Would an amazing World Cup final make Russia the greatest tournament of all?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Has this been the best FIFA World Cup ever? If France and Croatia turn on the style in Monday morning’s final, it may well be remembered as exactly that.

    Where do you even start? France have never really looked troubled en route to the Luzhniki, while Croatia could hardly have expended more energy if they tried.

    And there’s a sense that the French could slip into a higher gear at any second.

    Hugo Lloris was superb against the Belgians, as Les Bleus proved once again the advantages of possessing a truly top-class goalkeeper.

    France's goalkeeper Hugo Lloris looks on.

    France’s goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

    And just like Stephane Guivarc’h in 1998, the French may well have a striker in Olivier Giroud who goes the entire tournament without scoring a goal. Their fans won’t care if it helps their team win the World Cup, and Didier Deschamps’ team surely deserve to go into the final as red-hot favourites.

    Yet they haven’t faced a team quite like Croatia.

    Much is made of the fact that Luka Modrić steers Croatia around the park – rightly so, since he’s clearly one of the world’s best footballers – however it’s Croatia’s strength in depth that has helped propel them to the final.

    Their goal scorers against England, Ivan Perišić and Mario Mandžukić, play their club football for Inter and Juventus respectively, while the indefatigable Ivan Rakitić has been a key figure at Barcelona for years.

    Even the nation’s lesser lights – the likes of Dejan Lovren and Andrej Kramarić and Ante Rebić – play for big clubs, and it’s hard to imagine a more united team in the tournament than the Vatreni.

    It’s all been overseen by an unheralded coach in Zlatko Dalić, who was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina and only took the Croatia job ahead of their European playoff with Ukraine.

    Had Croatia lost that tie, Dalić would almost certainly have shuffled back to the Middle East, where he went desperately close to leading Emirati club Al-Ain to an AFC Champions League title in 2016.

    Instead, Dalić finds himself in a World Cup final, and it’s a testament to the chaotic nature of Croatian football – and a reminder that success is not guaranteed solely by curriculums and processes – that Croatia have enjoyed such an exhilarating run to the final despite their relatively humble means.

    Now, a nation of just 4.1 million inhabitants – not to mention more than a few based here in Australia – awaits with bated breath to see if Dalić’s men can immortalise themselves in the annals of Croatian history.

    The team that reached the knock-out stage of Euro 1996 and the World Cup semi-finals in France two years later – that of Davor Šuker and Robert Robert Prosinečki et al – played with all the passion of a team enjoying its first ever steps as an independent nation.

    Star midfielder Aljoša Asanović, who played in both of those tournaments, is these days the coach of Melbourne Knights in the National Premier Leagues Victoria.

    And given how much Croatia has given to the game in Australia, wouldn’t it be fantastic to see the Vatreni lift the World Cup trophy at the imposing Luzhniki on Monday morning?

    The question is whether Croatia can back up from a trio of knock-out games that went to extra-time – including a couple of penalty shoot-outs – in a row.

    Will they have the legs? And just as importantly, will they be mentally fresh enough to manage the game effectively?

    Much will depend on Modrić. He does more running than anyone on the pitch, but does he have enough left in the tank to unlock a French defence that has kept consecutive clean sheets against two much-vaunted attacking sides?

    Whatever transpires in the early hours of Monday morning, this has truly been a tournament for the ages.

    All it needs now is an unforgettable final and it may just rank as the greatest World Cup of all.

    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 (134)

    • July 13th 2018 @ 7:29am
      Max Danger said | July 13th 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      Recency bias occurs when people more prominently recall and emphasise recent events and observations than those in the near or distant past

    • July 13th 2018 @ 7:58am
      chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      Mike interesting point about Dalic. Such a fine line between being a coaching success and someone that no one has ever heard of.

    • July 13th 2018 @ 8:13am
      paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      No. Unfortunately blighted by the antics of Neymar and co. Sadly these seem to be one of the more memorable “features” of the tournament for many. When your 12 year daughter says to you, “But Daddy, we get hit harder than that at netball and we don’t cry”, the game has something it urgently needs to address.

