IN the empty days of nothingness between the World Cup’s conclusion and the wait for club football to return, nostalgia for Russia 2018 already creeps in.

It may only be two days, less than 48 hours, since France lifted the most sought-after trophy in world football, but anticipation for Euro 2020 has already begun.

 France won the most entertaining World Cup ever

AP:Associated Press

France won the most entertaining World Cup ever

And the reason for this is clear: Russia 2018 was the best World Cup in living memory.

Disgraced former Fifa president Sepp Blatter tweeted: “Outstanding World Cup!”

While that statement may not be agreeable to some and Blatter’s view irrelevant to many, it is hard to ignore the statistics.

Whisper it quietly: Blatter just might be right.

Regardless of English partisanship, there was the controversy — and chaos — of VAR and there was the surprise exits.

 Statistically, Russia 2018 was the best tournament ever

Getty – Contributor

Statistically, Russia 2018 was the best tournament ever
 Newly-introduced VAR provided drama and controversy

Alamy Live News

Newly-introduced VAR provided drama and controversy
 Referee reviews created tension and memorable moments

Getty – Contributor

Referee reviews created tension and memorable moments

There was the drama of late goals, the surprise of fresh, emerging nations, and the individuals propelled from hopefuls to household names.

All that made this summer the most entertaining tournament yet.

And though it may not have been very pleasant for Three Lions fans, the heartache of Mario Mandzukic’s extra-time strike in the semi-final was one of many late goals.

In fact, across the tournament, nine of the winning goals came in the 90th minute or later.

 There were more late goals this summer than any other tournament

EPA

There were more late goals this summer than any other tournament
 Though heart-breaking for England, Mario Mandzukic's late strike was one of nine in Russia

EPA

Though heart-breaking for England, Mario Mandzukic’s late strike was one of nine in Russia

That is five more than any other year, with 2010 only having one winner in the final moments.

At the business end of the tournament, we saw some fresh faces emerge.

Out of France, Croatia, Belgium and England, there was only two previous winners in the final four — England in 1966 and France in 1998.

Compare that to 2014, with Germany, Brazil, Holland and Argentina, when there was winners of 10 previous tournaments in the semi-finals.

As club football grows increasingly predictable, the international stage is beginning to offer more excitement and welcome uncertainty.

 Fans may point to tournaments such as 1970 when Pele dragged Brazil to victory

AP:Associated Press

Fans may point to tournaments such as 1970 when Pele dragged Brazil to victory
 But 2018 saw the emergence of Kylian Mbappe whose statistics are similar to Pele's

Getty – Contributor

But 2018 saw the emergence of Kylian Mbappe whose statistics are similar to Pele’s

Opposition to this theory may point to the heady days of decades gone by when Diego Maradona and Pele were single-handedly dragging their teams to victory.

But this year we saw that from Kylian Mbappe.

The 19-year-old became the first teenager since Pele to score in a World Cup game, and of course then became the youngest since Pele to score in a final.

And so we wait for Euro 2020, with renewed excitement and vigour over the international game.

Just the 696 days to wait, in case you were wondering.



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