This has been one of the best World Cups in years

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

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    It may not have featured as many goals as previous editions, but this has been one of the most entertaining World Cups in recent memory.

    Hands up who was mesmerised by France’s 4-3 win over Argentina on Sunday morning?

    There was one player who starred above all else whose surname started with M, but it certainly wasn’t Lionel Messi.

    A few Aussies might have missed it since it was on in the early hours after a Socceroos game, but Kylian Mbappe terrorised Peru in France’s earlier 1-0 group stage win.

    So his virtuoso one-man wrecking ball routine against Argentina should have come as no surprise.

    Mbappe was simply unstoppable – using his searing pace to win an early penalty, skipping past a static Argentine defence to poke home France’s third on his left, and side-footing home the decisive goal with his right.

    It was as good an individual performance as we’ve seen in this World Cup, and it was a familiar sight to anyone who watched a Paris Saint-Germain game last season.

    Mbappe was such a star for the French champions, there was a rumour Neymar complained to the club’s hierarchy about his influence on the team.

    It’s unlikely the French moneybags can hold on to the teenager for much longer – he only recently became the second-most expensive signing in the sport’s history behind Neymar, after originally joining Paris Saint-Germain on loan from Monaco – and surely the rangy attacker can take his pick from the world’s biggest clubs.

    But it’s not like Mbappe is the only player to have turned on the style.

    Regardless of what happened in this morning’s Round of 16 showdown between Croatia and Denmark, Luka Modric has already reinforced his status as one of the world’s best creative talents.

    Where many expected Christian Eriksen to dominate the group stage, instead it’s been Croatia’s impish playmaker who has really stolen the show.

    No wonder Modric has won three UEFA Champions League titles in a row with Real Madrid. He’s the beating heartbeat of a supremely talented Croatian team.

    Uruguay are a different beast, and they rely heavily on star duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. But why wouldn’t they when they boast a couple of finishers like those two?

    Suarez crossed for Cavani to open the scoring in the 2-1 win over Portugal – although I’m not sure it wasn’t actually meant as a shot – and Cavani, as tends to be his way, looked like he may even have headed the ball into his shoulder on the way in.

    There was no doubting the quality of his second finish though, and for all the talk of Suarez being the main man for Uruguay, it’s actually Cavani who scores the bulk of their goals.

    Uruguay's Edison Cavani controls the ball.

    (Photo by XIN LI/Getty Images)

    Uruguay’s hard-fought win over Portugal means Cristiano Ronaldo is now out of the tournament, where he’ll join his arch-rival Lionel Messi in watching the rest of the World Cup on TV.

    They may be stars for their respective club sides, but perhaps what Portugal’s and Argentina’s early exit demonstrates is how hard it is to win a major tournament when you’re not surrounded by the world’s best players in every other position.

    That said, Argentina will go down alongside Germany as one of the most disappointing performers in the World Cup – and it remains to be seen how far Neymar can take a pedestrian-looking Brazil side as well.

    But whatever happens from here on in, this has still be one of the most entertaining World Cups in recent years.

    Yes, the VAR has played a significant role – but if it’s going to be a factor, it may as well be one on the biggest stage of all.

    It’s just nice to watch some football without worrying about off-field issues.

    No doubt they exist for the nations involved. Fortunately for us, we can simply enjoy what’s happening on the pitch.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist since December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (107)

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:04am
      RandyM said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      Spain out! a grand final spot is really up for grabs now on one side of the draw, could be anyone. England have a great opportunity to make a WC final.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:19am
        RBBAnonymous said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

        England still have to get past Colombia which I don’t think they will do.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:24pm
          jameswm said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

          50/50

        • July 4th 2018 @ 12:02pm
          Aethelbert said | July 4th 2018 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

          Whoops, this is what happens when a wsw fan thinks they actually know football.

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:10am
      jamesb said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      And it’s a case of what might have been for Australia. They could’ve collected 4 points against France and Denmark which may have been enough to seal second place.

      Then you look at the knockout stages. Australia would’ve tangled with Croatia. Denmark lost to them on penalties. Australia drew with Denmark.

      I know its all hypothetical, but had Australia survived the group stages, then they would’ve been on the softer side of the draw.

