Paul Pogba's goal for France during the World Cup Final was one of many highlights during the 2018 World Cup
Paul Pogba's goal for France during the World Cup Final was one of many highlights during the 2018 World Cup|YouTube
Soccer

Soccer flashback: Top five games of the 2018 World Cup

Two years on, the 2018 World Cup in Russia is still fondly remembered by most as the greatest cup tournament of all time.

Sean Miller

Sean Miller

Two years on, the 2018 World Cup in Russia is still fondly remembered by most as the greatest cup tournament of all time.

With the Americans on the sideline watching, the rest of the world staged round after round of what seemed like a competition to see if the next match could find a way to be more exciting. For the most part, it was.

England made a run to the semifinals for the first time in decades, to liven up the fan support, while usual powers were knocked off or out early.

Here are my top five games from the tournament

5. Group Stage, South Korea knocks out defending champion Germany 2-0

Germany had won the 2014 cup 1-0 in extra time over Argentina, and came into this tournament as favorites. But a 1-0 loss to Mexico in the opening group stage match, then a narrow 2-1 win over Sweden, meant that qualification came down to the final game against South Korea.

After a tense 90 minutes, when chance after chance was wasted, South Korea scored twice in second half injury time to knock the Germans out, and move on themselves. It was the first time Germany had failed to progress from a group stage.

But it would end up in heartbreak, in much the same way, for the South Koreans shortly after that.

4. Group Stage, Ronaldo stuns Spain late to get a 3-3 draw

The tournament had just gotten started (with a 5-0 win for Russia over Saudi Arabia), when an early contender for match of the tournament arose. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick for the EURO 2016 champion Portugal, including an 88th minute free kick to send both teams home with a point.

Diego Costa scored twice for Spain, as did Nacho, who scored one of the best goals of the tournament to give Spain a 3-2 lead.

3. Round of 16, Belgium scores with the last kick of the game to beat South Korea 3-2

South Korea took a 2-0 lead, with two goals four minutes apart (48th and 52nd) in the second half, and it looked like Belgium was headed for the exit. But a 69th minute header from Jan Vertonghen got the Belgians back in it, and Marouane Fellaini equalized five minutes later.

The game look set to head to extra time when Nacir Chadli finished off a stunning counter attack from a Japan corner to win it in the fourth minute of injury time.

Belgium went out in the semifinals, 1-0, to France.

2. Round of 16, France comes back to beat Argentina 4-3

Looking back, France could have been out early, but Benjamin Pavard's wonder strike, plus a double from teen sensation Kylian Mbappe, kept France on track.

France went down 2-1 to Lionel Messi's squad, but Pavard's thunderbolt (which won goal of the tournament) in the 57th minute pulled the eventual champions even. Then it was time for a Mbappe madness. The striker scored twice in four minutes (64th and 68th) to give France a 4-2 lead. Three goals, 11 minutes, and on track to a title.

1. World Cup Final, France beat Croatia 4-2

The final match of what will go down as the best World Cup of all time. With goals galore all throughout the tournament, this was going to be no different. It will be remembered for many reasons: the use of VAR right before halftime by referee Néstor Pitana of Argentina to award a penalty (the right call, by the way), Paul Pogba's goal, and then Kylian Mbappe's finisher.

France had been stunned at home in the Euro 2016 Final, 1-0 in added extra time by Portugal, despite dominating the match. So this triumph was extra sweet.

A fun fact: France became only the second team, with Brazil in 2002, to win all of its knockout stage matches in regulation.

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