And so it has come. The emotional day where we bid farewell to half of the competitors at this tournament, and (fighting away tears) face a day without football for the first time.
Perhaps, even more, tear-jerking is the goodbyes we must give to the fans of these outgoing nations, who have, as always, provided Russia 2018 with the energy, PASHUN, and love that makes the World Cup what it is: the Greatest Show on Earth.
Though there is nothing else to compete for, those leaving us can console themselves with a dignified spot on these rankings. Unless you’re (spoiler) German. Then there’s very little that can be done to console you. Sorry.
Here are the definitive group stage rankings from the 2018 World Cup:
*brackets denote their previous position.
The glorious montages of German players, for once, looking dejected at this stage of the tournament will not fade from memory for a long, long time. But tellingly, there also seemed to be less shock about their predicament than would be predicted.
It was more a look of resignation registered on their faces. Maybe we shouldn’t so surprised either, considering the fate of defending champions in the last four tournaments, and the similarities all those teams shared – an over-reliance on the players that had triumphed.
In truth, there is a certain level of admiration they deserve for deploying such overtly deplorable tactics at a World Cup infamous for using video technology for the first time. Such extreme boldness should always be commended.
Also not the barefooted celebration above. Excellent stuff all around.
Oh well, I’m sure the 38-year-old will come back stronger than ever in 2022.
It was also because they seem like good guys, and they deserved to go out with a bang. And there is no discernibly louder bang than rescuing a point through a penalty that goes in via the bar and the keeper’s head.
But Tunisia is a good side. That’s irrefutable.
Still, despite the considerable exaltation they receive, their fans continue to bring innovation, joy and enthusiasm to world football.
In the end, their big-name players failed to show up.
Milinkovic-Savic was a particular disappointment, but his inability to make his presence felt is a direct result of the ludicrous decision from Serbia’s management to not play him in a competitive fixture beforehand.
As a result, they will have to settle for a dignified place on this list, as well as the knowledge that the infamous words of Nordi Amrabat after the final whistle of the Span clash will no doubt be co-opted for years to come.
And, aided by a ludicrous VAR decision, they were just a correct VAR decision away from progressing. I guess all’s well that ends well in love and VAR.
Either way, at least they ended the tournament in far finer fettle than they begin it.
Colombia will be no walk in the park either, though. One thing is for sure, there is no crueler way of exiting a competition than through ‘fair play’. It is not fair in the slightest.
They deserved it as well, as does any team who score a winner by way of dispossessing the opposition keeper in the wrong half, following a loose touch from a throw in.
A test they should come through, but a test all the same.
They will prove tough opposition for Sweden in the last 16, and WHOEVER else they play in the latter rounds, should they get there.
Seriously, it doesn’t get worse than losing 3-0 to Sweden when you only need a point. It just doesn’t. They will now go into their last 16 games against Brazil in worse form, but perhaps crucially with less expectation.
Indeed, it could even end up being a help rather than a hindrance in their fated quest to reach La Quinta Partido.
In truth, I fancy them against Switzerland. Why not? Sweden, World Cup quarter-finalists. Who’d have thought it?
And, in their capacity as Portugal, they could easily sh*thouse their way to the ultimate prize. For entertainment’s sake, let’s hope not.
The GOAT now lives to bleat another day, and you wouldn’t put it past him to now go all the way. Equally probable is a heavy defeat to France in the next round. It’s one or the other.
If France were under the tutelage of any other Frenchman (and I mean any) they’d be real contenders. As it stands, they look set to waste their absurdly talent-heavy squad by either boring their opponents into submission or floundering their way to failure.
The latter seems more likely, considering the frequency at which certain players get their haircut. Shameful.
A lot of their knockout round fate will lie in the fitness of James Rodriguez, but with or without him they will still be extremely threatening to the Three Lions.
If England wins, all will be forgiven and promptly forgotten. If they lose, the retrospective’s on what could’ve been and what we could’ve done will be unbearably plenteous. I hope you know what you’re doing Gaz, and mine that extra day’s training with the first team for all it’s worth.
In that way, the proposition of Croatia in the quarterfinals is probably the worst possible outcome for them. The double-edged sword of ‘dark horses’ and the two best players at the tournament so far that Croatia wield is not something anyone will look forward to.
What they possess now, as opposed to say in 2014 and even 2010, is a midfielder who can knit this all together – Rodrigo Bentancur. If the 21-year-old continues to excel, a third title could genuinely be on the cards.
I guess we’ll never know if Belgium got what they wanted by winning, but Japan is certainly a more enticing initial prospect than Colombia, especially with this man on set pieces. If they do make it through, the clash with Brazil or Mexico will really show if the ‘Golden Generation’ can live up to their name.
The deification of Neymar aside, which could be their downfall (if they have one), Brazil seem to be finally whirring into action as the knockout round looms. Philippe Coutinho has been electric, and by far their best player and they’ve shown that once the shackles are off they quickly revert to their hallowed samba roots.
The problem has been that those shackles have been removed a little too late in the day so far, and with them, they have a propensity to look stilted and vulnerable.
Their hardened defensive unit, with the much-maligned Dejan Lovren at the fore, combined with a midfield that is rivaled by only Spain in its quality and depth, they are close to the total package.