      There is a silver lining though, #neymarchallenge.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 9:19am
        DanWain said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Maybe that has been the most memorable aspect for you, for me the Kroos free kick in injury time to sink the swedes, the epic group game between Spain and Portugal, Argentina somehow going ahead against france, only for Mpabbe to stamp himself as the next big thing, Colombia scoring at the last to send the round of 16 match into extra time against england, Eden Hazard…., lukaku’s brilliant fake allowing Chadli to sweep home against Japan, the ridiculous quality on display in the france V Belgium semi and finally the indefatigable Croatians coming from behind to defeat england with modric playing conductor, are all much more memorable…

        • Roar Guru

          July 13th 2018 @ 9:48am
          Chris Kettlewell said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

          Yes, some great memories. I think Neymar’s antics will be the lasting memory of HIM in this world cup for many people. Just as the lasting memory of Rivaldo is grabbing his face and falling to the ground when a ball lightly struck his leg, so Neymar’s rolling around like he’s had his leg chopped off will be the Neymar memory that lasts, which is sad, because he can really play football.

          But of the World Cup as a whole, it will only be the lasting memory for those who are just looking for a reason to continually dismiss football anyway.

          That Portugal v Spain match was a great one. It seems like such a distant memory now, because so much has happened since.

          Really, the unpredictability of the World Cup brought about by many of the traditional powerhouse nations getting knocked off by traditionally lesser teams has made it really good. The World game is truly becoming that more with every passing year, as the gap between the best and the rest keeps coming down, and margins just get tighter and tighter.

          • July 13th 2018 @ 10:20am
            paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:20am | ! Report

            Would that it were just Neymar. Here’s the budding young superstar who’s taken the tournament by storm:

            • July 13th 2018 @ 10:38am
              paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

              Well if the link didn’t work, that’s Mbappe, if you hadn’t already guessed.

            • Roar Guru

              July 13th 2018 @ 1:04pm
              Chris Kettlewell said | July 13th 2018 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

              Neymar is certainly not the only player who’s done it, even during this tournament, but he’s been the most over the top and blatant, and for whom the lasting memories of this tournament will be him rolling on the ground like he’s just had his leg chopped off, rather than anything he’s done with the ball.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 9:33am
        Onside said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Passive aggressive. Doesn’t work. Your post employs an identical approach to that you correctly accuse Neymar of. Faux hurt. Easily seen through. Nobody buys it.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 9:42am
        chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        I doubt you watched any games, save for a few highlights here and there.

        • July 13th 2018 @ 9:43am
          chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

          Think of the children!

      • July 13th 2018 @ 9:43am
        Nemesis said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        “When your 12 year daughter says to you, “But Daddy, we get hit harder than that at netball and we don’t cry”, the game has something it urgently needs to address.”

        I laughed & I laughed.

        If the world outside 6 Commonwealth nations ever start to give a stuff about Netball, come back with cute comments from your daughter. Until then, no one cares what your 12 year old has to say about anything… let alone her thoughts on football.

        This clown actually thinks the football planet will be worried because his 12 year old daughter says something silly.

        I laughed & I laughed.

        • July 13th 2018 @ 10:14am
          paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          So what’s the popularity of netball got to do with it? Way to miss the point, bozo.

          I laughed and laughed…

          • July 13th 2018 @ 10:29am
            Sydneysider said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:29am | ! Report

            “So what’s the popularity of netball got to do with it”

            It shows that even with the flaws of the game (diving), although all sports have their flaws, that football is still more popular by a country mile.

            What’s netball’s excuse?

            Yeah Neymar’s antics are really going to be remembered in the future and hurt the sport, said no one ever.

            • July 13th 2018 @ 10:35am
              paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

              It’s an opinion based website. I was offering an opinion on this years World Cup. The relative popularity of the sport was not my point, but nevertheless seems to be certain fan’s only defence for this kind of “simulation” garbage.

              Hilarious how thin-skinned you lot are.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 10:45am
                chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

                “Hilarious how thin-skinned you lot are.”
                Not really.
                But feel free to continue posting comments on your daughters impressions of the world game.
                Comedy gold.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 10:54am
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

                Look, all I did was make a rather innocuous challenge, and here you lot all are clutching your ankles and rolling around like you’ve been doused in petrol and set on fire. See that’s what I’m on about!!

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:18am
                chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:18am | ! Report

                And here you are, trying to be relevant by latching on to something that you clearly dislike. Does netball not give you the relevance you seek?

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:25am
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

                Actually I love the game. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t care. And I don’t really care if you believe me or not.

