders when given the opportunity but at Russia 2018, Kylian Mbappe proved that he was not your average 19-year-old. The French prodigy impressed game after game and even landed himself a few records which bore the name of the legendary Pele.

After four goals – including a stunning strike in the final against Croatia– Kylian Mbappe won the hearts of many football fans and walked home as the Best Young Player of the tournament. If Pele himself feels threatened (jokingly) by the exploit of the young man, then he was indeed THAT good.

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