World Cup 2018
32 countries – one winner! In June 2018, the biggest event of the summer began: the World Cup. I can not only remember it so well because it ended only a month ago, but because I watched almost every match.
How the World Cup 2018 became my most active tournament
The tournament began with the host Russia, but I didn't really have big expectations. I expected them to win, but with a maximum of two goals. How wrong I was... I almost couldn't have watched the match if it wasn't for an appointment being cancelled last minute. And I'm glad about it! After twelve minutes the first goal was scored, but that was only the beginning. Shortly before the end of the first half time they doubled the lead, already exceeding my expectations. After the third goal I thought that the score wouldn't change anymore. I just hoped that they wouldn't concede. But it wasn't over yet. Within the span of a few minutes they scored a fourth and fifth goal, and after the last one I was lost of words! This match is still one of my highlights of the World Cup. What a start!
When I saw the teams of Group B, I bursted out in laughter. It was obvious who would reach the round of 16. Those two teams played against each other: Portugal and Spain, the Iberian derby. As the Portuguese team isn't the most likeable I was on Spain's side. Ten years ago my support for their team started but I wasn't sure if it would remain. I mainly supported them because of a certain player and he was no longer there. My sister also had to deal with the fact that they had a different goalkeeper. Because of him she started paying attention to the Spanish team and that's how it started. Only a few players from back then were left and the new ones were hard to get used to. She got really mad when Portugal took the lead, especially because it was Cristiano Ronaldo who scored. When Spain equalized she calmed down a bit but CR7 wasn't finished yet and added a second goal. During the second half time Spain scored two goals and she was happy again. In that moment we really hoped that the referee would just blow the whistle so that the score couldn't change. But shortly before the end of the match CR7 – who else – drew level and my sister got mad once and for all. She blamed the goalkeeper and wished for the former captain to come back.
For the first time I supported France in a World Cup who I noticed in the Euros. However, they couldn't really shine against Australia and only won thanks to an own goal. As an underdog, I wished Iceland a lot of luck. Argentina took the lead as expected, but Iceland didn't give up and scored a few minutes later. I cheered for their first ever goal in a World Cup, and laughed about the missed penalty.
Germany faced Mexico in the first match. My sister went to a public screening and left me to watch the match alone. Even though I didn't believe in it I hoped that we would lose. Therefore, I laughed when we conceded. During the second half time my parents joined me but they wouldn't have missed anything. Germany lost - and I didn't care.
Later that evening, Brazil played against Switzerland and my sister backed our neighbours. Unsurprisingly, Brazil took an early lead. My sister cheered when Switzerland scored in the second half time, earning them a draw.
Before I tuned in the match Colombia against Japan I only knew that both had scored and that the Colombians were down one man after a red card. When I saw that Japan had taken the lead in the meantime I was shocked. I did not expect it. On the same day, Russia played against Egypt and took the lead thanks to an own goal. They could score two more and weren't hurt too much when they conceded. Russia started to become the surprise of the tournament.
I expected Spain to win easily against Iran, but I should have known by now that they weren't the same as eight years ago. The commentator didn't forget to mention their elimination in the group stage in the previous World Cup, but my sister and me didn't want to be reminded of it. The goal seemed to be an own goal at first until it was confirmed otherwise. We were startled for a minute when it looked like Iran scored, and were relieved when it was disallowed. They celebrated too early. I couldn't stop laughing when some of the Spanish players kicked the ball that was in the hands of the goalkeeper. We sighed in relief when the referee ended the match and Spain secured a win.
Not much happened in the match France against Peru. France ended up scoring and qualified for the round of 16 early thanks to their second win. I was surprised when Croatia managed to beat Argentina clearly a few hours later. Argentina were now in danger of leaving the tournament early.
Another disappointment followed the next day when Iceland was defeated by Nigeria. Prior to the match my sister underestimated Nigeria and was certain that Iceland could easily win. A few hours before I had watched the match Brazil vs. Costa Rica. Shortly before the first goal I felt that someone would score, and I was right. A second goal followed shortly after even though the stoppage time was already exceeded. I tuned in late for the third match of the day, Serbia against Switzerland. Serbia had already been in the lead thanks to an early goal. Switzerland managed to level in the second half time before scoring the winning goal in the last minute. The Serbian spectators' behaviour was unacceptable, so losing was some kind of karma.
On the next day, things got serious for Germany. The knockout stage was at stake. I didn't care if we would get eliminated, I even secretly hoped that we would lose. Therefore, I was unconcerned when we conceded a goal. In fact, I was happy about it but I didn't show it. I showed no emotion when we scored because one point would not be enough to reach the knockout stage. Germany was down to ten men after a yellow-red card but I stayed calm. When they scored the winning goal in stoppage time I was mad but, of course, I hid it.
A historic moment happened the next day during the match England against Panama. The latter were already behind by a big margin when they did the unthinkable: They scored their first World Cup goal in history. Other people would just brush it off when their team scored a goal despite being defeated, but not Panama's. They celebrated like they had just won the entire tournament. The big defeat didn't seem to matter anymore.
