World Cup 2018 Why the tournament in Russia was statistically the best

World Cup 2018 Why the tournament in Russia was statistically the best

Read more on World Cup: Why Russia 2018 may be the last great summer of football

And anyone who bemoans the fact 50% of Kanes total came from penalties should note that in 1966 four of Eusebios Golden Boot haul came from spot-kicks, and outside of Helmut Hallers extended family, absolutely no-one has ever complained.

And lets celebrate Harry Kane, only the second Englishman to win the Golden Boot at the World Cup.

Read more on World Cup 2018: Bizarre trophy presentation caps superb tournament

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It seems extraordinary, given their club exploits, but neither Ronaldo nor Messi has ever scored in a World Cup knockout match.

The bizarre end to the 2018 World Cup

A corollary of all these penalties was matches that might have ended goalless did not. The World Cup ended with just one 0-0 draw (the execrable dead rubber between France and Denmark), the lowest number since the 1954 edition – an era when defending was an optional extra – which did not feature a single one.

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Liverpool agree world record fee for Romas Brazilian keeper Alisson

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In 2018 it was all about VAR and although this is not the place to discuss individual incidents across 64 games, we can certainly see the effect it had on the football.

Overall there were nine winning goals (plus four defeat-avoiding equalisers) scored in the last minute or injury time of games, more than any previous edition of the World Cup and just one fewer than the five tournaments from 1998-2014 combined.

We went into 2018 wondering which of Ronaldo or Lionel Messi would finally dominate a World Cup.

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The baton of superstardom was supposed to pass to Neymar, but despite ending the World Cup with the most shots (26) and the second-most chances created (23) it was the fact he was the second most-fouled player (26 times in five matches – just behind Eden Hazard with 27 in six) that stood out. Yes, the Brazilian was targeted, but his ostentatious horizontal suffering left many with strong feelings of distaste.

Football didnt quite come home, but England equalled their best performance in a foreign World Cup and the likes of Maguire, Trippier and Pickford have joined Gascoigne, Waddle and Platt as surnames that will echo down the national consciousness for generations.

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Because from the momenthosts Russia smashed five goals past Saudi Arabiain the opening game, there was barely any let-up in drama and excitement. The group stage, the knockout stage, even the final – so often a cagey procession to extra time in recent World Cups – delivered what they needed to.

Late goals are the football equivalent of snapping that bit of plastic off an old cassette tape to prevent it being recorded over. They seal in the drama for good.

Harry Maguire had more than twice as many touches in the opposition penalty area (23) as any other defender in the competition as well as the joint-most headed attempts of any player (nine). Kieran Trippier created more goalscoring chances than any other player (24), finishing ahead of Neymar, Kevin de Bruyne, Luka Modric, Eden Hazard and Philippe Coutinho, in that order. Some company to be keeping.

It had been so long since England had captured the publics imagination at a World Cup that a song from 1996 (Three Lions – released closer to the first broadcast of Fawlty Towers than to now) became the theme of the endless summer.

Read more on Liverpool agree world record fee for Romas Brazilian keeper Alisson

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Four simple words, used variously as a statement or a question across the country during a baking June and scorching July: Best World Cup ever?

Pele was good at football, and it very much seems Mbappe might be too.

Read more on World Cup 2018: France complete two-year road to redemption with final win over Croatia

Harry Kanes expected goals tally during the tournament was 3.821 based on the difficulty of his chances and the probability of scoring them. His best chances are shown in this graphic, represented by the size of the circle

Unlike a league season, the World Cup does not have the time for a slow-burning narrative to take shape.

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There are, it seems, certain obligatory ingredients to a memorable World Cup, so lets see how 2018 really measured up:

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In 1990 we had such a defensively stifling tournament the laws of the game were altered with the outlawing of goalkeepers being able to pick up (most) backpasses.

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It needs short, sharp hits of drama from the very start. 2018 did not disappoint, with the 3-3 draw between Spain and Portugal on day two immediately, and rightly, adopted as a tournament classic. Cristiano Ronaldos late free-kick to ensure Portugal took a point capped a day of drama, with winning goals forUruguay against Egypt in the 89th minuteandIran against Morocco in the 95th.

Instead, it was Frances teenage hero Kylian Mbappe who enjoyed a breakthrough. Two goals against Argentina in the last 16 saw him become the first teenager since Pele to score twice in a World Cup game, and he followed that by becoming the youngest player since Pele to score in a World Cup final.

From balti to bhuna, do you have a favourite?

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The Germans managed to be both uninspiring and particularly unlucky, their total of 72 shots surpassed by only five teams in the tournament, four of whom played four more games than Joachim Lows team.

The 2018 edition of international footballs ultimate gathering was not the most-anticipated tournament in the games long history, for a variety of reasons, but perhaps that was a good thing.

In a football world of plenty, the relative infrequency of World Cups – held only every four years – means the tournament retains a fascination and cultural heft that easily outweighs the now technically superior club game.

If too many big sides exit early it can make the conclusion of the tournament a bit underwhelming (see: World Cup 2002) but no-one wants to see all the favourites cruise through to the latter stages untroubled.

Was this the last great summer World Cup?

It seemed, though, that most players had cottoned on by the latter stages, with no penalties awarded in any of the quarter-finals or semi-finals before possibly the most unsound VAR penalty decision of the tournament in the final, when referee Nestor Pitana eventually penalised Croatias Ivan Perisic for handball.

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The Tottenham man scored with all six of his shots on target (one an inadvertent clip of his heel against Panama), so certainly had luck on his side, but this is the World Cup where you play a maximum of seven games in a variety of conditions, so luck plays an even bigger role than it usually does.

There was also a phenomenal number of set-piece goals, with 43% of strikes coming in that fashion, the highest proportion in any World Cup from 1966 onwards. In a world where international sides do not necessarily have the time or roster to hone their playing styles like club sides, training-ground manoeuvres have become more vital than ever.

As it was, reigning champions Germany going out in the group stage, and then Spain, Argentina and Brazil stumbling in the knockout stage was just about right.

The most obvious is the sheer number of penalties. As the tournament began it was clear that players were not prepared for the scrutiny that VAR would subject them to, with day three featuring five penalties. Three were scored that day, contributing to a record 22 penalty goals in a single World Cup.

Chelsea boss Sarri wants to keep Hazard and improve him

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Ronaldos hat-trick against Spain was electrifying but also a false dawn, while Messi could not carry a reeling Argentina team who started with a different formation in all four of their games as they searched in vain for a functional combination.

In 1966 it wasdogs liberating trophies,in 2014 it was goalline technology andreferees spraying foamto mark free-kicks and defensive walls (note how much vanishing spray has become part of the game by the fact no-one deemed it worthy of mention throughout the tournament).

A biblical rainstorm & men in suits obscuring the crucial moment – the bizarre end to the World Cup

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At least Manuel Neuer ended the tournament as the only goalkeeper to make two dribbles, including one particularly unsuccessful one in the opposition half against South Korea. Redefining the position indeed.

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