                And I must add, I find your attitude that it doesn’t matter what impressions children might get of the game (or anything else for that matter) rather odd.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:20am
                BigAl said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:20am | ! Report

                Touche !

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:20am
                Onside said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:20am | ! Report

                In the context of this article, an apt description of passive aggressive

                Come on admit it, you were having a laugh , fabricating a yarn about
                the poignant observations made by your befuddled twelve year old,
                and we called your bluff.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:32am
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:32am | ! Report

                Sorry no fabrication (nor anything like passive aggressive).

                I’m wondering if there is anyone who will put up a defence of this stuff other than “yeah but it’s still popular”, or attacking the poster (in your case, in a particularly hapless manner).

                Anyone?

              • Roar Guru

                July 13th 2018 @ 11:27am
                apaway said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:27am | ! Report

                Loved your work in The Sopranos.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:30am
                Redondo said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:30am | ! Report

                P’nuts – just apologise and we can all move on.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:34am
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:34am | ! Report

                Apologise…ROFL!!!

                Awww… sweetheart…

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:40am
                chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

                Paulynnuts we’ve all collectively stated that we deplore the antics of Neymar.
                You on the other hand want to dismiss the whole tournament and in another post you question why would we want to forego AFL or rugby for football. Something along those lines. As in why would we want to compete at the global level.
                So save your bleatings for another tab because you come across as an impostor on here.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:53am
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:53am | ! Report

                I’m not “dismissing the tournament”. I’m saying that when the third best footballer in the world and arguably it’s finest young player carry on like that it’s a blight on the game. And one of the reasons it persists is the seeming acceptance of it within the sport. It shouldn’t just be dismissed out of hand like some are doing.

                I spent a good deal of time in the nineties at Loftus Road watching the mighty Rs. At that level (after they were relegated) there seemed to very little of this stuff, but I’ve watched it become more and more commonplace over time.

                This is not some code war fishing trip. You may find
                people’s impressions of this irrelevant. I find it sad.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:40am
                Redondo said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

                Does your daughter know you’re here?

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:42am
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

                Ok now that’s just weird…

              • July 13th 2018 @ 11:41am
                Nemesis said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

                @paulywalnuts

                I watch a fair bit of football. I don’t care about Neymar’s antics. In fact, if it annoys the casual Aussie sports fan & keeps them away, I want to say: Thank you Mr Neymar. Keep up the theatrics!

                Go back to watching Netball with your daughter. Goals every few minutes. Extra points handed out because games are too one-sided and boring. How much fun is that? Ignore the boring sokkah.

              • Roar Guru

                July 13th 2018 @ 1:13pm
                Chris Kettlewell said | July 13th 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

                Nemesis, actually, bigger than the issue with the likes of Neymar’s antics is fans of the game actually preferring it to remain less popular and just be for “die-hard fans” than be able to really grow.

                I would think any real football fan would want to win converts to the game and see the popularity increase, not actually loving something that might help to keep others away from the game so they can keep it as some sort of “in” club for the die-hard fans.

                If we really want to see football grow in Australia, it actually means becoming more popular and that doesn’t just mean having football fans breeding more than AFL and Union and League fans, but actually having people who were fans of those games come to love football. And any sporting code needs the more casual fans as well as the hard-core fans. No sport can survive on the hard-core fans alone.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 1:39pm
                Fadida said | July 13th 2018 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

                I appreciate your point Chris, but there are 2 playing fields here;

                1) the global one. In this field no one likes Neymar’s behavior but recognise it as a tiny negative and love the game no less. Whether casual fans jump on board doesn’t matter as the game is massive and unstoppable. It doesn’t matter what a tiny county like Australia thinks.

                2) the Australian field. Here we do need to attract more “casual” fans or new fans to grow the game. Whether Neymar dives or not isn’t that relevant though because there will be another stick to beat the game with.
                If the “unmanly” antics of Neymar didn’t exist it’d be the celebrations (again unmanly), the crowd behavior (un-Australian, though AFL are doing well in the hooligan behaviour front). After that we’d have “boring”, “low scoring” , particularly in contrast to “Australian” sports. Finally the stick would be turned to the A-league, “low crowds” “low quality”.

