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Fear The Wall Roundtable: World Cup Wrap Up

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

As I’m sure you all know by know France are the 2018 FIFA World Cup Winners. After some time to reflect the FTW crew decided to give some of our thoughts on the WC. We anser the following questions below.

1.Who was the best player at the World Cup?

2.What team surprised you the most at the World Cup?

3.What player surprised you the most at the World Cup?

4.What was the biggest disappointment of the World Cup?

5. Who was the best BVB player at the World Cup?

6. Name the way to early favorite for the 2022 WC in Qatar.

Nick Kapatos

1. N’Golo Kanté. I know he didn’t light up the scoresheets like Mbappé, Griezeman, and Pogba, but Kanté was a damn brick wall in center midfield all tournament. Messi, Suarez, Hazard, Modric, anyone who dared come at Kanté in midfield was denied and any attacks that looked to spring from the center were turned away. I know the aforementioned players got more of the limelight, and Luka Modric was rightfully named the best player of the tournament, but you can’t talk about France’s run to their second World Cup title without mentioning the importance of Kanté.

2. Russia. I didn’t see them making it out of the group (damn you, Salah, for making me believe in the Pharaohs), and I definitely didn’t think they’d make it as far as being one round of penalties away from making the semifinals. Feeding on that infectious energy of playing in front of 50,000 screaming home fans every match definitely propelled them farther than a lot of pundits or writers expected them to. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they had a little help from the Doping Fairy.

3. Denis Cherychev. If Cherychev doesn’t come off the bench for an injured Alan Dzagoev in the first game of the tournament and ball out, I don’t think the Rooskies have any kind of lasting impact in this year’s World Cup. But no! Cherychev scored all four of his career international goals in the World Cup, including an absolute screamer against Croatia in the quarterfinals.

4. Germany, and it’s not even close. Any time the defending champ fails to make it out of the group stage is cause for concern, but when it’s the first time in your country’s history to not advance out of the group, and when it was a fairly easy group to advance out of, you’re now entering DEFCON 1. If it wasn’t for a wonder-goal by Kroos (who had as bad a tournament as anyone for Germany) at the end against Sweden, they’d have been eliminated in an even more humiliating fashion. Argentina was bad, but at least they made it out of the group before being a sacrificial lamb to the French.

5. Manuel Akanji. I’d like to go on my mini victory tour as being only one of two FTW writers to predict that he would be the best Dortmund player in Russia (s/o to Sean Keyser for being a fellow Akanji stan.) If it weren’t for a very unfortunate deflection that led to a goal against Sweden, he would’ve had a perfect tournament. Switzerland proved to be a strong, defensive team that was an unfortunate late goal against Sweden from making a quarterfinal appearance, and Akanji was instrumental in that defensive shape. If he didn’t just sign a contract for Dortmund last winter, he’d go for such an insanely higher transfer figure.

6. France or England. With one of the youngest rosters in the tournament, plus a bevy of young players that didn’t make the roster that could’ve had a better impact or showing than Olivier Giroud (*cough* *cough* Anthony Martial *cough* *cough*), this is definitely not the last we’ll have heard or seen from France in big international tournaments. But then there’s England, also among the youngest squads in Russia. Along with their senior team, they’ve got some amazing youth teams that are coming off U17 and U20 World Cup victories that will (hopefully) be seasoned and ready to challenge for spots in Qatar.

Joel MacDonald

1. Luka Modric. The man orchestrated entire performances of a team that was considered a dark horse and was so influential in a central midfield role that his team actually made it to the final. Shame they didn’t win, but oh well.

2. I had to choose between Russia and Germany (cue World War II joke) but I have to hand it to Germany, but not in a good way. I suppose they had to continue the trend that Spain set in 2014, going out in the group stages like that. It just goes to show that past performances mean nothing, and if you come to a World Cup not ready to play, you’re going home early.

3. Kylian Mbappe. The kid is good, but I had no idea he was capable of putting in multiple good performances at the world’s highest stage. Absolutely unreal, and he’s going to be quality until the day he hangs up his boots.

4. Spain. I had them pegged as the winner of the tournament, so to see them go out to Russia? Wow. Once again, if you’re not ready to play, you’re not ready to play.

5. Apparently Akanji did really well, but I hardly saw him play, so I’m going to have to go with Shinji Kagawa. It was absolutely heartbreaking seeing him and Japan go out in dreadful fashion like that against Belgium, but Shinji did well and I hope he showed people why he’s still a good player.

6. #It’sComingHome2022

John Szymendera

Best Player - Eden Hazard. Modric was great and a deserving Golden Ball winner, working with less help than Hazard and making it to the final. That being said, Hazard seemed to be more consistently dominant. Even in Belgium’s sole loss, it felt like he was constantly on the verge of setting up an equaliser, even as he was crushed repeatedly by French defenders without getting a call.

Surprise Team - Russia. It’s the obvious choice, but they were above and beyond the most surprising. Coming in as one of the worst teams in the tournament, they didn’t perform well in the knockout stage by lucking into weak opponents, they performed well against some of the strongest competition possible. They showed the fight you would hope for from a hosting team playing in front of a home crowd, and drastically outperformed expectations, something Brazil could learn from.

Surprise Player - Takashi Inui. Anyone on the Russian team could be considered a surprise, but Inui had a very strong World Cup, especially against Belgium, who I believe proved to be the second best team in the tournament. His goal in that game was stunning and he managed nearly half the goals and assists in four games as he did in the entire La Liga season.

