XtraTime Web Desk: Along with the incredible success of France, mateoric rise of Croatia and Belgium, memorable performance by England, www.xtratime.in spots the five characters and moments which became the biggest talking points of this FIFAA World Cup in Russia.
Japan’s clean-living players and fans
Not only did Japan upset the odds to qualify from Group H, but they also made plenty of waves off the pitch, too. Their players were impressive, but their fans were perhaps even more so.
Amazing images were shared far and wide on the internet after each of the country’s four matches as the fans stayed behind after the football to clear up all of their rubbish and leave the stadium the way they found it on arrival.
The players were no different in the dressing room either, as they left the area spotless alongside a thank you note in Russian following their exit to Belgium.
The referee who took on Neymar
It can sometimes be hard managing the big personalities as a referee. Many come with reputations, and Neymar is certainly one of them. Backchat, plenty of theatrics and a tendency to go down easily are a few of the elements that have tainted the Brazilian’s game, but Bjorn Kuipers was having none of it.
Wise to Neymar’s naughty tricks, the Dutch referee stood up to some verbal abuse and earned plaudits from thousands on Twitter during the Brazil-Costa Rica match. With the score at 0-0, the Brazilians were growing more and more frustrated, and Neymar decided to take out his anger on the official.
He was quickly shut down by the referee, who even gave the PSG man a little push in the chest. It was quickly followed by a shout of ‘don’t touch me’ from Neymar, but Kuipers’ status was already secured. He’d given the Brazilian a taste of his own medicine and done what plenty of fans watching at home had wanted to do.
Nikola Kalinic’s ego trip
You have to admire the audacity of Nikola Kalinic as he refused to come on as a substitute in Croatia’s opening World Cup match against Nigeria. The AC Milan striker appeared to put his ego above his country, and was so annoyed at being left out of the starting XI, that he decided to play no part at all in the first Group D clash.
Unfortunately for him, coach Zlatko Dalic then decided that he’d play no part full stop and sent him home in shame. Perhaps Kalinic will now be regretting his decision, after watching Croatia get to the final, cementing themselves in the country’s history books forever more. There’s talk of him not even getting one of Croatia’s 51 runners-up medals.
The passion of Diego Maradona
If you were watching any of Argentina’s matches at the 2018 World Cup, you would undoubtedly have seen Diego Maradona at some point. In the stands for every match, the legendary striker was the focal point for many a TV director.
Shouting, screaming, swearing… you name it, he was doing it. There were plenty of strong opinions too, and you have to admire his passion for the country’s football team despite retiring as a player over two decades ago.
Egypt’s elderly goalkeeper
Essam El-Hadary enjoyed a record-breaking World Cup for Egypt, despite them crashing out at the group stages in Russia.
The goalkeeper headed into the tournament knowing that an appearance would cement his place as the oldest goalkeeper ever to compete in a World Cup.
Not only did he do that, but he saved a penalty too – adding another record to his tally. You guessed it: he’s also the oldest goalkeeper to save a penalty at the World Cup.