                Ignorant and prejudiced people with an agenda will always find a reason to find fault (not for a second saying this is you Chris)

                Luckily the world doesn’t care what one small country out of more than 200 thinks

              • July 13th 2018 @ 2:07pm
                Nemesis said | July 13th 2018 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

                @Chris Ketwell

                if you seriously think Neymar’s theatrics put people off watching sokkah, you’re living on another planet.

                All we ever hear from the casual sports fans in AUS is how rubbish sokkah is. Diving, prima donnas, not enough goals, crowds are hooligans, netball is tougher, too many wogs playing & watching, not a real Australian sport.

                Yet, this flawed sport is the most popular sport on the planet.

                This flawed sport is the only sport that will get Aussies waking up at midnight & 4 am to watch.

                More Aussies watched on FTA TV, 2 nations with no connection to Australia (France & Argentina) playing at Midnight on Sunday morning than watched Aussie Rules featuring the best Aussie talent played in Prime Time.

                So, do I care if a group of casual, ignorant sports fans in Australia don’t watch sokkah because of Neymar?

                Not 1 bit. Those people will find another excuse to hate sokkah.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 3:18pm
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

                Quite so, Chris. Mourinho (of all people) nails it here:

                “Every team has lots of diving, lots of pretending, lots of putting pressure on the referee. The game loses quality, and for me that was the negative point.

                “It’s not about England and Colombia, it’s almost every match, they are creating such a difficult job for the referees in every match. Even with VAR the players are creating problems.

                “I was surprised to see central defenders like Harry Maguire, normally he is a very honest guy, diving in the attacking box asking the referee for VAR.

                “The players should feel the responsibility of playing in the World Cup in front of billions of spectators.”

                https://www.google.com.au/amp/www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/story/3557000/neymar-not-the-only-diver-at-world-cup-manchester-uniteds-jose-mourinho%3fplatform=amp

                Well said, Jose. Though some now wil probably accuse you of hating soccer…

              • July 13th 2018 @ 3:48pm
                chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

                Pauly if you can’t distinguish between what people are saying on here regarding fans who criticise Neymar for diving and “fans” who use Neymars diving as another reason for hating sokkah there isnt much point in continuing in engaging you.
                Very simple in point form.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 4:03pm
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

                Bizarre you’re directing that at me. That’s a point you really should be applying to others. I’ve pointed out what I think is a major flaw in this years WC and it’s automatically assumed in here that I hate the game.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 3:54pm
                chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

                Pauly if you can’t distinguish between what people are saying on here regarding fans who legitimately criticise Neymar for diving and “fans” who use Neymars diving as another reason for hating sokkah there isn’t much point in continuing in engaging you.

                In another post you questioned “why would we want to do that?” when someone posted putting more resources into football at the expense of other sports (AFL, Rugby) so as to compete better globally.

                If we don’t invest in better players, resources etc, we then have to put up with whiners like yourself who knock the A-League, says its a girls game blah blah blah.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 4:09pm
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

                I’ve never knocked the A- league and I’ve never called it a girls game. Why am not surprised you’d try that on.

                And you answered you own question with the he other part- you’re really struggling here so I’ll give you a hint- it’s the “at the expense of others” bit I have a problem with.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 4:17pm
                chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

                Because they suck up too many resources. And for what?
                We have govt ministers flying over to China to flog a dead horse of a game (AFL) while the game of football is ignored. Craig Foster said basically the same thing and lets hope he can shake things up in govt circles. Those fools need to wake up and realise that no one over there gives a toss about AFL and if you want to forge better relationships through sport, then football is the ticket. Not some insular, going nowhere sport that just tries to suck everything around it dry.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 4:42pm
                chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

                “at the expense of others bit I have a problem with”.
                Because we waste money and resources on dead end sports.
                The NSWIS football program had their funding stripped because football was not meeting its KPI’s. What a joke. So rowing and canoeing and other minority sports continue to get funded for the handful of participants while football gets funding stripped because its not meeting kpis? Just like the govt delegation that goes on the AFL junkets to China to push business interests using AFL as a vehicle. Even bigger joke. Do people actually think the Chinese have an interest in AFL? If you really want to use sport to open up international dialogue then football is what they should be investing in and promoting. Not some dead end insular sport that no one cares about outside of our southern states.
                Craig Foster said the same thing and lets hope he can shake things up in govt circles through the multicultural council.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 8:54pm
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 8:54pm | ! Report

                Dead end sports…dear oh dear…

              • July 13th 2018 @ 9:10pm
                c said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:10pm | ! Report

                yes they are

              • July 13th 2018 @ 9:23pm
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:23pm | ! Report

                Wow c, what a remarkably persuasive polemic. You’ve won me…

              • July 13th 2018 @ 10:14pm
                paulywalnuts said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:14pm | ! Report

                Here’s the unpalatable truth for some- many people love football in this country but many more don’t. They might love other sports or no sport at all.