Russia and Uruguay only played for the first place in the group since they had already qualified for the round of 16. Uruguay took the lead early, but I didn't expect anything else. In my opinion, the second goal is disputed as it was counted as an own goal. I couldn't stop complaining about this decision since for me it wasn't an own goal, and I screamed when a Russian player was shown the yellow-red card, leaving Russia with ten men. They ended up as runner-up of the group and would face – in case nothing unexpected would happen – Spain or Portugal. I hoped for Portugal since they would be an easier opponent. At least that's what I thought.
On the same day, Russia would find out who they would play against. During Spain's last group match, my sister and me thought about the old times and started plotting the next generation with the former players' children. It was a shock when Morocco took the lead unexpectedly. When Spain evened the score we were more relaxed. With a draw, Spain would reach the knockout stage. Sometimes you wish a match ended earlier, and it was the case this time. Towards the end Morocco retrieved the lead but Spain wasn't in danger since Portugal had scored in the meantime. During stoppage time Spain scored another goal that was only allowed after a check. The other match also ended in a draw, making Spain top the group. This allowed the case that I didn't want to happen. After ten years, Russia would face Spain again – the match that started everything and therefore meant so much to me.
France and Denmark ruined the statistics with their goalless draw as it was the first – and only – match without a single goal. They didn't put enough effort to score, especially France who had already qualified for the knockout stage and were relaxed.
I watched Germany's decisive last group match alone. I didn't expect us to lose and started accepting that we would reach the round of 16. Sweden took the lead at the same time, meaning a draw was not enough. It looked like the match would end in a draw – until stoppage time. The goal had to be reviewed after suspecting an off-side but was declared legit. With that, it was as clear as water: Germany was eliminated! I couldn't stop laughing upon that realization. After Neuer ran out of the goal to help the team South Korea scored again, giving Germany the death blow. We met the same fate as Italy and Spain in previous World Cups. Title defenders, who failed in the group stage. Now the Germans knew how the Spaniards must have felt. If Spain couldn't reach the knockout stage Germany didn't deserve to either.
A funny moment during the match Belgium against England made people laugh. After Belgium took the lead, a Belgian player shot the ball against the post but it bounced back and hit his face. The Japanese's behaviour was scandalous as they only passed the ball rather than trying to score. Thanks to Colombia's lead, they surpassed Senegal despite having the exact same points and goal difference. They only advanced to the round of 16 because of the newly introduced Fair Play rule.
The knockout stage started with a bang. France took the lead with a penalty and defended that score until Argentina leveled. Much to my dismay they scored another goal at the beginning of the second half time and I started preparing for France's possible elimination. My father tried to calm me down by saying that everything was still possible. How right he was showed minutes later. An incredible goal evened the score. Two more goals followed shortly after and I was totally amazed! Towards the end of the match, an Argentinian player misbehaved, causing the stoppage time to be extended. Argentina scored for the third time and had the chance to equalize, but that didn't happen and I celebrated France's win. In the quarter final, they would play against Uruguay or Portugal. I was surprised when Cristiano Ronaldo helped an Uruguayan player off the pitch after he injured himself. In the end, he had to accept Portugal's defeat.
The next day, Spain and Russia faced each other again after the Euro 2008. I didn't know whose side I should take because that match had an emotional meaning to me. Inevitably we started talking about Spain's old team and while my sister once more emphasized how much she missed the old goalkeeper I wished for someone else to come back: the legend number 7. I only found out that he didn't retire from the national team and was considered for the World Cup after the tournament ended. I wouldn't have minded it at all. With him, Spain would have had someone who was able to score goals. They took the lead thanks to an own goal even though the Spaniards didn't quite realize it. One of the remaining World Cup winners, Piqué, caused the penalty for Russia by using his arm. During the second half time I was mad with joy: Silva was subbed off and I celebrated it frenetically. Oh, how much I missed his namesake... Nothing else happened and the match went to extra time. But none of the teams could score, meaning that penalties decided the winner. Even though my sister wished for a penalty shootout, she obviously didn't want it to happen in this match. My mum was so afraid she hid under sheets. That wasn't neccessary as the Russians converted confidently – or the goalkeeper was too bad to save a penalty. For my sister it was probably the latter. During the last penalty kick of the Spaniards I didn't see the goalkeeper touching the ball with his foot and thought he had shot it wide. I only saw it in a replay. That save actually reminded me of that of a certain goalkeeper in the World Cup 2010 final. Even the celebration was similar. It was a sensation: Russia had beaten Spain! I was happy for them, Spain just wasn't what they used to be. My sister critisized their goalkeeper and was sure it wouldn't have happened with Casillas. She thought he didn't deserve to wear the number 1, they shouldn't give it to anyone as they wouldn't be able to find a worthy successor. While we're at it, they should also retire the number 7, for the same reason.
