His fleeting runs and the image of Kylian Mhappe kissing the FIFA Cup will forever be etched in memory. The young and hugely talented Mhappe at 19 became the first teenager to score a goal in a final since the Brazilian great Pele in 1958. When skipper Hugo Lloris lifted the cup, it was the second time that France became World champions. And Didier Deschamps, nicknamed The Water-Carrier, became the third man after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer to win the World Cup as a player in 1998 and now as manager at Moscow. Immigrants, sons of immigrants and grandsons of immigrants bonded together with scions of families that have scripted this famous victory in Russia. For Croatia, one of the smallest nations to reach dizzy heights under the brilliant captaincy of Luka Modric, it was one of the fairytale runs of the World Cup. Cast as underdogs, though Modric’s team lost 2-4 in the Sunday’s final, Croatia won the hearts of millions of fans through their resilience and character. This World Cup, according to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, has changed the perception of Russia. It was one of the best organised World Cup that was held without major security incident. As the Russian president Vladimir Putin said it helped his country’s image though the final was marred by the invasion of the field which Pussy Riot, a punk protest band, claimed responsibility. But nevertheless this World Cup will be remembered as the best ever though many were highly sceptical before the start of the tournament. There were treasure of treats through Mbappes, Modrics, Hazards (Belgium) that kept the worldwide audience occupied and wove a gripping narrative over the course of a month.
Defending champions Germany tumbled out in the first round. Lionel Messi flattered to deceive and Argentina fell in the round of 16 while five-time champions Brazil were bumped off by the golden generation team of Belgium. But Brazil’s Neymar was in the wrong news for his dubious theatrics. Cristanio Ronaldo had a hat-trick in his bag but Portugal fizzled out before the semifinal. It was Belgium and Gareth Southgate’s England that stirred hornet’s nest. Belgium were unfortunate to be knocked out by France while there was a summer to cherish for England, who gave their best-ever show since 1966. But it was France and Croatia who were destined to clash in the final before the former had the last laugh. FIFA had reasons to smile as their experiment with Video Assistant Referee (VAR) turned out to be a huge success. Introduced for the first time, VAR won over the critics though the system remains imperfect. The VAR came to the fore in the final too when referee Nestor Pitana awarded a `controversial’ penalty for France for a handball by Croatian player Ivan Perisic. In the end it was victory for the game of football as it was one of the great summers and the next World Cup is in 2022 in Qatar.