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Football did come home

A World Cup Final to bless the best month of football in my lifetime. I felt for Croatia, and my mate out in Moscow, but after three exhausting games their continued chasing of the ball when they were out of possession and their lust to get forward and make chances when they had it was extraordinary. The Croats were admirable finalists.

But the best team should win it, and they did. As in the semi-final, France seem content to sit and counter, and they do it with such pace and effectiveness. This team is young as well, and have many good players on the bench and in reserve. Whilst Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Italy all lick their wounds and plan for the future, France already have the future and a superstar in Kylian Mbappe.

VAR continued to cause debate. No way in hundreds of years of football, before the onset of a video referee, was that a deliberate handball by Perisic. If every push or a ball to hand becomes a penalty, then we’ll be getting five a game. I think VAR will become invaluable, and it has definitely modified players behaviour. I don’t think there was one red card for vicious play, but as the game finds a balance it seems unfair that blatant cheating and dubious free-kicks that Griezmann won for the first goal also go unnoticed and unchallenged.

It was a great tournament though, and I was lucky to see so many of the matches in full. Many games will stick in the memory. France’s 4-3 win over Argentina and Pavard’s goal, which was my favourite. The Spain and Portugal, or shall I say Ronbaldo’s 3-3 on the second day. Belgium’s late show against Japan, the German’s losing to South Korea, Croatia’s unravelling of Argentina, and pride that England brought back. It may have been Panama, but really 5-0 up at half-time?

Messi and Ronaldo left the stage early, but Modric, Perisic, Pogba, Griezmann, Hazard, De Bruyne and Trippier all stayed until the very end.

England’s progress was great to watch, mostly because they tugged at our heart strings for the first time in decades. We are a work in progress and not the 4th best team in the world, but 4 years ago we were done before the first week was out, this time the team stayed until the bitter end.

Russia 2018 was everything we all thought it wouldn’t be or couldn’t have been. Truly one of the best World Cups ever. I’m going to miss it.

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