2018 FIFA WORLD CUP
The 10 Best Matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™
ABS-CBN Sports on Jul 16, 2018 02:29 PM
From stunning goals, emphatic upsets, to come-from-behind wins, here are the best matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup!
The month-long football extravaganza brought by the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ was chock-full of stunning victories and come-from-behind masterpieces, and it made the four-year wait all the more worth it.
Lower-ranked teams took down sporting giants, capable squads pulled off victories that will be talked about for the years to come, and, of course, historic matches that showed just how beautiful the beautiful game really is.
Let's take a look back at the 10 best matches in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ in order of play date.
1. Portugal v Spain (3-3)
Highlight: Cristiano Ronaldo dazzles with hat-trick to complete come-from-behind effort from Portugal.
In what was arguably the most anticipated group stage matches of the tournament, Iberian rivals Portugal and Spain delivered a memorable match between star-studded squads.
The scoring in the six-goal thriller started very early, with Cristiano Ronaldo netting the first of his trifecta of goals in the 4th minute via a hard-earned penalty.
Twenty minutes later, Diego Costa answered to quiet down the Portuguese side with a solo goal. Ronaldo and Costa then exchanged scoring strikes in the 44th and 55th minutes respectively before Nacho blasted a curling strike from the outside.
Down by one goal, Ronaldo responded with a magical goal off a free kick in the 88th to cap off the scintilating draw.
2. Argentina v Iceland (1-1)
Highlight: Iceland shuts down Lionel Messi and again captures everybody's hearts.
Lionel Messi-led Argentina was the clear favorite against Iceland, the smallest country to ever qualify in the history of the World Cup.
That much was true as Sergio Aguero gave Albiceleste the advantage just 19 minutes in with a screamer of a goal off a masterful turn of the heel.
But just four minutes after, fortunes turned towards the favor of Iceland signalled by Alfred Finnbogason's opportunistic strike to even the scoring.
Iceland held on, with Hannes Halldorsson denying Messi's penalty kick in the 64th minute, proving that even the smallest nation can stand tall.
3. German v Mexico (0-1)
Highlight: Mexico stuns defending champion Germany in their opening match.
Germany was still high off its 2014 conquest heading into its first match in Russia against a Mexican squad.
Quality goalkeepers Manuel Neuer and Guillermo Ochoa kept the scoring mum right until Hirving Lozano fired the lone goal of the match to put Mexico on top for good in th 35th minute.
Toni Kroos and Julian Brandt both came close to equalizing for Germany, but their attempts just clanged off the woodwork, helping Mexico gain a stellar opening victory.
4. Germany v Sweden (2-1)
Highlight: Toni Kroos' wonder goal saves Germany from upset-conscious Sweden.
Reeling from its deflating 0-1 loss to Mexico, Germany responded emphatically against Sweden.
Going down by a goal after Ola Toivonen scored in the first half, Marco Reus responded in the 48th minute to grant Germany its first goal of the tournament.
While the Swedes looked poised to share points with the defending champions, Toni Kroos had other plans as he netted a resounding goal off a free kick that sealed three points for Germany to power its campaign.
5. Japan v Senegal (2-2)
Highlight: Japan went down twice, and came back just as many times.
Senegalese talisman Sadio Mane lived up to his designation early on, putting his squad up after only 11 minutes. Takashi Inui then delivered an equalizer late in the first half.
Moussa Wague brought Senegal back on top in the 71st minute before substitute Keisuke Honda impacted the match perfectly for Japan, scoring the gimme in the 78th minute to earn the Blue Samurai a crucial point.
6. Nigeria v Argentina (1-2)
Highlight: Lionel Messi netted his lone goal of the tournament, and Marcos Rojo scores winner for Argentina's lone victory.
Lionel Messi broke through the chains of his early struggle with a fantastic solo goal in the 14th minute to put Argentina on top, only for Victor Moses to erase the lead to equalize for Nigeria with a penalty.
An absolute slugfest ensued, with both squads pressing on defense, and sprinting on the attack.
Both teams looked destined for a draw before Marcos Rojo delivered off a cross in the 86th minute to help Argentina advance to the knock-out stage.
7. South Korea v Germany (2-0)
Highlight: South Koreans send Germany packing along with them with two late goals.
Goalkeepers reigned throughout the entire match between defending champion Germany and relative minnow South Korea.
With Germany needing a victory to advance, South Korean keeper Jo Hyeonwoo kept his slate clean. The same, however, cannot be said about Manuel Neuer.
A draw looked imminent, but it was in stoppage time when South Korea struck twice in the 3rd (Kim Young-gwon) and sixth (Son Heung-min) minutes to close their World Cup campaign on a very high note.
8. France v Argentina (4-3)
Highlight: Kylian Mbappe runs circles around Argentina to help France advance.
France swept its way to the knock-out stage, while Argentina merely squeeked its way through.
With the stage set, world football powerhouses delivered a proper thriller in the 7-goal extravaganza.
Antoine Griezmann powered a penalty through for Les Bleus in the 13th minute before Angel Di Maria broke Argentina's drought with a wonder goal in the 41st minute.
Gabrial Mercado doubled up Albiceleste's scoring after deflecting Lionel Messi's strike into the goal in the 48th.
Not to be outdone, Benjamin Pavard answered with one of the goals of the tournament in the 57th minute to give France the boost it needed.
With the game tied, it was 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe who stole the show, scoring two quick goals in the 64th and 68th minutes to ultimately put away Argentina.
9. Belgium v Japan (3-2)
Highlight: Belgium proved its mettle by going on a three-goal tear to complete epic comeback win.
Belgium's tag as one of the tournament's favorites went quickly down the drain when Japan went up 2-0 in the second half after goals from Genki Haraguchi (48th minute) and Takashi Inui (52nd minute).
Then, something clicked for the Red Devils.
Jan Vertonghen first struck for the Belgians with an unthinkable header in the 69th minute.
Marouane Fellaini then towered over the Japanese to head in the equalizer in the 74th minute.
Another draw looked imminent until Belgium ironically caught the Blue Samurai off-guard with a clinical counter attack, opening up Nacer Chadli for the last-gasp winner in the 94th minute to help the Red Devils advance.
10. France v Croatia (4-2)
Highlight: France wins the World Cup 20 years after the nation first won it by overpowering Croatia, 4-2.
In what was a fitting end to what is considered one of the most exciting World Cups in recent memory, France bared its collective two-way muscle by outgunning, and stifling Croatia, 4-2 to be named champions the second time.
A pair of early breaks went Les Bleus' way, and Ivan Perisic came up with a beautiful equalizer to force France to step up.
Some stunning goals from Paul Pogba (59th minute) and Kylian Mbappe (65th minute) then secured the title for the overpowering French side.
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