World Cup 2018 - The memories remain

In a World Cup chock-full of surprises, here are five iconic moments that stood out (and a few others that are worth a mention).

The video assistant referee (VAR) made its World Cup debut in France’s opening game against Australia when it was called upon to decide a penalty claim after Antoine Griezmann went down. France’s winner in the same match was also allowed to stand only after a VAR intervention. Opinion on the use of the technology has, however, been divided: some feel it disrupts rhythm with its stoppages while others believe it isn’t foolproof. The VAR was subdued during the knockout stages before rearing its – rather infamous – head in the final when a penalty was awarded against Croatia, decisively shifting the momentum against the Balkan nation. [Getty Images] Photo: Getty Images
The unshackling effect that a lung-busting run generates is quite something. One such effort by France’s Kylian Mbappe in the round-of-16 victory over Argentina, which earned a penalty, is sure to stay in people’s minds. Fielded on the right side of France’s 4-2-3-1, the teenager tore into Argentina’s slow, lumbering defence. He hit a top speed of 32.2km per hour, an astonishing figure. In an era of regimented technical football, dribbles are a rarity. But Mbappe made two solo runs into the attacking third in that match, winning one penalty and one free kick. [Getty Images] Photo: Getty Images
The last time Germany didn’t make it to past the first round before 2018 was way back in 1938. When it crashed out in Russia after an abject 2-0 defeat to South Korea in its final group game, it was the first time in eight major events – five World Cups and three EUROs – that it hadn’t made the semifinals. The 2014 champion appeared overconfident and quite uncharacteristically played with a sense of entitlement, especially in its opening defeat to Mexico. It was a wake-up call that Germany would do well not to disregard. [Getty Images] Photo: Getty Images
This was supposed to be the World Cup in which Neymar would leave his mark. The Brazilian did manage to do so, albeit in a way unworthy of his immense talent. He made news for showboating as much as he did for his mastery with the ball. So much so that Juan Carlos Osorio, Mexico’s coach, said, “This is a game of men that is played with intensity and not with so much clowning.” A Swiss television even published an unverified stat that the 26-year-old spent a total of 14 minutes rolling on the ground. [Getty Images] Photo: Getty Images
In a World Cup of surprises, it was apt that the best goal of the tournament was an outlandish finish by France right-back Benjamin Pavard. Ahead of the tournament, Pavard wasn’t even the first-choice defender. But his long-range curler against Argentina – the ball sheared across with the outside of his boot – has made him unforgettable. What caught the eye was the way in which the ball, after seemingly destined to miss the target, darted back to find the net, mainly owing to the manic revolutions imparted on it by Pavard. [Getty Images] Photo: Getty Images
There were a number of other memorable moments from the World Cup, from the Senegal team’s dance, the Xhaka-Shaqiri goal celebration against Serbia, Diego Maradona’s gesture after Argentina beat Nigeria, Milad Mohammadi’s somersault throw-in attempt for Iran versus Spain and, in the final, the pitch invasion by members of feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot. [Getty Images] Photo: Getty Images