The 2018 World Cup came to an end last night, and with it came a lot of thrills, upsets, stunning goals and wild emotions.
The 2018 World Cup had a lot of innovations, chief of which was the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). Fourth substitutes were also allowed in extra time and the world cup set a number of records, including for penalties awarded and own goals scored.
France won their second world title after defeating Croatia 4-2 in the final. The 2018 World Cup had some striking resemblances with the 2002 edition jointly hosted by Korea and Japan, below I present the 5 most striking similarities.
#1 The defending champions losing opening game and being knocked out in group stages
Heading into the 2002 World Cup as favourites, Les Bleus were the defending champions after Zinedine Zidane's heroics inspired them to a maiden World Cup win on home soil in 1998. They were also European champions and paraded the top goalscorers in three of Europe's major leagues; Thierry Henry (Premier League), David Trezeguet (Serie A) and Djibril Cisse (Ligue One), but they failed to score a single goal in the competition.
The French shockingly lost their opening game 1-0 to debutants Senegal, drew the next 0-0 against Uruguay and capped off their shambolic performance with a 2-0 loss to Denmark, becoming the first defending champions to be eliminated from the group stages.
In similar fashion, the Germans came into the 2018 World Cup as defending champions, they lost their opening game 1-0 to Mexico and bowed out of the tournament after a 2-0 defeat to South Korea.
It was the first time Germany had ever been eliminated at the World Cup in the group stages (the 1938 edition only featured knockout matches and no group stage) and halted their run of at least getting to the World Cup quarter final since 1954 (the 1978 edition had a second group stage for qualified teams).
#2 Final match had a Goalkeeping blunder
The 2002 World Cup final was contested between Brazil and Germany at the International Stadium in Yokohama Tokyo with Brazil winning 2-0 thanks to a brace from Ronaldo.
The match was also highlighted by an uncharacteristic Oliver Kahn error. In the 67th minute, Rivaldo shot a straight ball at Oliver Kahn which the experienced goalie should have saved. However, Kahn managed to fumble the ball into the path of the onrushing Ronaldo to tap into the net for Brazil's first before going on to add a second following an assist from Rivaldo.
In the 2018 final in Moscow, France had a 4-1 lead against Croatia when Hugo Lloris received a harmless back pass. The Tottenham keeper attempted to dribble past Mario Mandzukic but fluffed his lines for the Juventus striker to rebound into an empty net.
Luckily for Lloris however, unlike Kahn, his howler would not cost his team as France would hold on to win their second World title.
#3 Pre-tournament favourites floundered
As touched on earlier, France were the joint-favourites of the 2002 World Cup along with an Argentine side that had world-class players, including Gabriel Batistuta, Hernan Crespo, Ariel Ortega and Diego Simeone.
However, like France, La Albiceleste failed to make it out of a group also containing Nigeria, Sweden and England. They were not alone though with Portugal also failing to get out of group D that contained USA, Poland and South Korea. Italy would also lose out in the round-of-16 to co-hosts South Korea.
At the 2018 World Cup, Germany suffered a group stage exit, Spain and Argentina scraped through their groups before being eliminated in the second round by Russia and France respectively while red-hot favourites Brazil lost out to Belgium in the quarterfinals.
#4 The hosts both defeated Spain on penalties en route a surprising run
Korea were co-hosts in 2002 and came up against then perennial underachievers Spain (who had lost their key man Raul in the second round to injury) at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup at the Gwangju Stadium in Korea.
After 120 minutes ended goalless in a match marred by refereeing errors (Spain had three goals wrongly ruled out), the match went to penalties, with Korea triumphing to progress to an unexpected semi-final.
Russia came into the 2018 World Cup as hosts, but underperformance in recent tournaments and friendlies led to lowered expectations among fans and pundits alike.
The Russians won their opening two fixtures and restored belief in the team. A 2nd place finish in Group A behind Uruguay was enough to set them up for a round-of-16 fixture with 2010 winners Spain.
An Ignashevic own goal put the Spaniards ahead early on before Artem Dyzuba equalized from the spot on the stroke of halftime. Russia held on through extra time to send the match to penalties where the Czars triumphed, with veteran captain Akinfeev stopping two Spanish spot-kicks to progress to the quarterfinals.
#5 The Golden Ball was won by the captain of the losing finalist
Oliver Kahn was the reason a rather uninspiring Germany team got to the final in 2002, pulling off a string of impressive saves; particularly in tense 1-0 victories in their three knockout matches.
Despite his error in the final, skipper Oliver Kahn was still considered impressive enough in the tournament to be awarded the Golden Ball (given to the best player of the tournament). This was the first and till date only time that a goalkeeper was adjudged to be the best player at a World Cup tournament.
Croatia were losing finalists at the 2018 edition, but their captain Luka Modric was voted the Golden Ball winner having been the creative force behind their shocking run to the final.
Modric was impressive as Croatia topped a group containing Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria, helping the Croats to three victories and nine points in the group.
Further stellar performances followed in gruelling penalty shootout knockout victories over Denmark and Russia and an extra time victory over England in the semi-final. The 32-year-old midfielder was widely acknowledged by many to have been the 2018 World Cup's standout player despite his final loss in the same way that Oliver Kahn was 16 years ago.