As in the previous World Cup, the holders were eliminated in the first round.

Host: Russia
Teams: 32
Format: Group stage, knockouts
Matches: 64
Goals: 169
Winner: France
runners-up: Croatia
gold boot: Harry Kane (England)

Background

Russia won the right to host the World Cup in a bidding process that included two joint bids (Portugal-Spain, Belgium-Netherlands) and a bid from England.

FIFA has drawn criticism from around the world for Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, its handling of racism and discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and its approach to doping among its athletes.

However, the tournament went ahead as planned and started in a packed Luzhniki stadium in Moscow.

Russia raced to a 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia and then defeated Egypt to qualify for the round of 16.

As in the previous World Cup, the holders were eliminated in the first round. Germany faced the disgrace of losing two of their group matches and only scoring two goals.

The quarter-finals left the hosts heartbroken as their unexpected run came to an end after a penalty shoot-out against Croatia.

Brazil and Uruguay, meanwhile, were eliminated by Belgium and France respectively.

England, propelled by Harry Kane’s prolific goalscoring form, fell short in the semi-finals but earned credit for their run in the tournament.

Croatia made it to the first-ever final, thanks to its golden generation, led by playmaker Luka Modric (winner of the tournament’s Golden Ball).

France had its own star line-up, including Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian MbappĂ© and N’Golo Kante, among others. Mario Mandzukic’s own goal opened the scoring for France, who then added three more to clinch another World Cup crown.

Highlights

VAR technology was introduced to help referees make decisions.

Fewer red cards were shown compared to previous tournaments.

The smooth operations and lack of crowd violence were praised by pundits.

Lows

Host selection was heavily criticized.

Three members of the Russian squad would be named in a report on doping in Russian sports.



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