Xtratime Web Desk: Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Varane, Lucas… they are all kings of a championship that has had many green shoots of positivity in the FIFA World Cup 2018.
Les Bleus have come out on top, with Croatia finishing as runners-up and Belgium claiming third spot in a tournament that left us with many great moments.
Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic were the artists of a team that went through a lot of suffering and still reached a final following two penalty shoot-outs and three extra-time periods in their legs.
They were within a game of glory, as were a Belgium side who came close before being beaten in the semi-final.
Roberto Martinez steered a side featuring the talents of Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard to a bronze medal position.
They overwhelmed Brazil in the quarter-final and their fast counter-attacks were as beautiful as they were lethal.
It was a tournament that was also a success in terms of the organisation and safety off the park.
The ultras didn’t appear in Russia due to the tight control in the country and the massive police presence was also decisive.
Everything worked well and even the host nation exceeded expectations by reaching the quarter-final.
VAR also appeared as a strange element in Russia and it is already now firmly part of the football family.
It helped the referee by fixing many wrongs and was a triumph in a World Cup in which modest teams have climbed a step and helped make it a tournament of several surprises.
Sweden reached the last eight, Iran pushed Portugal and Spain to the limit, Japan wobbled Belgium before being eliminated and cleaning up their dressing room.
Not everything at the competition though has shone in the best light.
In a World Cup that is being discussed as one of the best of recent editions, it also had some less positive aspects.
While the organisation, facilities, logistics and transport were impeccable, the football played by some of the teams who qualified wasn’t quite as successful.
A dead ball reliance and defensive tendency prevailed aside from some honourable exceptions – like Belgium – and it will not quite go down in history as favourably for that reason.
Although it will be remembered for the early eliminations of the then reigning champions Germany, one of the great disappointments of Russia 2018, and other favourites such as Argentina, Brazil or Spain.
In addition, big names like Neymar, Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski failed to shine after all of the expectations placed upon them.
Another bitter aftertaste that the World Cup has left is the great disappointment of the African nations.
Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco and Nigeria all failed to make it past the group stage and left them without knockout round representation for the first time since 1982.
Asia would have followed the same example if it were not for Japan and their shameful closing stages against Poland in which they decided to pass the ball around their defence and offer no forays forward whatsoever for the final 10 minutes, settling for a 1-0 loss which saw them safely though due to having two less yellow cards than Senegal.