Biggest Disappointment - Neymar and Brazil. This could easily be Germany or Spain, but a precedent has been set for reigning champions to struggle and Spain is on the backend of an era. Brazil on the other hand, yet again failed to meet expectations while Neymar made himself enemy number one among fans. Messi and Ronaldo face criticism for never winning the World Cup even with weak teammates, yet Neymar is the one who can’t lead a team considered the favorites by many to a World Cup final. Meanwhile, Mbappe played a huge role in the victory of France. It appears Neymar may have flopped his way out of the shadow of Messi at Barcelona and into the shadow of Mbappe at PSG.

Best BVB Player - Marco Reus. Reus made the most impact of any Dortmund player I saw, although I admittedly didn’t see a lot of Akanji and Switzerland. Reus was essential to keeping Germany’s hopes alive for as long as they were and it was certainly clear that he had more to play for than the rest of his teammates.

Way too early Favorite for 2022 - France. Even though it has been shown to be a struggle for the reigning champs to even make it out of the group stage, France will be the clear favorites going into the next World Cup. As the second youngest team they will only get better with age, and they have young talented players (Dembele, Tolisso, and Fekir to name a few) that will be eager to steal a starting spot next time around and contribute on a larger scale, and they also have a ton of talent that will be looking to steal a spot on the roster. That level of intersquad competition for playing time will keep the team focused and motivated heading into 2022.

Grant Guan

1. Luka Modric-he won the golden ball and it was damn well deserved. Croatia is a talented side but on paper there are a lot of other squads you would have picked for the final. None of those squads had Modric who consistently made a difference. He controlled the pace of every game including large portions of Sunday’s final. Add in his solid defensive work in front of the back line and a couple goals and the choice is clear. Too often we claim the best player has to be on the winning team but in this World Cup, Modric was hands down without equal.

2. Russia-it has to be the hosts, the lowest ranked team in the tournament, the team that came in on questionable form, the team that no one gave a chance. Yet also the team that opened with a 5 game rout, the squad that was penalty kicks from the semifinals, and the group that shocked perennial contenders Spain. From Fernandez to Dzuba to Golovin and so many others, this Russian team proved to be better than any of us thought.

3. Artem Dzuba-fitting that the surprise player comes from the surprise team of the tournament. 3 goals and 2 assists in 5 games will do that for you especially when you’re playing almost all of those games as a lone striker with limited service. Let’s not forget that Dzuba wasn’t even supposed to be the starting striker for Russia. The star attacking role was supposed to go to Krasnodar’s Smolov. Still Dzuba is a huge reason Russia had their best finish in decades.

4. Messi’s Legacy-soccer is the ultimate team sport and it’s unfair to blame Argentina’s early exit on Messi. Yet when the pundits look back at the all time greats in the future they’ll always remember Messi’s teams’s inability to win on the largest stage no matter how unfair the criticism is. At 31 with an aging Argentina core this was probably his last realistic chance to lift football’s most important trophy.

5. Manuel Akanji-hands down there’s no competition for this honor. Alex’s take is spot on here. He was an absolute rock for Switzerland.

6. France, France, and still France-they were the tournament’s second youngest team and by far its best too. Their entire core will still be in its prime in Qatar. They’ll probably return 8 of 11 starters from Sunday’s lineup. Areola appears primed to replace Lloris, there are an embarrassment of choices to take Matuidi’s spot, and former BVB star Ousmane Dembele could very well replace Giroud up top. There’s young talent at every level. Umtiti and Varane aren’t going anywhere in defense. Kante, even with a forgettable performance Sunday, will continue to pair with Pogba for an unbeatable midfield. And in attack? Well Mbappe is only 19, Dembele two years older than that, and the relatively ancient Griezmann just 27. This doesn’t even consider young talents like Coman who wasn’t part of the squad or other products coming off France’s truly ridiculous talent factory. You heard it hear first, France will repeat in 2022.

Brian Meyers

1. Kante. I know everyone is saying it’s him or Modric and that may be a little boring, but its true, midfielders dominated this WC. Kante was the key to what the French team was trying to do all tournament. Without his defensive prowess and ability to pass from the back France would not have been able to lock down games as they did. Kante is like a combo of peak Weigl and peak Gundogan while also playing amazing defense the entire game. Kante never tired out this WC and he was only subbed in the final due to his yellow card. I guess that’s what we should expect from a guy who dragged Leicester City to a EPL League title.

2. England. Yes England are great on paper but they are also England. England has kind of always been the worlds laughing stock when it came to the WC(Aside from 1966). They always find a way to bottle their way out of a tourney, famously to Iceland in 2016. This year however, they turned around their bad luck and actually looked like a competitor. Aside from their awful game against Croatia, England played great in this world cup and showed that their bad luck is over.

3. Pavard. If you told me this goofy looking defender from Stuttgart was going to be a major factor on a WC winning team earlier this year, I would have laughed it off. Pavard is most definitely the real deal, hopefully a club outside Germany snaps him up soon.

4. The obvious choice is Germany. What a freaking mess.

5. Manuel Akanji. When Dortmund first bought Akanji i was skeptical. But his half season with us and this WC makes it clear, Akanji is Dortmunds best defender and its not looking even close.

6. Id say France because that squad will get better with age, but we all know they will lose in the first round. So the only other obvious answer is the Pulisic led USA, a team that will set the record for goals scored in the world cup as well as not letting up a single goal thanks to the expert keeper skills of Klinsmann Jr.