      Round of 16- Croatia
      Quarter Final- Russia
      Semi Final- Sweden/ Switzerland/ England/ Colombia

      Australia may also had the attitude in the knockout stages of “we have nothing to lose”, “have fun”, while their opponents may have played with more tension. We just saw two games go to penalties overnight. If only Australia had a striker.

      What might have been?

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:19am
        Lionheart said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        absolutely

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:37am
        AGO74 said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        Sorry but in terms of the merits of the “would have, could have, should have” hypotheticals we are not even the most meritorious in our group in that argument. Peru have arguably better claims to that than us if you’d watched their games against Denmark and France.

        Iran and Senegal both have more claims than us when they were eliminated despite having better records than Argentina. Nigeria were through until the 85th minute against Argentina.

        I’m sure there are other examples people could think of from this World Cup, but the reality is what it is and virtually every eliminated team can claim hard luck stories in the hypothetical debate.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:30am
          Lionheart said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:30am | ! Report

          true, but only we will claim ours, so good call by jamesb

      • Roar Guru

        July 2nd 2018 @ 1:18pm
        Griffo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        I know what you are saying jamesb as I was (and usually do) thinking a similar thing myself when looking at Croatia vs Denmark.

        There seems to be a certain script emerging for this World Cup: nations who have hung on to older stars, teams not playing their best consistently, individuals missing key moments, some teams taking their chances on the day more…

        I really expect Brazil to be the next to be going home early. In reality they haven’t been playing well enough and seem to be like Argentina and Portugal in having one huge star player to rely on instead of a collective team effort.

        The potential for a new or infrequent winner for this World Cup is growing more likely (I hope).

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 1:49pm
        yojo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

        Nah, Australians can’t score. BLUNT strikers.

        Strikers MUST be SHARP (in their head, heart and in their blood)
        Australian men are BLUNT
        BLUNT men make hopeless strikers.

        The problem is the Australian “culture”(or the lack thereof): Australians boys are RAISED to be BLUNT – in school, at work, in all walks of life. Being BLUNT is considered something “positive” in Australian society. Australian men are discouraged to be sharp, by the media, big business and the government.

        There were exceptions of course. Tim Cahill. He is ”unAustralian”. He is sharp and that’s why he could score.

        Rugby is a blunt man’s sport.

        • Roar Guru

          July 2nd 2018 @ 3:18pm
          JamesH said | July 2nd 2018 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

          WTF?

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:25pm
            jameswm said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:25pm | ! Report

            Yeah I’ve 2 words for him.

            Tim.

            Cahill.

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:21am
      Duncan Smith said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      Definitely the best world cup I’ve seen for at least four years.

      Seriously, the main reason it’s good is no Italy, Germany, Holland, Argentina into the last eight. Let’s hope Brazil lose too, so we might get a new champion.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 3:59pm
        Brian said | July 2nd 2018 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

        Why are people against the best teams progressing. Russia got a penalty and then just sat their stall for a draw and the shootout. If it was not in Russia Spain probably get a VAR penalty late on and go through. This is also what Sweden did to Italy and Germany. Nothing wrong with that of course but its hardly a better spectacle then the France v Argentina game

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:10pm
          Nemesis said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

          “This is also what Sweden did to .. Germany”

          Well, Germany beat Sweden. So, what’s your point?

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:11pm
          James said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

          I like how you ignore that Spain’s goal was an own goal and then conspiracy theory. And then for some reason claim that Argentina would be a good game despite them being pretty much useless for the last 2 years.

