The biggest sporting extravaganza of 2018 has now passed us by and what a ride it was! The FIFA World Cup in Russia was one of the greatest tournaments in the history of football. Whilst some of the world’s best players showcased their talents, there were others that disappointed and under achieved on the biggest stage of all. As video technology waded its way into the biggest moments and conversations, even our own country had reason to celebrate and feel pride as England impressed everybody. For anybody that travelled to Russia, it was the ultimate football road trip!

It’s time to relive this amazing tournament so before you tear down your wall chart, grab a seat and take a read at our roundup of Russia 2018.

 

France are on top of the world

France may have started the group stage slowly with narrow and unconvincing wins but Les Bleus certainly stepped up their game when it mattered most. After bringing Olivier Giroud into the centre-forward position, the dangerous French attack suddenly clicked into gear. Kylian Mbappe picked up the young player of the tournament with four sumptuous goals from 19-year-old. Antoine Griezmann was quiet but still picked up four goals himself, benefitting from more penalties being given at the tournament. Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante bossed the midfield with Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti providing a tough rearguard action. They may not have been spectacular and their style of football was accused of being ‘anti-football’, but the streets of Paris, Lyon, Lens and beyond were celebrating France’s return to the top of the game.

 

Southgate’s Heroic Three Lions

Nobody expected England to get further than the Last 16 with some even harbouring hopes of a first quarter-final since 2006. Instead, we got to a first World Cup semi-final since 1990, a first ever victory by penalty shootout at a World Cup and a complete togetherness of a squad not seen since Euro 96. It is no wonder that the whole country got behind Gareth Southgate’s young team. Jordan Pickford was saving everything, Kieran Trippier created the most chances at the World Cup, Harry Maguire was heading everything and the team scored the most from set pieces. It was just so good to watch.

While they may have had an easier side of the knockout draw and when they did come up against competitive sides, a victory wasn’t forthcoming. However, this was a huge step in the right direction after the humiliation of losing to Iceland at Euro 2016. Football almost came home but at least Three Lions got to Number One again!

 

Harry Kane’s Golden Boot

One trophy that did come home was the Golden Boot. Kane had targeted the accolade at the start of the tournament, having been top goalscorer twice in the Premier League. The opening game certainly saw a statement of intent for the prize as he scored both England goals against Tunisia. He followed this up with a hat-trick against Panama and a penalty against Colombia. However, he was more of a spectator against Sweden and Croatia as England bowed out of the tournament at the semi-finals. Despite fading in the tournament, this was a huge achievement for Kane and he deserves great accolades.

 

The Impact of VAR

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was expected to have a huge impact on this World Cup and its presence was well and truly felt. Incidents that were missed by the referee was easily picked up by the myriad of cameras in the stadium, and the team of fully kitted officials watching from a studio in Moscow. Most notably, Neymar’s dive for Brazil against Costa Rica saw a penalty decision correctly overturned that otherwise would have gone unpunished.

 

The most obvious change was the huge amount of penalties given across the tournament. 29 were awarded with 22 scored and 7 missed – these were all new World Cup records. Games that would have finished scoreless were now having goals awarded after the intervention of VAR – only France vs Denmark finished 0-0 in the entire tournament. Although, whether all of those decisions were right is still open to debate, including the controversial Ivan Perisic handball decision in the final. VAR is here to stay and soon enough, every league in the world will have this system in place.

 

Belgium’s Best Ever Finish

Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ had high expectations at this tournament with many even predicting they would go all the way to victory. Alas, they did come unstuck against eventual winners France in a narrow 1-0 defeat at the semi-final stage. However, thanks to fantastic performances from Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, they achieved their country’s best ever finish of Third Place. The future looks bright for the Red Devils and we expect even more from them in the upcoming tournaments. It’s definitely worth a football trip to Belgium at Antwerp, Bruges and Brussels to see the next generation prepare for the future.

 

Germany’s Shock Exit

The defending World Champions Germany were expected to put on a strong defence of their trophy. The events that followed certainly shocked the world. Despite having the 6th most shots on goal in the tournament (72), Germany struggled for goals and ultimately lost two of their group games and crashed out of the tournament. No one likes seeing the big favourites go out early, as it can diminish the quality of a tournament. You could argue they were unlucky and some were even pointing to a current curse. Recent champions to go out at the Group Stage after winning the tournament include France (2002), Italy (2010) and Spain (2014). There will be no panic just yet, as the pool of current German talent playing across Cologne, Dortmund, Dusseldorf and Hamburg is still the envy of the world. They will be back even stronger in Qatar 2022.

