The one-month long extravaganza called the World Cup 2018 came to an end on July 15 when France beat Croatia 4-2 in the final. Russia played host to arguably the 'best ever' World Cup ever since it's inception.
Right from the first match, which the host nation Russia won 5-0 against Saudi Arabia, to the enthralling final, where France came out victorious for their second trophy, the tournament produced endless moments of action, drama and controversy.
One of the major talking point prior to the tournament was the introduction of VAR. And now, that the World Cup has ended, people are still confused about the technology. And then you had the struggles of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar.
So, in all technicalities, the World Cup 2018 had it all. Let's look at the five major talking points from the recently concluded tournament.
1. The VAR conundrum: Technology will only improve the game, there is no denying in this. But VAR has drawn mixed responses from it's World Cup debut. Well, there is enough evidence to suggest it should stay or be done away with it.
There have instances when VAR has done it's job very well, and justice has been served. One of them was during Brazil's encounter against Costa Rica. The referee gave a penalty for a challenge on Neymar in the box. But after consultation from VAR, and watching the videos, he reversed his decision. It was the right call, given Neymar fell down under no contact. In this case, VAR served the purpose.
But then you have the downside of it, and the biggest instance of it was in the final. The ball had hit the hand of Ivan Perisic, but everyone saw that he had unintentionally headed the ball into his arm. The referee consulted with VAR, who gave him a nod to review the decision via replays. In the end, after watching the replays several times, a penalty was given to France. In this case, the VAR could easily have told the referee to not review the decision, given the instance was never penalty worthy.
It's very clear that VAR is there to do away with the major errors, and help the referee in such occasions. But it's usage was quite baffling.
2. The young sensation called Mbappe: Every World Cup, there is one or the other young player rising to the occasion and making a name for himself. The best of the lot has been Pele, and no one since him has made similar impact as a teenager. But in World Cup 2018, Kylian Mbappe did exaclty what Pele did, and some may say, even bettered it.
The 19-year-old became the first teenager since Pele to score in a final. He also became the first teenager to score a brace in a match since the Brazil legend. And just like Pele, Mbappe guided his team to a World Cup glory.
There have so many who have tried before, but none have excelled at such a young age as Mbappe.
3. Decline of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi: Two superstars of the game, dominating world football for over a decade. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have etched their names as two of the greatest to have graced the sport. But it seems, their impact is decreasing with the increasing age.
Ronaldo scored four goals in the tournament. But in all honesty, he was pretty poor barring against Spain, when he scored a wonderful hat-trick. The Portugese skipper failed to show up when it mattered, and let his nation down again in the biggest stage, as Portugal exited from the round of 16.
Messi, on the other hand, was way below his usual best, showing signs of losing his midas touch. The Argentine skipper was an anonymous figure in his team's first two games. While he did put in a good display against Nigeria and France, his overall performance in the tournament will considered to be a disappointment.
These two players didn't have a bad tournament. But given the standards they have set for each other, World Cup 2018 didn't pan out the way they expected.
4. The surge of underdogs and small nations: Well, some may say this happens in most of the World Cups. But in this year's tournament, it was quite evident that the big names are no longer guaranteed winners.
It's true that France, pre-tournament favorites, won the World Cup. But when one looks at the teams that qualified for the quarter-finals, it is undeniable that the small teams punched above their weights.
No one expected Croatia to reach the final. Hardly anyone had predicted Russia to make the quarter-finals. And for sure, not one would have imagined England making it to the semi-finals.
5. Defending champions' curse: Well, it seems this has become a trend now. Winning a World Cup seems to be a disadvantage for teams, who are witnessing early exits in the next edition.
It happened in 2002, 2010, 2014. And it followed in 2018, as Germany finished bottom of their group, and were knocked out in the group stage. Hardly anyone saw this coming, given the quality in the 2014 winners.
But it happened, and proved the fact that winning the trophy can be a task, but defending it is nearly impossible.