From Modrics magic and Pavards screamer to unwelcome theatrics and wearing the incorrect T-shirt, our writers give their take on the tournament in Russia
Match of the tournament Russia v Croatia had it all: a spectacular goal from Denis Cheryshev, unbearable tension during a see-sawing extra-time period, raucous festivities when Mario Fernandes equalised and then shootout heartache for the hosts- followed rapidly by an acknowledgment that they should hold their heads high.
Player of the tournament Luka Modric. He was influential from the first game but by extra time of the Croatia v England game it was impossible to take your eyes off him. Modric has played more fluently but the way he dragged himself and his team through against the odds was breathtaking.
Goal of the tournament It seems a long time ago now but Ricardo Quaresma’s trademark ” trivela” for Portugal against Iran was a luscious piece of skill that bears watching time and again.
Personal highlighting It sounds a bit mawkish but watching the sun rise over Kazan Arena from my apartment, merely a few hours after insuring France beat Argentina 4-3there in a stunning game of football, gave rise to a feeling of immense gladness simply to be here. Nobody would take covering this tournament for granted.
Biggest frustration That we did not insure a more diverse tournament from the quarter-finals onwards. Europe’s primacy was disconcerting and, while we may have to wait to see if it is a trend , not entirely surprising. It was a regret off the pitch, too, because the vibrancy that tens of thousands of Latin American fans brought to the early stages was one of the aspects that made this month special.
Trickiest off-field moment The weight of responsibility has rarely felt heavier than when, having booked a minibus to take yours truly and seven colleagues from Kazan to Samara in time for England v Sweden, the vehicle arrived an hour and 20 minutes late. That was the good news. A confused driver, who had somehow got lost on the way to our apartment, then emerged and explained that( a) the sound on his sat nav had packed in and( b) he didn’t know the way to Samara anyway. At this point the risk of blank column inches across several of the UK’s major organs looked severe but, with the help of our telephones and a rotation of front-seat assistants, we just about muddled through the six-hour journey in time to cover the quarter-final.
Fondest memory of Russia strong> Less a specific memory than simple pleasure that visiting supporters and locals interacted so joyfully and saw each other’s best sides. In regional cities such as Samara and Volgograd, particularly, one could see just how much it meant to people who had never experienced anything like this before; the only shame is that so few fans from western Europe, in particular, felt emboldened to join in.
What now for England? The good feeling of this summer must be bottled because normality will kick in soon and the reality is that, if England are to succeed, they need to ensure the best players are given a workable pathway to the top. The current harvest are decent but not good enough to lift major trophies: until top clubs’ development processes tilt in favour of the players that will remain the case.
Match of the tournament Portugal 3-3 Spain, a game which set the bar high for the tournament and probably gave both teams false hope as to their own capabilities in Russia. Cristiano Ronaldo was a force-out of nature, Spain pinged their pass and looked irrepressible and an upbeat tone was defined for everything that followed. The World Cup, if not necessarily Spain and Portugal, lived up to expectations thereafter.
Player of the tournament Eden Hazard. The Premier League has long grown accustomed to the Belgian’s genius but here he was illuminating the world stage. He goals, assists and mesmeric dribblings and will have been privately disappointed to finish merely third, even if his declaration that his time at Chelsea may be up was a sting in the tail.