In the 2014 World Cup, Argentina’s Lionel Messi won the Golden Boot for being the most outstanding player; Colombia’s James Rodrigues won the Golden Ball for scoring most number of goals (6); Germany’s Manuel Neuer won the Golden Glove for conceding the least number of goals, amongst other categories and winners.
This time around, we are not waiting for FIFA to do the honour. Here are our own nominees and eventual winners according to our three wise panellists – Sunday Omeike, Remi Sulola, and Kayode Tijani.
We are going to start with things that have nothing to do with points earned, goals scored and the like. Let’s have your nominees for the…
Sunday: Sorry Super Eagles, for me its Spain’s home jersey. They reverted to their retro jersey of the ’80s and early ’90s. Always loved it.
Kayode: Look at this unpatriotic man! The best jersey of the lot has to be that of the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Remember it was the biggest news weeks to the World Cup. The design, the colour and the innovative idea made most people love it even beyond Nigeria and Africa. Nike was overwhelmed by huge demands for the jersey and lots of fans queued outside their office in the London store in Oxford Street to buy it.
Remi: I agree with Kayode, Nigeria’s jersey got the biggest accolades and remarks from different fans. The colour combination is simply amazing.
With two votes to one, the Super Eagles’ jersey nicks it!
Sunday, you were not in Russia yet I will ask you: which stadium gets your nod as the best?
Sunday: You are right! All the stadia did not fail to raise the bar in terms of beauty and entertainment during the games. I think Remi can tell us more about her experience.
Can you help us out, Remi?
Remi: The beautiful edifice at St. Petersburg stadium stood out.
Kayode: I was in Russia as well so let me buttress her point. With 56,196 seats that stadium is a spectacle. Seeing it for the first-time just shocks the system positively; absolutely lovely and the ambience is solid plus match-days are magical. It was to have been funded by the Russian gas firm Gazprom but they eventually pulled out in 2016 and the project was taken over by Saint Petersburg City government and it was completed in April 2017 with overall cost soaring past $1billion and ranks as one of the most expensive stadium ever built. Designed by Japanese firm Kisho Kurokawa the stadium resembles a spaceship with a roof held by four masts. Amazing!
It’s a straight win for the Saint Petersburg stadium which actually has a 67,000 capacity. I’m not rubbing it in but Nigeria lost there to Argentina!
They came in their thousands to add fanfare to the World Cup. But in your opinion which set deserved to be called the …
Sunday: Russian fans for the party and fanfare before, during, and after games. Class act. Notable mention to Iceland’s contingent for their Viking Clap. Every match had fans savouring this inspirational routine.
Do you agree with his choice, Kayode?
Kayode: Absolutely difficult to pick one. The Nigerian fans tried their best but the noise and numbers of the likes of England, Croatia, France and others including Iceland made Nigerian fans look like rookies who were at the World Cup to learn about crowd support. Argentina, of course, took the front seat. I go for Argentina fans.
Remi: Croatia fans are the most rugged, dedicated, loyal and more in numbers in the tournament. The president has been travelling with the team for most of their matches and that really motivated the team. Croatia fans by a mile!
Kayode mentioned Croatia and Remi also is backing them. Then Croatia fans it is!
Now, let’s come to matters on the pitch. Sunday, who is your choice for…
Sunday: Luka Modric for two reasons. In a tournament where every opponent he faced tried to stifle him, he still found a way to make things tick. Secondly, in an era of tremendous tactical awareness from virtually all nations with complicated routines and players trying so hard to impress, the 32-year old Real Madrid playmaker kept it simple, making passing and finding that extra yard of space look pretty simple. Xavi plus Iniesta rolled in one!
Kayode: Definitely “OLD MAN” Luka Modric. He is most likely playing his last World Cup but he is a magician, at age 32 he completely bosses the midfield, cuts the opposition’s rhythm and dictates where the passes go to and determine possession. Fantastic player!
Remi: He couldn’t inspire his team in the final but no other person comes to mind too. Modric was the star man!
Doff your hats for…
When they pull a great save they are applauded but when they let in goals, especially cheeky ones, they are derided. Let’s make a case for the…
Remi: The best goalkeeper was Hugo Lloris. He made some superlative saves in the tournament and got Les Bleus into the final and won it for them. Never mind that howler in the 4-2 win against Croatia!
Kayode: Hugo Lloris, too. At a championship where some very experienced international goalkeepers have conceded shocking goals, France captain continues to get better and his amazing saves against Uruguay just says it all. First capped in 2008 Loris is also the construction of Tottenham Hotspur and his hand band in international football signifies his leadership. He’s a very valuable asset with a reassuring presence. His aerial power is an added advantage and will be needed in the final against Croatia.
Sunday: English keepers are not known for their versatility, but Jordan Pickford proved his credentials, bailing out the defense on several occasions. He was also crucial to England’s ability to play out from the back. Pep Guardiola would be impressed.
With two votes to one, Hugo is the boss!
This tournament has seen great games. But which in your opinion can you say was the…
Sunday: Belgium v Brazil. The Belgians – particularly the trio of Hazard, De Bruyne, and Lukaku – made Brazil look the team they truly are: an average team with a diving Neymar.
Sunday: Sorry, moderator, we know you kept saying “Brazil forever”, which rivals England’s “it’s coming home” in Annoyance Value…
Sunday: Your Brazil were ordinary…
(Cuts in) We have heard o! Kayode, your choice for the best game.
Kayode: In a nutshell, it has to be that exciting duel between Spain and Portugal. It was the best for the reason that it produced so many superb goals and its goals and more goals that count most in football. The final didn’t disappoint but this game was more interesting.