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:25am
      Buddy said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Mike, it was good up until this morning and now we have an off day. Spain, for all their possession held very little threat in front of goal but conspired to give yet another stupid penalty as these players insist on waving to their mums in the crowd when the should be focussed on defending set pieces. Apart from the first five minutes, the Croatia vs Denmark game didn’t offer an awful lot outside of penalty drama and we all know that becomes a lottery.
      France v Argentina was the best game since Spain and Portugal in the group phase and it was interesting to see contrasting styles as both teams really went for a win. I swear Mbappe would have won an olympic silver or gold medal for that early sprint, especially as he had full control of the ball as he ran. The Argentinian defence was not so much static as shell shocked as they had such little time to react. He sprinted from at least halfway inside his own half until he was brought down in the penalty area. I thought Kante was quick and Pogba no slouch but that was blistering hot pace and whilst I am not a fan whatsoever of chasing long balls relying on pace and a footrace with a defender, running from deep the way he did dded a new dimension to their attacking play. I am looking forward to preferably seeing a France v Belgium semi but one step at a time. It has been great entertainment most of the time.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:49am
        Kangas said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        Spain have been described as a novel without an editor .
        I would think sacking the coach 2 days before the tournament might be a factor.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:00am
        AGO74 said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        That the Argentineans set up a high line of defence and given him so much space was criminal when you see the pace of Mbappe. It sums up Argies shambolic campaign. That run by Mbappe for the penalty – particularly the surge in the last 20-25 meters when he put on the afterburners was incredible. I can’t remember seeing a player run at that speed with such ball control before. Breathtaking.

        • Roar Guru

          July 2nd 2018 @ 1:22pm
          Griffo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

          Agree that last bit of pace, when you thought he was already going flat out, was brilliant.

          Do you contain him now, or setup to reduce the space for the team to pass through you and have Mbappe on the end for a shot on goal?

          Argentina just so out of sorts. Really another team that needs a rebuild/rejuvenation over the next four years.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 1:27pm
          marron said | July 2nd 2018 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          He’s been clocked at 36kmh which is going to give 100m sprinters a run for their money.
          With the ball at his feet, of course.
          Amazing.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:28pm
            jameswm said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:28pm | ! Report

            Bolt 44.72kmh during WR.

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:51pm
              marron said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:51pm | ! Report

              You are right james. I’ve stopped being impressed by his run now.

            • July 3rd 2018 @ 9:38am
              Geoff said | July 3rd 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

              He said 100 meter sprinters as in; very high quality sprinters whose one job is to run. Not necessarily the greatest sprinter of all time.

              Seemed pretty obvious

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:44pm
            Redondo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:44pm | ! Report

            Swedish TV clocked him at 39 kmh for that goal.

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:35am
      Cool and Cold said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Suddenly got the feeling of the very best World Cup recently. After thinking a while the reasons for the feeling is known.

      Firstly, the stadiums are special.

      Secondly, there are great soccer nations out, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Germany. Should we count also the qualifying rounds, there are Italy and Holland. And the ranking in 20s USA failed to qualify among small soccer nations too. This gives new landscape and excitement.

      Hope Brazil, Belgium and France will be out in the matches to come.

      • Roar Guru

        July 2nd 2018 @ 10:20am
        JamesH said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:20am | ! Report

        Woah, let’s not be hasty. If all the good teams go out then the standard of play drops. For all the entertaining upsets, the best matches have been between some of the best sides – Spain vs Portugal, France vs Argentina.

        I’ll be happy enough if France, England or Belgium win it. Hope it’s not Brazil though.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:30am
          Kangas said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:30am | ! Report

          Spain Argentina and Portugal are not the best sides , in fact they were very disappointing

          Definitely a great World Cup imo

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:31am
          Cool and Cold said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

          Ha ha,

          I said great soccer nations. I meant traditional great soccer nations.

          If a team is good it would not lose.

          What you mean “If all good teams go out…” is that the better team lose. This is not logical.

          Actually, the teams from traditional great soccer nations lose because either they have not been as good as before or the other teams have improved.

          • Roar Guru

            July 2nd 2018 @ 3:24pm
            JamesH said | July 2nd 2018 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

            Nope.

            Good teams get upset by lesser sides in every sport, including football. By your ‘logic’, Russia is a better team than Spain. There is no way that is the case. Spain played an ordinary game and Russia played out of their skin.

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:15pm
              Cool and Cold said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

              Ha Ha,

              Interesting!

              Russia was the better team last night. Otherwise, it did not win.

              This comes down to the definition of “good” or “better”. How do you measure which team is better? The worth of all players?

              In general, the better team wins.

              A win can be the result of a combination of coaching preparation, tactic, strategy, players’ talent, team officials’ support, weather, luckiness, crowd support etc, etc. Anyhow, the better team wins.

              Would you always say a losing team is better?