                The notion that because it’s the most popular game on the planet it should be the most popular here (or America or Canada or NZ) is a fallacy.

                I love football, but I also love my old Aussie rules amateur club who I still go out and watch whenever I get the chance. That the rest of the world doesn’t care about AFL doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

                And it seems to me that’s what a lot of football fans just don’t get- people are involved in these “dead-end” sports because they LOVE THEM. And maybe they don’t love football.

                And you know what- that’s ok.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 10:40pm
                Nemesis said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:40pm | ! Report

                @paulywalnuts

                And what the Bash Ball community doesn’t understand is people, like myself like football couldn’t give a stuff about attracting people who constantly whine about the Game.

                I know some AFL, NRL & Rugby fans like football.

                I know the majority do not. They think the game is boring, the players are weak, prima donnas, the scoring is too low, the off-side rule is bad, they hate everything about the Game.

                To the people who hate anything about the Game I say: Go Back To Where You Came From.

                Football – just the way it is – is enjoyed by billions around the world. We enjoy the Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

                If that means we miss out on attracting a couple of million whinging Aussies – no problem. I’m sure football can live with the loss.

                And that’s what seems to rile the Bash Ball Community. They can’t stand the fact the football community doesn’t give a stuff about them. These poor deluded people actually think the Football community will listen to them whining and change the Game, the Culture, the Laws to appease the couple of million whingers in Australia.

                If it weren’t so ridiculously delusional, it would be laughable.

              • July 14th 2018 @ 8:04am
                paulywalnuts said | July 14th 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

                You still don’t get it, Nemesis. It’s ok to love cricket and call out the boorishness of modern international cricketers. It’s ok to love AFL and resent constant rule changes that take take traditional fans for granted. It’s ok to love football and complain farcical histrionics which which have been indulged for way too long such they’ve been accepted by some as part of the game.

                What’s “laughable” is just how precious some football fans are about it.

              • July 14th 2018 @ 8:49am
                MQ said | July 14th 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

                Pauly

                I don’ tthink you get it. To be precious is a fundamental right of all sokkah fans.

    • July 13th 2018 @ 8:20am
      AGO74 said | July 13th 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      Incredible achievement for Croatian football – the talk before the tournament was that they may bomb because of apparent divisions in the camp. These divisions were football politics and court cases even – it’s all a bit complicated and I don’t pretend to know the full story but as an example I think Luka Modric is potentially in some trouble and facing court over the nature of his transfer to help benefit the head of the (then) Croatian FA. Word in the street was that this team was a little on the nose with local fans. If that’s the case, boy they have turned that around.

      I said the other day that I haven’t warmed to France – they play a style very much a mirror image of their manager. Hard working compact and pragmatic. Pity – as given the array of riches on offer they could be an incredible team.

      For this final to be truly memorable I think we will need to see Croatia take the lead. If France take the lead it will be Park the bus time. Here’s hoping for a great match.

      Certainly been a great tournament from an entertainment perspective if not the overall quality. I think the defining theme of this tournament has been the late goals as well as a lot of goals from penalties and set pieces. Intuitively you’d think more penalties and set piece goals may detract from the football entertainment but I don’t think it has.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 9:23am
        Savvas Jonis said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        I agree. I thought that once France scored against Belgium, it would open the game up even more. But the final 20 minutes was pretty dreary.

      • Roar Guru

        July 13th 2018 @ 9:40am
        JamesH said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        You’re entitled to your view but I find it hard to fathom why people keep bagging France’s style of play. They have one of the best defensive midfielders on the planet and their forwards are most effective when they have space to utilise their speed. Even their striker, Giroud, is at his most effective when he’s using his strength to make space.

        My point is that the game style France play – defend in their own half then hit hard on the counter – is perfectly suited to their particular array of riches. And if they win comfortably on Sunday night then they must surely go down as the ‘incredible team’ you seem to be yearning for.

