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World Cup from the Darke Side: Ian Darke's hits and misses from Russia

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Project Russia: Allez les Bleus! (2:42)

ESPN's Charlie Gibson puts a bow on Project Russia from a scintillating final, as France claimed World Cup glory. (2:42)

The 2018 World Cup had some great moments, but which are Ian Darke's favourites? And what did he not like about Russia 2018?

Best player: Kylian Mbappe's Olympian speed and four goals for France made him the poster boy of the World Cup, but Luka Modric was a good choice for the Golden Ball. The Croatia captain produced inspired craft and excellence in his team's run to the final.

Best coach: France's Didier Deschamps silenced his critics, but Belgium were the best team to watch. This World Cup was a personal comeback concert for Roberto Martinez after his undignified exit at Everton.


World Cup 2018 must-reads

- World Cup fixtures, results and coverage
- Marcotti: France won fitting finale to the World Cup
- Ogden: Mbappe showed why he is football's future king
- Ames: Croatia must make this World Cup a beginning
- Project Russia: Allez les Bleus!
- Ogden: Hazard's reputation, value has never been higher
- ESPN FC TV: Scary how ambiguous handball rule is


Best goal: Benjamin Pavard's swerving volley, hit with the outside of the right boot, for France against Argentina was a sensational way to open his international account.

Biggest shock: Defending champions Germany finishing bottom of their group in a calamitous campaign that reeked of complacency.

Best goalkeeper: Brave, commanding and agile, England's Jordan Pickford gets my vote, especially as he had never played a competitive international match before this tournament.

Best match: Belgium's three-goal comeback to beat a luckless Japan was dripping with drama just ahead of the 4-3 France vs. Argentina classic.

Best fans: Peru were great, but the Colombians travelled in vast numbers, a smiling, vibrant bunch in those attractive yellow shirts. A shame their team betrayed them with an ugly snarling approach against England.

Best outsiders: Hosts Russia, ranked lowest of all 32 teams at the start, knocked out Spain and went all the way to the quarterfinals, adding greatly to the football fever.

Best newcomers: French full-backs Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, Russia's four-goal Denis Cheryshev, and England's Harry Maguire.

Most disappointing player: That surely has to be Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, who was almost invisible in Poland's lacklustre campaign.

Unluckiest losers: Japan, who played beautifully in defeat against Belgium; Iran; Morocco; and poor old Senegal, who went out on the "fair play" tiebreak (are you sure about that one, FIFA?)

Best venue: Kazan, an attractive city once conquered by Ivan The Terrible, but not by Germany, Brazil and Argentina, who were all eliminated there.

VAR: Despite the daft penalty decision in the final, VAR mostly delivered justice, worked efficiently and is here to stay.

Final thought: Thank you, Russia, for hosting perhaps the greatest World Cup of the modern era. FIFA have to be very careful not to dilute the drama with their plans for a 48-team event.