In Depth

Five things we learned from the 2018 World Cup final

France can rule the world for years to come, and England need to take note

France and Mbappe have more to come

France deserved their World Cup win and could dominate football for years to come.

“This France squad was the second youngest at the World Cup. And here is the other thing: thanks to the efforts of these academy graduates France can now claim to be the most powerful nation in world football in the past 20 years,” says Barney Ronay in The Guardian.

The jewel in their crown is Kylian Mbappe, still only 19 and the heir apparent to Messi and Ronaldo.

“What are we going to do with this kid? He is simply irresistible, not just a pure, brilliantly fearless talent, with a genuine sprinter’s technique that allows him to glide away in the smallest of spaces. He is also a joy to watch, a footballer of real charm and warmth, who still seems to be having the most wonderful time, playing with friends in the middle of all that epic-scale tension.”

A great final for a great tournament

The last match of Russia 2018 had as many goals as the four previous World Cup finals between them, and a six-goal thriller summed up an unexpectedly entertaining tournament.

“A tournament you dared not look away from for fear of missing something extraordinary had a final played out to a soundtrack of thunder and lightning above Moscow, and a trophy presentation in a downpour for France, the world champions, that was almost biblical. It was an appropriately dramatic, almost cinematic, climax,” says Matt Dickinson of The Times

The 2018 World Cup “turned out to be less about Russia than, quite simply, about football; its transcendent drama, its universal appeal, its power to enthral billions of us across the planet and, as with yesterday’s denouement, to stir debates that never end”.

VAR does not yet work

The biggest controversy in the game came with the score at 1-1 when France were awarded a penalty for handball after Argentine referee Nestor Pitana was persuaded to review footage of an incident involving Ivan Perisic.

The decision was “absolutely staggering” says former referee Keith Hackett in the Daily Telegraph. Perisic had no time to get his hand out of the way of the ball as it came to him and the offence was clearly not deliberate.

But the decision is not necessarily the on-field referee’s fault he says. Having initially waved away French protests, Pitana was then told to look at the incident by the TV officials and would have assumed they thought he had made a mistake, says Hackett.

“He also has to make that call while standing at the side of the pitch, in front of a crowd of 81,000 and a TV audience in the hundreds of millions. It is intolerable pressure and I believe it would be far better if the VAR makes the call and then transmits the decision to the referee.”

Pussy Riot breach security

The five-week tournament had gone off with barely hitch, confounding many people’s expectations of the host country, but the final saw the “first significant security lapse” of the event when protesters ran onto the pitch, says the Daily Mirror.

One of the pitch invaders was tackled by Croatian defender Dejan Lovren and they were soon removed from the field.

Protest group Pussy Riot have claimed responsibility for the incident.

England have a long way to go

England defied all expectations to reach the World Cup semi-finals but watching France and Croatia slug it out proved that there is more to be done.

France and England both had young teams, but the French youngsters had far more first team experience than those in the England ranks, and that gave them the confidence to shine when it mattered.

“If the real progress for England this summer was to play with greater conviction and purpose against the world’s lesser lights then, assuming they do not retreat into their shell over the coming months, Southgate’s principal challenge is to repeat this against better opponents,” says James Olley of the London Evening Standard.

“Their run must inspire Premier League clubs to take more chances on young English players and it would help the cause were a midfield playmaker to emerge in the next two years — Harry Winks, Jack Wilshere or Phil Foden, a youngster of whom much is hoped, are among those who must take their game to another level.”


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