        In case you need more convincing, Belgium – the team everyone was raving about before their loss to France – played Panama (ranked 55), Tunisia (21) the England second XI and Japan (61) before they finally came up against a truly challenging opponent in Brazil. And what did they do then? Went ahead early and parked the bus.

        France on the other hand, after their first match against Australia (ranked 36), have not played a side ranked outside the top 14 in the World. Yet they have drawn only one match (basically a dead rubber) and haven’t needed extra time in any knockout match. They have been about as clinical and comprehensive as any side in recent World Cup history, including against Belgium where France actually created more attacking opportunities.

        I find all this dislike of what France is doing pretty bizarre. It’s as if people think they have some kind of obligation to play reckless football because they are talented. As far as I’m concerned, after a slow-ish start they’ve been really impressive to watch.

        • July 13th 2018 @ 10:11am
          Brian said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

          I mostly agree but ironically the French defensive style, and it reminds me of Italy in 2006 is what gives Croatia a chance. The French should win but unlike Germany or Brazil they are unlikely to score 3 unless pushed.

          Against Australia I was surprised why Franch haad jsut Greizmann up front allowing Australia to posses the ball and play for the draw. Now I see that Deschamps was honing this tactic to play against all comers. That means Croatia can beat France if they keep it at 0-0 or 0-1 and take their chance when it comes.

          • Roar Guru

            July 13th 2018 @ 12:18pm
            JamesH said | July 13th 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

            True, but that’s because they don’t need to score three unless pushed. There isn’t much logic in setting three goals as a target if you’re confident in your defence. France showed against Argentina that if they are pressed and a couple of great strikes do find their way past Hugo, they can up the ante. They just don’t start that way because it’s high-risk football that generally doesn’t win tournaments.

            There are similarities between them and Italy 2006, but they key difference is that France still back themselves with regular bursts of attacking flair. Italy needed extra time in 2 of their first three knockout matches, with the subsequent final going to penalties. France haven’t, despite a tougher run of opponents thus far.

            Also, Dechamps changed his tactic late against Australia by sending Giroud on and has continued with that plan since. The structural change altered the course of that match and has given France real balance this tournament, despite Giroud’s limitations.

            I’m really torn on who to follow in the final. I wanted to dislike France after they got lucky on VAR against Australia but they have clearly been the best team of the tournament and deserve to win. On the other hand, Croatia would be a great story.

            • July 13th 2018 @ 4:06pm
              Brian said | July 13th 2018 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

              Allez Les Bleus for me. I’d like the better team to win.
              Don’t discount the luck they had aginst Argentina the crucial goal was Pavard making it 2-2 and without knowing much about him it does not strike that he makes that strike very often. Of course all teams need luck and France win they will have truly deserved it.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 9:30pm
                MQ said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:30pm | ! Report

                He certainly hit it sweetly.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 9:51am
        Mark said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        ESPN FC published a good article at some point in the last week about the issues with Croatian football.

        It’s quite extraordinary. Modric is mostly admired around the world, but despised at home.

      • Roar Guru

        July 13th 2018 @ 2:07pm
        apaway said | July 13th 2018 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

        Park the Peugeot? 🙂

    • July 13th 2018 @ 8:33am
      Nemesis said | July 13th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      I don’t understand the modern day fascination with needing to rank everything as “Greatest of All Time”. The first FIFA World Cup was in 1930. Let’s assume a person needs to be at least Grade 6 (about 12 years old) to assess quality of football with any level of maturity, it would mean you would have to be nearly 100 years old to be able to rank all the FIFA World Cups.

      And, I can assure you, as you grow older you just enjoy the moment. You just enjoy Messi & Ronaldo. You don’t bother trying to figure out whether they’re better than Cruyff & Pele. Or, Eusebio & Puskas.

      So, I doubt any centenarians on The Roar will be offering their insights on: Is Russia 2018 the Greatest of all World Cups.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 9:25am
        Savvas Jonis said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        Correct. You can compare it to more recent tournaments, but that’s about it.

        The 2014 tournament stalled at the knock out stage, with the goals and excitement drying up.

        Luckily in Russia, the first knock out match (France 4 v Argentina 3) set the tone for the remainder of the tournament.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 9:41am
        chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        And it’s all about perceptions as well. I really enjoyed Italia 90 with the likes of Schillaci, Baggio, Maradona, Caniggia, Matheus etc.
        Yet people go on about it being one of the “worst”.

