France won the World Cup, but that is far from the whole story. So many players and teams came out of the tournament on towering highs or devastating lows. Here are some of the winners and losers of the 2018 World Cup.
Africa No one expected an African winner, but surely one or two of its five entrants would make the knockout round. Instead, the continent was 3-10-2. The bright spot was Senegal, which beat Poland and was eliminated on the sixth tiebreaker. The poor showing is a bad omen for the future: When the Cup expands to 48 teams in 2022 or 2026, there will be nine African teams. How will Burkina Faso (currently ranked ninth in Africa) fare?
Germany The team that demolished Brazil 7-1 and won the 2014 World Cup was a bust four years later. It dominated much of the play and got off more shots per game than any other team. The shots just didn’t go in; it scored two goals. Germany was 1-2, including an embarrassing loss to South Korea, which had lost its first two games.
Mexico Drawn into a tough group, Mexico played well to advance. And its knockout opponent was Brazil, so a loss hardly seemed like a disgrace. But it was the seventh straight round of 16 loss for Mexico, a streak its fans are desperate to break. Maybe in 2022.
Panama 0-3. 1-6. 1-2. Panama was delighted to qualify for its first World Cup, ahead of the United States. But its performances were uniformly poor, and it wound up 32nd of 32 teams.
Lionel Messi His legacy as an all-time great is secure, but there are plenty of people who say that to be considered the greatest ever he needs to win a World Cup. Argentina never looked like a threat, drawing Iceland, losing to Croatia, and finally being eliminated in a rollicking 4-3 game with France. Messi will be 35 in 2022.
Neymar No one’s crying for Neymar, one of the world’s most valuable (and richest) players. But Brazil underachieved in the World Cup, and Neymar’s two goals and one assist did not impress. Worse, he was frequently cited as one of the tournament’s most egregious divers, not something to polish a legacy.
Fox It’s a quadrennial ritual to bash the English language coverage of the Cup in the U.S. And yes, it happened again. In particular, fans complained that Fox sent only two of its announcing teams to Russia, calling the rest of the games off television from Los Angeles (they sent a third midway through the tournament). And the ratings were down, in part because the United States team was not on hand.
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