 

Will Russia 2018 be the Final World Cup of Messi & Ronaldo?

Two of the greatest footballers to ever play the game were once again expected to showcase their well-known talents to the biggest audience. Cristiano Ronaldo started strongly with a hat-trick in the first game against Spain before adding another in the next match versus Morocco. Lionel Messi only mustered one goal in Argentina’s victory over Nigeria. Both Argentina and Portugal were eliminated at the last-16 stage which meant both players went home early. Despite their incredible records, neither player has scored a goal in the World Cup knockout stage. With Ronaldo turning 37 and Messi turning 35 in 2022, it is highly likely that Russia 2018 was their last World Cup. However both players have shocked us before on a football field, so it wouldn’t surprise us if they both appeared again for one final chance at World Cup glory.

 

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It’s June 2018 and the world’s favourite quadrennial football tournament is here; the FIFA World Cup. The globe is ready to descend on Russia as it hosts the tournament for the first time ever. With 12 stadiums in 11 cities set to stage the latest chapter in this long footballing story, the hopes and dreams of the 32 nations taking part are already being thought out. Expectation is high for a number of teams, and there are some nations who are feeling ecstatic just for qualifying for this festival of football.

Football Road Trips love a good trip abroad to watch the best football matches in the world, and we know some of you will be trekking to Russia to experience the tournament for yourself. The rest of us will be watching the games on the sofa or in the pub with a few mates. However you are going to enjoy the World Cup, take a look at our list of the 10 countries to watch out for this year in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

 

1. England

We could only ever start in one place, our beloved England. Gareth Southgate has named the third youngest ever England squad to play at a FIFA World Cup, which is allowing fresh faces to prove themselves at the highest level. Southgate’s new emphasis on bringing in young and exciting talent coupled with solid but attractive football, has got some quietly confident of the squad’s chances of success in Russia. With an unbeaten international season behind them and a positive atmosphere amongst the squad, England believe they can progress from a group containing Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. Beyond that? We shall see.

 

Key player – Harry Kane

England’s new captain is the embodiment of Southgate’s new England; young and driven. The 24-year-old striker scored 41 goals for Tottenham Hotspur last season and is eager to bring that scintillating form to Russia.

 

2. Belgium

We love a European football tour to Belgium, mostly in part to their surplus of talent at the moment. Their “golden generation” may ply their trade away from Antwerp, Bruges and Brussels but their talented squad is the envy of the world. With the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne & Romelu Lukaku selected for the tournament, Belgium boast one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament. Many expect them to go far this time around, especially after the disappointment of losing to Wales at Euro 2016.

 

Key Player – Kevin De Bruyne    

The Manchester City playmaker was fizzing passes around defences in the Premier League all last season and he will no doubt orchestrate every Belgium attack in Russia. Look out for his deadly free-kicks as well.

 

3. Iceland 

Everybody loves an underdog, especially from a nation with a population the size of Coventry. Iceland were the conquerors of England as they shocked their way to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals. They’ve now qualified for their first World Cup and having been drawn in a group containing Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria. The team are confident that they can upset the odds again and reach another tournament knockout stage. Get ready to do the Viking clap again.

 

Key Player – Gylfi Sigurdsson

Iceland’s talismanic attacking midfielder is a man of many talents. Expect his free-kicks and long range efforts to trouble the goalkeepers in Russia.

 

4. Brazil 

Looking for a successful World Cup campaign to fight off any lingering nightmares of the 7-1 defeat to Germany four years ago, Brazil have been reborn under the management of Tite. The defence has worked on its organisation which has allowed the plethora of attacking talent to express themselves once again. Brazil are back and ready to show the world that they are the best team in the world for a sixth time.

 

Key Player – Neymar Jr

Neymar led his country to Olympic Gold in 2016 and was exceptional at the World Cup in 2014, until injury cruelly ruled him out of the semi-finals. At just 26, Neymar has 55 goals for his country and this deadly goalscoring is expected to continue this summer in Russia. He can play anywhere in attack so defences will find him very unpredictable.