        • July 13th 2018 @ 9:54am
          Mark said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

          Italia 90 did have one great legacy…it led to the introduction of the back pass rule. Football is much better for it.

          • July 13th 2018 @ 10:12am
            jbinnie said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

            Mark – you may well not believe what I am about to tell you but back in 1982/3 a pre-season football tournament ,the XXXX Cup ,was played in Brisbane and ,after a meeting between players ,coaches and referees it was decided to “ban” the pass back to the goalkeeper.
            If the ball was played back to him he was not allowed to lift the ball.
            The idea was given no publicity but interested parties did compare the number of goals scored with totals from previous years and the “increase” was in the area of 20- 25%.
            When it was suggested to the local delegate to the Australian Soccer Federation that he may want to pass the findings to FIFA, he scoffed at the idea and shrugged it off by saying FIFA would never listen to a suggestion coming out of a localised competition.
            As you point out, 8 years later the ruling was made at a World Cup competition, so FIFA did listen to someone.
            Is that not typical of historical football administration in this country?. Cheers jb.

            • July 13th 2018 @ 12:57pm
              Mark said | July 13th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

              I suspect the idea of banning the back pass bubbled along for some time. Typically of FIFA, it takes a crisis for them to act, and the turgid play of Italia 90 was that crisis.

            • Roar Guru

              July 13th 2018 @ 2:09pm
              apaway said | July 13th 2018 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

              Perhaps that was the same time that Ian Brusasco suggested that football goal posts be made bigger?

        • July 13th 2018 @ 10:43am
          Nemesis said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

          I can only speak for my World Cup viewing life which started at Argentina 1978, but my memories of that are fading apart from certain moments in certain matches.

          Football tension is all I yearn for as a neutral observer. And, in terms of football tension, I’d rank Spain 1982 the best in my viewing life.

          I’d rate Russia 2018 as having the most widely competitive matches, whereas Spain 1982 the tension in the best matches was like I’ve never experienced before, or since then. France 1998 was also excellent.

          • July 13th 2018 @ 2:04pm
            jbinnie said | July 13th 2018 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

            Nem – Sorry ,perhaps I should explain the samples I gave of previous World Cups
            By the 1954 final Hungary had not lost a football match in 4 years and had thrashed their final opponents, Wesr Gerrnany, in the “run up” games by 8-3
            .They had inflicted two terrible thrashings to England the previous year 6-3 at Wembley 7-1 in Budapest.
            In their run up games to the final Hungary had scored 25 goals in 4 matches conceding only 7.
            Come the final against West Germany and the Hungarians lost by the narrowest of margins,2-3.
            The match stats indicate that Hungary were by far the superior team but the Germans,aided by the heavy ground, and their physical approach, scored the extra goal that was needed.
            It was after the final that stories began to emerge of the German players being injected with some sort of stimulant (not illegal in those days) a charge that was never to be proven.
            In 1966 we again had controversy with an outcome that has lingered until today. England were given a goal that showed the ball apparently crossing the line and then spinning back onto the field of play. No goal line technology in those days. That took the game into extra time and England persevered with another 2 goals.
            The 1974 and 1978 finals again featured a team that had been hailed as the best attacking team in the world at that time ,Holland, who so delighted the media of the day they christened their talent as”total football” This title actually does them no authenticity for their system simply displayed an attitude to the game of taking up certain positions when defending,and swiftly changing those positions when going back on the attack. In the main this involved 3 or 4 players,the goalkeeper ,a centre- back a midfielder and the incomparable Cruyff. This team went to 2 consecutive World Cup finals and lost them both by the odd goal,to West Germany and Argentina.
            So as I hinted,there have been some memorable world cup competitions and in the games I mentioned we had players like Puskas,Hidegkuti,Kocsis and Bozsik, Wright ,Mathews, Moore,Charlton,and Ardiles,Passarella,Kempes,and Cruyff, Neeskens,Rep,and of course Beckenbaur,Seeler and Overath all world class players in their day. cheers jb.

            • Roar Guru

              July 13th 2018 @ 2:11pm
              apaway said | July 13th 2018 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

              jb

              I think Argentina beat Netherlands 3-1 in the 1978 final.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 10:39pm
                jbinnie said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

                Sorry apaway ,my reference to the “odd goal’ was only meant to describe the result of the game against West Germany.Missed a comma. Thanks again for pointing out my “error”. Cheers jb.

