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Top 10 Moments from the 2018 World Cup

France celebrating their second ever World Cup title - PhilipTerryGraham via Wikimedia

A FIFA World Cup year is upon us once again. It’s hard to believe that it has already been four years since the world watched a 20-year-old Kylian Mbappé win the hearts of many, the Russian hosts take down European giants, and other iconic moments. As teams from all continents finalize their places for the world's biggest tournament in their last qualifier matches, everyone has started counting down the days until November 21st.

Here is a look back at the top 10 (not in order) moments from the 2018 World Cup...

South Korea stun the reigning champions

Son Heung-min dribbling at a defender - Serg Stallone via Wikimedia

The stage was set for a convincing German victory over the South Koreans on the final day of the group stages. Germany required three points to qualify for the knockout rounds as the Korean Republic was down and out without a single point to their name.

Jo Hyeon-woo's heroics between the sticks that saw him secure six saves throughout the game kept the game at a stalemate until stoppage time.

Then, once Kim Young-gwon poked home a scramble in the box in the second minute of stoppage time, German hearts dropped as their chances of the round-of-16 became extremely bleak.

It got even worse as the German's were hit with a Hail Mary pass from deep inside the South Korean half. The pass traveled close to 80 yards toward the opposite end line where Son Heung-min passed it into the empty net.

The scenes following the second South Korean goal were ones of pure joy. It captured the importance of a win for a small country over the reigning World Cup champions, taking the Germans with them as they were knocked out of Group F.

Mbappé announces himself on the big stage

Kylian Mbappe and Ever Banega in match - Serg Stallone via Wikimedia

This match in the round-of-16 between title favorites France, and 2014 World Cup runners-up Argentina, was one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament.

Kylian Mbappé's unbelievable pace on a blistering counterattack helped France take the lead through a dispatched penalty from Antoine Griezmann. Argentina quickly responded with two goals on either side of halftime to take a 2-1 lead.

What ensued in the 57th minute became the goal of the tournament. Benjamin Pavard struck a bouncing ball across the box from 18 yards out with an incredible technique. The half volley spun into the far post and sent the French players into a frenzy.

In the following 10 minutes, Kylian Mbappé scored a brace combining his liveliness in the box and instinctive finishing and further announced himself on the world's biggest stage. His highlight performance in this match was one to remember in an extremely back-and-forth affair.

The match ended 4-3 to France who prevailed to the next round.

Russia beat Spain on penalties

Russia celebrate winning penalty against Spain - Serg Stallone via Wikimedia

A different round-of-16 matchup brought the home nation something to celebrate.

Throughout the tournament, Russia had become known to "park the bus" and find the solution for a win through players like Artem Dzyuba or Denis Cheryshev. And once Spain was out of ideas at the end of a 30-minute extra-time period, the tie went to penalties following the 1-1 stalemate.

Spain’s Iago Aspas and Koke saw their penalties saved by Igor Akinfeev, and Russia was victorious as the shootout ended 4-3 to the home side.

The win became an inspirational moment for Russia, as they not only made it through to the knockout rounds of the World Cup, but defeated a huge country in the world of football.

Toni Kroos free-kick vs. Sweden

German starting 11 line up for a picture pre-match - Serg Stallone via Wikimedia

Before the breakdown against the Korea Republic, Germany had a spark of brilliance from the right foot of one of the greatest players the country has produced.

In the second game of the group stages, Germany faced off with Sweden. Ola Toivonen opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, before Marco Reus answered back in the 48th minute to keep the reigning champions in the crucial group stage clash.

With only seconds remaining in the game, Kroos and Reus stood over a freekick mere inches outside of the right edge of the 18-yard box, about 12 yards from the byline.

Kroos delicately moved the ball to Reus who stopped the ball with the sole of his foot. Kroos stepped up and curled the shot with his right foot from an incredible angle into the upper far post corner.

Relief exploded across the stadium as the Germans sprinted to the corner in celebration.

Chadli lethal counter-attack vs Japan

Eden Hazard dribbling through Japan's defense - ND44 - Wikimedia

After making it to the knockout rounds, Japan came off the starting blocks flying against European giant Belgium, with two goals in the first seven minutes of the second half, giving them a 2-0 lead over a shocked Belgian side.

Japan fought hard to keep their lead, but a goal from Jan Vertonghen sparked a Belgian comeback. Japan saw their lead fully wiped away just five minutes later, after Marouane Fellaini equalized to make it 2-2.