 

 5. Argentina

Finalists four years ago in Brazil, Argentina are expected to mount another challenge for the trophy this year. Once more, Lionel Messi is along for the ride which could possibly be his last chance at World Cup glory. Despite leaving Serie A’s prolific goalscorer, Mauro Icardi out of the squad, Argentina still have a squad brimming with talent that will go far in this tournament.

 

Key Player – Lionel Messi

This is likely going to be Messi’s final chance to add a World Cup to his already bulging trophy cabinet. Messi is the finest player of his generation and he will be using all his tricks to make the 2018 World Cup his own.

 

 6. Germany

The current world champions are always one to watch at a World Cup. Popular with our football away days, Germany still has talent seeping from every corner of the country. The likes of Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Timo Werner will shine this year in a strong squad – they’ve even left in form Leroy Sane at home which shocked many. The majority of the squad can still be seen across Cologne, Dortmund, Dusseldorf and Hamburg on our trips during the Bundesliga season. With a solid team unit, a very experienced coach and that frustrating ability of scoring accurate penalties, you wouldn’t bet against Germany retaining their crown in Russia.

 

Key Player – Thomas Muller

With ten goals during the last two World Cup’s, Thomas Muller is a proven goalscorer when it matters most for his country. A consistent creator as well as a scorer, Muller is still an ever-present threat in the German attack.

 

7. Portugal

The current European Champions stunned everybody as they beat hosts France at Euro 2016. Despite this success, many aren’t talking about Portugal as serious contenders for the World Cup. Their squad still contains some talent and any team that has Cristiano Ronaldo to call upon always has a chance to cause another upset.

 

Key Player – Cristiano Ronaldo

The current World Footballer of the Year is unstoppable on his day. He ended the club season in blistering form and his country will be looking to him for inspiration again in Russia.

 

8. Egypt

Mo Salah wasn’t born the last time Egypt qualified for a World Cup in 1990. His inspired form for Liverpool has translated to international football which has put Egypt back onto the international map. They will fancy their chances of getting out of a group containing Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, which in itself will be an achievement.

 

Key Player – Mo Salah

The hopes of a nation rest on the shoulders of Mo Salah, as long as his one shoulder recovers in time for the tournament. If he’s fit, his fast dribbles and accurate finishing could get Egypt to the knockout stage.

 

9. Spain

The 2010 World Champions dominated world football between 2008-2012. Their star may not be shining as high as it used to, after crashing out of the group stage in 2014, but Spain are still a team to watch. Their team may be a little old now but their tournament experience means they remain a threat to any opponent.

 

Key Player – David Silva

Another Manchester City playmaker to watch, David Silva continues to pull the strings for Spain and will need to be marshalled to keep Spain under control.

 

 10. France

Didier Deschamps has arguably compiled the strongest squad of players at the 2018 World Cup. France are spoilt for choice when it comes to talent with a possible 33 top-level players that would be welcomed into any World Cup squad. The 23 that are going are expected to do well, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele expected to shine. This incredible squad sees Les Blues’ best chance of winning the tournament since they hosted it in 1998. The streets of Lens, Paris and Lyon await to celebrate world triumph.

 

Our Football Road Trips are the perfect solution for your stag dos, birthday parties and corporate events. We also offer trips to Holland, who still have good football but didn’t quite make it to the World Cup this year. Contact us today for more information on how you can create your DIY football trip.

This Sunday FRT is taking our annual trip to the German Supercup match- the German equivalent of England’s Charity Shield.

And this year it’s a biggie. As Bayern Munich take on arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund.

Despite having won the Bundesliga for the past four years and the DFB-Pokal three times in that period, Bayern haven’t managed to win the Supercup once in the last four years.

Wolfsburg won the Supercup last year, beating Bayern 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

And in the two previous Supercup ties it was Dortmund themselves who beat Bayern, 2-0 in 2014 and 4-2 in 2013.

So, Bayern haven’t won the one-off cup match in four years despite having won the league at a canter for the last four years. Why is that?

It’s not because they can’t perform in knockout games as they’ve won the domestic cup three times in the last four years and they’ve regularly progressed into the latter stages of the Champions League.