            • July 13th 2018 @ 2:42pm
              chris said | July 13th 2018 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

              jb the contentious goal for England was NOT the goal that took the game into extra time. England led 2-1 with seconds to play and the Germans equalised.
              Extra time and England score the over the line goal to make it 3-2. They then score another and game set and match.

              • July 13th 2018 @ 10:46pm
                jbinnie said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

                Chris- thanks for pointing out when the contentious goal was scored. Re-reading my statement I realise it can be taken the way you describe but it was not meant to be taken as the goal that caused the draw, it was more the fact that it was contentious,and caused the controversy over the absence of goal line technology,a thing we are still having a problem some 50 years later. Thanks again . Cheers jb.

          • July 13th 2018 @ 6:32pm
            The watcher said | July 13th 2018 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

            I’m going to say this is the best tournament I’ve seen. I remember the best games of 82 were some of the best ever (France vs W Germany; Italy vs Brazil; the all round brilliance of the Brazil team.) but the manufactured 1-0 game that sent both W.Germany and Austria through, what Schumacher did to Battison in the semi final, England going out without losing a game, the 2nd group stages Brazil not winning it,) left it less than perfect. 86 was better with Maradonna’s play never matched by anyone at a WC final, and some great games France vs Brazil, France vs W.Germany, England vs Argentina). But there wasn’t the spectacular goals of USA 94 or the upsets. And the play was so much more open than the previous tournaments. Downside was the two semi finals and final were defence bore fests, and 0-0 with a penalty shootout is a sad way to crown a World Cup. For me then this tournament has got the best of allies of those 3 with Mappe and Modric combined being Marradonna and without the dull draws at the end

      • July 13th 2018 @ 9:44am
        jbinnie said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        Nem – Agreed. When one assesses the “best” world cup ever from what angle is it being viewed”?.
        Standard of football one would imagine is high on the list but I doubt very much if there is a 12 year old with the tactical knowledge to follow or describe the myriad patterns of play being exhibited today.
        From a financial point of view the USA held Cup still stands high on the scale of the greatest number of spectators attracted to all games, so making it one of the biggest “drawcards” in the history of the game.
        Then there is that indefinable factor that no matter where the Competition is held, the host country always seems to perform away above what is expected of them and usually secures at least a semi-final position.
        So what should be used when trying to assess the “best world cup ever”?
        Ask a Hungarian that question in 1954 and he will say, “we wuz robbed”
        Ask a Dutchman about 1974 and 1978 and his answer will probably be the same’
        Ask a German about 1966,and his answer will be —–“we wuz robbed.”
        How does one assess the success,or otherwise,of a World Cup???. Cheers jb.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 12:29pm
        AGO74 said | July 13th 2018 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        I wouldn’t worry too much about it Nemesis – a question like Mike has posed is just meant to provoke discussion. Everyone’s got an opinion. It’s all subjective. And for a site like this which is largely opinion based then its not surprising these articles are written.

        Anyway, for what its worth I think if we get a good final it will be the cherry on top of what’s been a very enjoyable tournament.

        • July 13th 2018 @ 12:45pm
          Nemesis said | July 13th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          No doubt it’s only discussion & opinion.

          I’d love to say “yeah best world cup ever”. But it makes no sense. How can I say that when I don’t recall the 1974 World Cup in West Germany? Or, the in 1966 WC in England?

          My opinion is flawed because I am ignorant about the information that is being analysed.

          I’ve been through a system during my education & work life where any opinions based on incomplete data, or no data, would incur: FAIL.

          I have to assume the education system that moulded other posters & the jobs they do to earn a living, simply treat all opinions as valuable.

          • Roar Guru

            July 13th 2018 @ 1:02pm
            AdelaideDocker said | July 13th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

            For mine, this is the best World Cup in my living memory.

            Is that a more legitimate opinion, or does that not pass your standard of opinion?

            • July 13th 2018 @ 9:33pm
              MQ said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:33pm | ! Report

              Are you an expert on world cups?

              If not, then you are not entitled to have an opinion on this forum.

    • July 13th 2018 @ 8:54am
      c said | July 13th 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      have these teams been as good as the team’s of the 70s and 80s World Cup finals

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