The match Denmark against Croatia was off a brilliant start. Everything went so fast I didn't understand what happened. After four minutes, both teams had already scored. That's how it would stay for the rest of the regular time... and also extra time. For the second time in a row penalties had to decide. Croatia won as expected, even though Denmark's win would have been a sensation. And this World Cup was full of surprises, anyway.
Belgium had a sensational comeback against Japan. After Japan had surprisingly taken the lead, Belgium evened the score within minutes. Everyone was ready to go to extra time but Belgium had different plans and scored the winning goal in the very last minute.
England took an early lead against Colombia after a penalty and for a long time it looked like it would be the final score. But Colombia scored a last minute goal that lead yet another match to go to extra time. Something strange happened during that: A Colombian player ran to the opponents' goal and hit the net on the inside. The Colombian spectators started to cheer when the referee intervened. At first I thought it was off-side and therefore disallowed. I started laughing because of the reaction of the spectators and couldn't stop for minutes. Later I found out what really happened. The referee mistakenly thought that there were two balls on the pitch, even though there weren't. Therefore, the goal should have counted. Thanks to that, the draw stood and for the third time it went to penalties. England caused another sensation by winning their first penalty shootout. I felt bad for Colombia though as they were robbed of their win.
The first quarter final was held between France and Uruguay. France scored a goal and later doubled the lead, even though the second goal was an accident and the goalkeeper's fault. If you don't want to score, why do you shoot in the goals direction then? The goal scorer didn't celebrate as he loves Uruguay and is good friends with some of their players. In the end he could only comfort them, as France qualified for the semi final.
For the first time my sister was on Brazil's side as their goalkeeper is of German decent and she wanted to support the „last German“ in the tournament. When we tuned in Belgium had already been in the lead because of an own goal, and they scored another one later. In the second half time, the referee made a controversial decision as he denied Brazil a clear penalty. But that seemed to motivate them and they scored a goal. It could have been a draw with the penalty, but Belgium ended up winning. It was as if the referees conspired against South American teams because only European teams were left after Brazil's elimination.
In the last quarter final it was time to cross fingers for Russia, even though I knew their odds were low. I squeaked when they took the lead unexpectedly. A fantastic goal! But the joy didn't last long as the opponent was Croatia who were already behind once. Until the end of regular time the score wouldn't change and the match went to extra time once again. After Croatia scored I thought that it would be the winning goal. I really didn't want another penalty shootout. But then what seemed impossible happened: Russia leveled, making the shootout inevitable. They lost, but I was relaxed since I didn't expect otherwise.
The first half of the semi final between Belgium und France went by without much happening and ended goalless. In the second half time France took the lead with a header, much to my sister's and my delight. The score wouldn't change, meaning that France was the first finalist.
I was almost certain that two former champions would play against each other in the final. When England scored early it looked like my assumption would prove to be true. But the Croats once again knew how to deal with being behind and evened the score. It was the third consecutive time that Croatia played extra time but they didn't seem to be tired. Much to our shock they scored the decisive goal, making them advance to the final. Prior to that, I only predicted two knockout stage matches wrong. During the match I honoured Spain who had the eighth anniversary of their World Cup triumph.
The third place play-off was a remake of a group stage match as England and Belgium played against each other once again. Both matches had one thing in common: the winner: Belgium took home the bronze medal, their best finish in a World Cup.
France had the advantage of not playing extra time unlike Croatia. That made people assume that they were in a better condition since they also had a day more to rest. It was the first final match I watched on tv and I hoped that in the end I would be satisfied with the winner. I started stating some facts, including that there has never been an own goal in a final – a fact that would no longer apply a few minutes later. When we realized that the goal after a disputed free kick was an own goal we bursted out in laughter. It was as if I summoned it. The commentator also predicted an event when he mentioned that Croatia had managed to level three times before. When they indeed scored I started getting nervous. (During the World Cup I realized that I hate draws) A controversial referee decision made France take the lead again. In the second half time they sealed the deal with two more goals. They conceded when their goalkeeper made an unneccessary mistake but their win wasn't put in danger. In the end I was happy as for the first time in eight years the team I supported won. There hasn't been rain like this before during a final, even though some things went wrong during the ceremony. I couldn't understand the criticism that the referee helped them win. Even if you delete the two controversial goals France would still have won – assuming the goalkeeper would have focused and wouldn't have done that mistake. Maybe I'm a bit biased since I don't like the Croatian team and they didn't deserve to win in my opinion. The most unlikable team, the Netherlands, didn't even qualify – that malicious joy! Now they both lost to the teams I rooted for in the final. Maybe the club of World Champions that includes eight countries should stay exclusive. France are now the third country with two titles – alongside Argentina and Uruguay who they defeated in the round of 16 and quarter finals, respectively. Only Spain and England have less. Who will catch up first?
I have seen at least a minute of almost every match, and in the knockout stage I didn't miss a single one. Never have I watched a World Cup as active as this year even though my own country was eliminated in group stage. But maybe that was the reason I couldn't stop. I will still remember this World Cup in a few years – as the one that I watched almost completely.