The FIFA World Cup is unquestionably the most popular sporting event in the world. Every 4 years, millions of people all over the world will watch as the best football players on the planet do battle in the game’s most prestigious tournament.
The 2018 World Cup, which took place in Russia, set new records for television viewership. As many as a whopping 3.4 billion people tuned in at one time or another to catch the event as FIFA’s global revenue soared over $6 billion. The revenues for the 2018 tournament were over $1 billion higher than the 2014 edition generated in Brazil. It was also 10 percent higher than FIFA’s own projections.
The 2018 edition of the World Cup was one of the most thrilling of all-time. France would go on to win after looking like the best team in the tournament from start-to-finish. Fans were also treated to some high-scoring games. A total of 169 goals were scored at the World Cup in Russia, which was 2 short of the record of 171 goals set in 1998 and 2014. Those betting on the World Cup will have known that the French side was going to be a tough out, and they ultimately proved to be the best side at the tournament, start-to-finish.
Some goals were beauties, others were a result of goalkeeping errors. Nobody wants to see howlers, though, so let’s dive in and remember the 5 best goals from the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
5. Nacer Chadli (Belgium) vs. Japan
Belgium were one of the teams expected by many to challenge for the World Cup title in Russia. While they ultimately fell short of that goal, the Belgians still put together a memorable tournament. However, they found themselves mired in an unexpectedly difficult round of 16 clash with Japan that was tied at 2 after 90 minutes. So, the teams needed another 30 minutes of extra time to sort things out.
Japan had Belgium on the ropes early in extra time. Japan won a corner in the fourth minute of the extra session. The kick was easily collected by Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois, though, and the Belgians had a chance to catch the Japan side deep in their own half of the field. Courtois sprung a quick counterattack through Kevin de Bruyne, and Belgium was off and running.
De Bruyne and several of his teammates sprinted toward the Japan goal. De Bruyne wound up playing a nice ball forward to Thomas Meunier as Romelu Lukaku drew a defender in toward goal. Meunier played a pass in toward Lukaku in front of goal before the striker cleverly dummied it, which left Nacer Chadli unmarked with the ball near the back post. Chadli tucked it in nicely, and Japan would go on to win the 3-2 thriller:
4. Toni Kroos (Germany) vs. Sweden
Toni Kroos’ match-winning goal in the late stages of Germany’s triumph over Sweden may not have been one of the best goals at the World Cup from a technical standpoint. It was a perfectly-executed free kick, of course, but what really makes this goal is the situation.
After losing 1-0 at the hands of Mexico in shocking fashion to open their World Cup, the 2014 winners were in a 1-1 deadlock with Sweden with time running out. A draw in that situation may well have put an end to Germany’s dreams of repeating as champions. The Germans drew a foul at the edge of the Sweden box in second half stoppage time, but the angle to the left of the goal was not exactly friendly for Kroos.
It didn’t matter. With Germany’s World Cup hopes hanging by a thread, Kroos and Marco Reus beautifully executed a quick 1-2 before the German captain pounded the ball over the outstretched arms of the Swedish keeper and into the upper right-hand corner of the net. Germany would still go on and fail to advance into the knockout stages, but it was still a strike to remember.
3. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) vs. Croatia
Russia were the host nation for the 2018 World Cup, but few expected them to accomplish much. The Russians were not considered to be a serious contender to actually win the tournament, but Russia got through their group before staging a shocking win over heavily-favored Spain in the round of 16. The Russian dream ultimately came to an end with a loss to Croatia in the quarterfinals, but it was still a memorable run for the hosts.
The loss against Croatia was a painstaking defeat that resulted in penalty kicks. However, before that, young Russian star Denis Cheryshev scored one of the most brilliant individual goals of the entire tournament. Cheryshev takes the ball down before leaving it to teammate Artem Dzyuba, splitting a couple of defenders in the process. Cheryshev never stops his run, though, and Dzyuba returned the ball to Cheryshev about 25 yards from goal.
Rather than trying to get through the sturdy Croatian backline, Cheryshev takes a floating shot from 25 yards with his left foot. The ball powerfully flies into the top-left corner of the net as Croatian keeper Danijel Subasic watches helplessly. The goal gave Russia a 1-0 lead in the match.
2. Lionel Messi (Argentina) vs. Nigeria
You didn’t think we’d make it through a “best goals of the World Cup” montage without mentioning Lionel Messi, did you? The world’s best player may have fallen short in his quest to lead Argentina back to World Cup glory, but the little magician did come up with a moment of magic or 2 along the way.
At first glance, the goal may look like nothing special. However, if you look closer you will notice the sheer degree of difficulty on Messi’s strike. Argentina were facing potential elimination before Messi’s heroics helped lead the team out of the group stage. This goal broke a scoreless deadlock in what was eventually a 2-1 triumph for Argentina.
Argentina wins the ball back via Marcos Rojo in midfield, and that’s when Messi sees the opportunity to make a run. The Argentine captain wastes no time in starting a mad dash toward goal, and Ever Banega sees it instantly. Banega winds up playing a perfect ball in over the top of the Nigeria defense.
However, it wasn’t exactly easy for Messi to gather this pass at full speed. Messi skillfully lets the pass hit his thigh before taking another touch with his left foot before the ball even hits the ground. Messi sets himself up perfectly after that and blasts the ball past the keeper to the far post with his weaker right foot. The incredible amount of skill involved with everything Messi does on this goal cannot be overstated. It’s a true masterpiece.
1. Benjamin Pavard (France) vs. Argentina
Argentina’s World Cup dreams came to an end at the hands of the eventual champions, France. France beat the Argentines in the round of 16 before advancing past Uruguay, Belgium and ultimately Croatia to win their first World Cup since 1998.
France scored a number of quality goals along the way, but none was more impressive than this strike from defender Benjamin Pavard. Pavard wasn’t exactly a household name entering the tournament. On a team full of big-name superstars, Pavard was actually one of the lesser-known players in the squad. The 22-year-old plays his club football for VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga, and he has made less than 20 appearances for his national team.
Pavard has still only scored 1 goal for the French senior side, but he made it count. Midfielder Lucas Hernandez plays a ball into the box that flies over the heads of Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann, while Kylian Mbappe was just getting into the penalty area. The ball goes all the way through the box before Pavard meets it and decides to uncork a first-time effort with his right foot.
You will never see a ball struck more beautifully than this one. Pavard crushes the ball all the way through the penalty area and past the diving Argentina keeper in what was the most memorable goal of the 2018 World Cup.