Then, in the 90+4' minute, Thibaut Courtois gathered the ball from a Japanese corner and quickly rolled it to Kevin De Bruyne who carried a head of steam at the edge of the 18-yard-box.

The attacking midfielder dribbled nearly 50 yards before playing it to the right side to an open Thomas Meunier, who further squared it across the box. Romelu Lukaku let the ball go past him to an on-rushing Nacer Chadli who slid the winning goal into the back of the net.

This capped off, not only an incredible comeback from Belgium but a five-goal second half. It was an end-to-end game that came at the expense of the heartbroken Japanese.

Ronaldo hattrick vs Spain

Cristiano Ronaldo at the 2018 World Cup - GTVM92 via Wikimedia

The second game of the tournament was one of the biggest matchups of the group stages altogether, with Portugal vs Spain.

Cristiano Ronaldo truly made it known that this World Cup was not going to be just a casual appearance from him. In this match, he single-handedly saved Portugal by scoring a hattrick.

His goals responded to Diego Costa's brace and Nacho's side volley, which could have won the goal of the tournament if it weren’t for Pavard's similar strike.

The hattrick included one of his trademark dipping freekicks in the dying embers of the match to tie the game. 3-3 was a fair result in this game as both teams had moments of brilliance. It set up the rest of the tournament to be must-watch football.

Modrić goal vs Argentina

Luka Modric winding up for a shot against Argentina - Mr. Drax via Wikimedia

Croatia was the obvious main storyline in the tournament, as they went all the way to the final. Their match against Argentina in group stage play propelled them into becoming a real contender for the trophy.

After a scoreless first 45 minutes, Croatia took a 1-0 lead through Ante Rebic. Then, with ten minutes remaining, Luka Modrić took over.

The ball was played inside to Croatia's captain who found himself with no one around, about 25 yards from goal. He opened his body to the right, shaping to shoot. He then faked back to his left before going back on his right, shaking off the Argentinian defender. Finally, he curled the ball at thigh height around the defenders and beyond the goalkeeper.

It was a truly exceptional finish from a truly exceptional player. From there, Croatia won the game 3-0 and went on a great run in the tournament.

Dier penalty vs Colombia

Eric Dier's winning penalty hits the back of the net against Colombia - Voltmetro via Wikimedia

England thought that their dreams were shattered after leading this round-of-16 game up until the 90+3' minute when Yerry Mina headed home the equalizer.

England was forced to go to penalties where they had not won in the history of the World Cup. Jordan Henderson's penalty was saved which gave Colombia the ability to win the game with their next shot. The South Americans missed.

Jordan Pickford came up with a save to give Eric Dier the ability to win the match for England. He did exactly that and the penalty curse had been broken. The sequence left England fans wondering if this was the year for them.

Iceland goalie saves Messi Penalty

Iceland national team walk out of the tunnel - Tobby72 via Wikimedia

After being the fan-favorite team in the 2016 Euros competition, Iceland qualified for the next World Cup tournament in 2018. They had to face Argentina in the group stages.

After going behind, Iceland equalized to make it 1-1. The goal led Argentina into frustration, before they were given a gift with a penalty in the 65th minute.

Up stepped Lionel Messi, most likely to dispatch the winning goal in the match. This did not happen. Miraculously, Halldorsson dove to his right to stop the shot.

Just like in 2016, Iceland created another moment of fairytale magic. They will forever be the team that no one can hate.

Croatia vs Russia

Vrsaljko and Golovin run alongside each other - ND44 via Wikimedia

Another game of the tournament contender came in the quarterfinals between Croatia and Russia. Both teams were hungry to prove themselves in relatively uncharted territory at this stage in the tournament.

Denis Cheryshev scored an unbelievable curling effort in the 30th minute from 20 yards out. But Russia’s lead did not last long as Andrej Kramarić headed home an equalizer nine minutes later.

It was a relatively quiet game heading into extra time. This is where Domagoj Vida got on the end of a corner as his 101st-minute header bounced through the crowd of players and into the net.

Mário Fernandes became the hero as Russia would not lay down. In the 115th minute, a set piece was swung in and attacked by the Russian defender. This sent the home fans into raptures. The game was 2-2 going into penalties, which was a perfect situation for Russia as they had previously beaten Spain in the same contest.

Sadly for Russia, Fernandes could not put away his penalty as he dragged it wide of the net, allowing Ivan Rakitić to knock off the home team and send Croatia to the semi-finals. The midfielder slotted the penalty into the bottom right corner and ended the shootout 4-3.

It was the end of an extremely back-and-forth game between two teams with dreams of winning their first World Cup.

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