              Of course the winning team is the better one in that match.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:53am
          James said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

          The best games would have been between Spain of 2010 and Portugal of the 90s and France of the late 90s and Argentina of 1986. But those teams are all long gone, Spain spent 120 minutes passing the ball from side to side. In the first half they had 400 passes, only 4 of which were inside the 18 yard box. The best players in Ronaldo and Messi didnt play for the best teams so whilst the individual known brilliance has dropped that has almost no effect on the standard of play.

          • Roar Guru

            July 2nd 2018 @ 3:33pm
            JamesH said | July 2nd 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

            The teams I listed are all ranked in the top 10 in the world. Granted, they played a couple of poor games (Argentina in particular) but that doesn’t simply make them poor.

            Anyway, the post I replied to was suggesting that it would be good if France, Brazil and Belgium all depart. You can’t honestly tell me you think that the tournament would improve – in terms of footballing quality – if those sides got knocked out in their next games.

            • Roar Guru

              July 2nd 2018 @ 3:42pm
              JamesH said | July 2nd 2018 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

              To be clear, I’m happy to have a few upsets and an underdog or two in the quarters. That’s what makes the WC so much fun. I’d just like to see some cream rise to the top too.

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:22pm
              James said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

              I think that in order for those teams to lose they will be beaten by teams that are in better form therefore the quality from the winning teams will be better. What you seem to want is get the 100 best players in the world and put them into teams that play each other. Thats fine but i think a team is only as good as the last game they played and if you lose you were not good enough.

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:40pm
              Cool and Cold said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

              Seems the new excitement has made some forgotten the meaning of team.

              Yes, if the measurement is according to ranking then Spain is better than many teams below it.

              However, the measurement of better team is by number of goals, legitimate goals, in a certain match.

              A better team is not necessarily a collection of best players in the world. How about if they can’t gel together?

              Secondly, if a team has all the very good players but a very bad goalie, what would happen? This team may, or likely to, lose the match.

              A better “team” is not necessarily the better “men-together”
              .

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:00am
          Basil said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:00am | ! Report

          I agree James. We’ve got to be careful for what we wish for. Do we really want a team like Russia parking the bus for 120 minutes and relying on penalties to beat the better teams? I want the eventual winners to be exponents of proactive football.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 12:18pm
            Redondo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

            Spain’s only tactic is keepings-off. It’s as negative as parking the bus – it just requires a touch more skill.

            Spain is remarkably good at it so Russia’s response was perfectly reasonable. They just sat and watched Spain spin themselves into a hole.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 12:44pm
            James said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

            I loved how Russia played, the played with heart, way more than Spain did. Spain showed they had no plan b, like Barcelona back when they lost to Chelsea. Teams need a plan b i dont care how good your plan a is. Why is open football better than defensive football? Open football, whilst it looks great, relegates the art of defending to a mere sideshow, its all about the attacking players. Football is about open football, and parking the bus and playing thru the middle and playing along the wings. We should appreciate all of them, absolutely have a favourite type of football but if you cant truly appreciate good defending, or great defending though Russia were not great they were just very good as thats all they needed to be against Spain, then you should start learning to appreciate it or just go watch highlights of great tika taka teams.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:07am
          AGO74 said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          Part of the reason the Argentina matches have been so enjoyable to watch has been because they have been so bad – had the predictability of a crazy professor stuck in his lab for months on end!

          Spain and Portugal despite their amazing 3-3 draw have underwhelmed as we saw with their later efforts aginst Iran and Morocco. Now both out. Not sure its a coincidence.

          One of my favourite games has actually been Colombia v Japan. Early send off. Japan not knowing how to capitalise. Colombia suriging and equalising. Japan figuring it out at half time and strangling Colombia out of the match to win. Classic game of two halves.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:24pm
            James said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

            Since the start of 2017 they have played 17 games and only won 8. I think Argentina played exactly to their ability.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 1:27pm
          Birdman said | July 2nd 2018 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          Uruguay v Portugal was a better game that France v Argentina

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:06am
      Fadida said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      It had been a fabulous world cup so far, though historically games to get cagier and more sterile the longer the cup goes on.

      On Mbappe, you can certainly see the wisdom in Australia looking to close space and be compact. Argentina played into hands and got carved up.

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