Bayern have been criticised for not taking the match seriously in the last few seasons seeing as the Supercup is essentially a glorified friendly and because it is so close to the start of the season.

Whereas Dortmund have won the Supercup a record five times and seem to take the competition more seriously than their rivals- maybe because it’s an easy chance for silverware where Bayern normally clean up domestically.

Ahead of this tie Bayern’s Thomas Mueller has come out and said his side do take the Supercup seriously even if it’s not as ‘significant’ as the Bundesliga or the DFB-Pokal.

Bayern are expected to be at close to full strength for the game with Xabi Alonso, Franck Ribery and Douglas Costa all working to be fit for the game. Though Arjen Robben and Jerome Baoteng will miss out through injury.

Seeing as its Bayern vs Dortmund, and Bayern haven’t won the Supercup in four years- it’s already a bit of a grudge match so there’ll be a few tackles flying in.

Some of those will be going in on Mats Hummels who will be making his debut for Bayern following a summer move from Dortmund. Another man who may be on the side of some heavy tackles will be Mario Goetze who made the switch from Bayern back to Dortmund (where he began his career) this summer.

Dortmund are also set to field a strong side with new signings Andre Schuerrle and Ousmane Dembele joining Goetze in the likely line up.

Given that and that both sides have had strong pre-seasons it’s going to be one hell of a match. But we at FRT are predicting that Bayern will end their drought in the Supercup with a 3-1 win.

Matt Bullin

Photo by Markus Unger via Flickr

After witnessing England’s humiliating Euros campaign first hand, we here at Football Road Trips couldn’t wait to get home. And following a spineless resignation from Woy, eyes all over the football world looked to see who would be the next man to take the England job.

With the FA standing by its ludicrous stance that England must have an English manager, they restricted themselves to a pretty feeble list, rather than tapping into the foreign talent that were mentioned for the job (the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez).

So a few of the viable English managers put forward were: Steve Bruce, Eddie Howe, Gareth Southgate and Sam Allardyce.

Now that list isn’t exactly overflowing with managerial prestige is it?

Steve Bruce- undoubtedly a fantastic player in his day but his managerial record doesn’t sparkle like the likes of say Benitez, who has managed Liverpool, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. Whereas Steve Bruce- affectionately nicknamed Mr. Potato Head by rival fans has managed Wigan, Sunderland and Hull.

Southgate was the early favourite for the job having done a half-decent job with the Under 21s, but he’s hardly an England legend and his three years at Middlesbrough weren’t exactly world class (he got them relegated from the Premier League).

Eddie Howe was the youngest of the men mentioned for the job. He’s obviously a decent manager, having guided Bournemouth up the divisions and Gary Lineker did describe him as the ‘English special one’ in a tweet earlier this year- but the general consensus is that Howe is too young and inexperienced for the job.

And that brings us to Sam Allardyce. Big Sam. Not one of the most fashionable managers in football, but he’s certainly someone who can do a ‘job’, having been a bit of a relegation dogfight specialist for a number of years- most recently with Sunderland.

He’s been often criticised for his long ball tactics and he even called Pep Guardiola’s tiki-tika football, “a load of b******s.” So, the FA seems to be changing its philosophy slightly: as they are going from wanted free flowing attacking football to appointing someone who will probably start Andy Carroll up top.

At Big Sam’s first press conference he said taking the England job will be his ‘greatest challenge’ and his first challenge will be winning over the fans and pundits who will no doubt be sceptical about his appointment given his reputation.

He’s also famously been able to instil passion and fight in his teams, something the most recent crop of England players have sadly lacked. So with that in mind are we set to see a very different looking England than the one that turned out at the Euros?

The answer is probably yes- players such as Mark Noble are almost certain to get a game and I don’t see why not. At the Euros Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson didn’t do much to nail down starting spots in the line-up.

From his previous clubs we’ve seen that he pays close attention to set-plays and defensive organisation. A trait that England could have done with against Iceland, to stop the long throw threat.

He’s probably more Mike Bassett than Jose Mourinho but all in all I think Big Sam will do a decent job for England when he pulls on the Three Lions blazer for the first time against Slovakia on 4 September.

And let’s be honest it can’t get much worse anyway.

Matt Bullin.

 

Photo by Ben Sutherland via Flickr.