Remi: The second semifinal of the World Cup between Croatia and England was the final for me. Coming from a goal down to level up in the second half and winning it in the second half of the extra time makes it the best match for me.
With no game getting two votes I will have to decide the best match. Sunday, it’s not Belgium v Brazil…
We have seen many goals in Russia – from bizarre own goals to top-notch strikes. Who gets the vote for…
Sunday: Denis Cherysev’s peach of a goal for Russia against Croatia. The Villarreal midfielder evaded Modric and smacked the ball into the top corner without a second thought. A swerving shot that goalkeeper, Subasic, watched till it hit the net. Wonderful strike!
Kayode, were you also in “wonderland” when you saw Cherysev’s strike?
Kayode: No because I rate Benjamin Pavard’s goal against Argentina higher. It was a beauty of a goal. You cannot ever think it possible and Pavard knew exactly what he was doing. The goal is not your typical goal but was just absolutely extraordinary. Argentina lost 4-3 but the goal showed France have multiple players capable of scoring charming goals. Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani was simply helpless. It was stacked into the far post leaving the keeper bemused and shocked but no one blamed him for the goal. It will beat any goalkeeper for sure. You will see it coming but you can do next to nothing about it. Paul Pogba’s strike in the final wasn’t bad, too.
Remi: Benjamin Pavard’s goal against Argentina is my best goal too.
So it’s Ben Ten all the way…
We have discussed VAR in previous shows. Which remains the…
Best VAR decision
Sunday: Saido Mane being denied a penalty against Colombia. The VAR replay allowed fans to see that brilliant Davidson Sanchez tackle which robbed Mane of the ball, resulting in Mane resorting to diving. Tackle of the tournament.
Kayode: The first ever VAR decision in a final match is my pick. Perisic was hard done on but the referee was bold to consult VAR and gave France a penalty.
Remi: The best VAR decision was made in the Korea v Germany game. It shows there was no sentiment accorded the world champions to “help” them through to the knockout round because the VAR technology was used to allow a late South Korean goal stand contrary to most who saw it as an offside.
This is a tough call since two VAR decisions were not mentioned. Three choices are more like it because of the import of the games. Korea v Germany shades it a little, though!
Did the VAR make referees less “God-like”? Well, that’s a story for another day because for now, we are interested in the…
Sunday: My choice is Bjorn Kuipers. The experienced Dutch referee is always calm and in control.
Kayode: This is tricky because most of the referees were very smart and knew the rules. To pick the best, though, I will go for the one saddled with the responsibility of handling the trickiest game: the final between France and Croatia. Nestor Pitana of Argentina is my choice. FIFA have a strong reason to choose him because it will be a tricky game to manage. And he didn’t do badly in the game.
Remi: Argentina’s Nestor Pitana is the best referee because for him to have been chosen to officiate the final match between Croatia and France shows he is the best.
I don’t want to be a spoilsport and object the choice of Pitana as The Panel’s best referee. But in a match between two European sides, it’s only logical that a referee outside that continent is at the helm. It is a ‘pity’ it is Pitana!
Thirty-two of them were present in Russia but only one can be the…
Sunday: Gareth Southgate showed his smartness in Russia. The England coach understood his players’ strengths and played to it, scoring nine goals from set pieces and almost sneaking into the final but for Croatia’s doggedness. He made his team play out from the back towards the wings, giving his wingbacks enormous space to exploit for dangerous crosses, while Raheem Sterling’s pace was used as decoy upfront. It was a shame that the Manchester City forward lacked composure in front of goal.
Remi: Zlatko Dalic is the best coach in Russia 2018 because he has surprised football pundits with his performance with his team even if they lost to France in the final.
Kayode: My choice is France’s coach, Didier Deschamps. The way his team nullified Belgium was stuff of legends. And most importantly, he led his country to another World Cup triumph just as he did in 1998.
It’s easy to take a decision on this. The best coach is…
The award nominees and winners will be incomplete if we are silent on Nigeria’s participation in Russia. So, Sunday who was your best Super Eagles’ player?
Sunday: Efetobore Etebo. The surprise package of the team wasn’t initially fancied to make the first team, but ineffective performances by Ogenyi Onazi and Joel Obi in pre-tournament friendlies handed him an opportunity he seized, standing tall even in the presence of Lionel Messi. Future captain if the Nigerian factor doesn’t creep into his game.
Kayode: This is very simple; it is definitely Ahmed Musa. Those two goals against Iceland were something else. He was simply a wonderful player and he always scored at the biggest level but these two goals just cemented his legacy in Nigerian football history. He showed class!
Remi: Ahmed Musa was the best Nigerian player in Russia because he scored two great goals in three games. He is the best for me because not many gave him any chance but he proved them wrong.
Let for me, I would have picked Etebo like Sunday did. But since Musa got two votes, then Musa it is!
Nigeria scored three goals in Russia. One was a penalty and only a Jose Mourinho will rate Victor Moses’ effort ahead of Musa’s double strike against Iceland. Which was Nigeria’s best goal, Sunday?
Sunday: Ahmed Musa’s winner against Iceland. The pace to fly past the defenders was vintage Musa.
Remi: Musa’s first goal against Iceland because it is still a delight to watch as he skilfully brought down a cross from Victor Moses before volleying the ball into the roof of the net.
Kayode: Musa’s two goals against Iceland…
(Cuts in) The two goals?
Kayode: Yes because I can’t tell them apart. Amazing goals from a predator! He distinguished himself from his peers by scoring those goals that even the best ever players in world football history will be very proud of. Musa always turns up when it matters most at the biggest football occasions.
There you have it! If you don’t agree with any of our choices, leave your own pick at the comment section below.