All 32 nations have played their final group game and the World Cup certainly did not disappoint as fans were entertained at every turn.
Holders Germany were knocked out at the first round for the first time since 1938, Cristiano Ronaldo proved once again he is one of the best in the world and Senegal became the first team to be eliminated from a World Cup on fair play rules.
With a rest day ahead of the last-16 clashes, we have rated every team based on their performances in the group stages.
Saudi Arabia: 5/10
The hosts were on a seven-match winless streak going into the tournament, but quickly ended it by thrashing Saudi Arabia 5-0 on the opening night and then beating Egypt 3-1. Uruguay brought them crashing back down to earth though with a 3-0 win in the final game to top the group, though. Saudi Arabia and Egypt made early exits after losing their first two matches, but Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side secured a consolation 2-1 win over the Pharaohs.
There were no surprises in Group B as Spain and Portugal progressed to the knockout stages, but their opponents did not make it easy. Iran almost pulled off a major upset when, with a little help from VAR, they held Portugal to a 1-1 draw in their last game, while Spain needed a stoppage-time strike from Iago Aspas to avoid defeat against Morocco. The best match in the section was easily the 3-3 draw between the favourites. Spain came from behind twice before taking the lead through Nacho Fernandez’s stunning strike, but Ronaldo rounded off a hat-trick with a stunning 88th-minute free-kick to share the points.
France may have won the group, but they did so with extremely underwhelming performances. Two narrow wins over Peru and Australia confirmed their qualification with a game to spare, but they were held to a 0-0 draw by Denmark in their last outing. Peru went into their final match knowing their first World Cup in 36 years was already done, but they played proudly and gave their fans something to cheer with a 2-0 win that knocked Australia out.
All eyes were on Lionel Messi’s Argentina as they came close to a shock early exit. In a tight final outing, goals from the captain and Marcos Rojo, the latter coming in the 86th minute, secured the win they needed advance against an impressive, young Nigeria team. Iceland started well in their first World Cup – Hannes Halldorsson saved a Messi penalty to earn a point – but could not keep the momentum going. Croatia dominated the group and were easily the stand-out performers, thumping Argentina 3-0 as they won all three games and conceded just one goal.
Costa Rica: 4/10
Brazil’s tournament got off to a rocky start when they were held 1-1 by Switzerland, but two stoppage-time goals against Costa Rica set them on their way to top the group. Serbia looked promising in their opening 1-0 victory over Oscar Ramirez’s side, but their spark fizzled out losses to Switzerland and Brazil eliminated them. Costa Rica made an early exit but shared the points with Switzerland in the last match, which was enough for the Europeans to qualify for the knockout stage.
South Korea: 4/10
Defending champions Germany provided the biggest shock of the tournament by becoming the fourth holders to be eliminated at the first hurdle in the last five editions. After losing to Mexico, Toni Kroos secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Sweden with a late free-kick and it looked like the wind was back in their sails, but two stoppage-time goals from the eliminated South Korea knocked them out. Mexico won their first two games in style, but failed to clinch top spot as Sweden cruised to a 3-0 triumph to top the group.
Just like Group B, there were no shocks here. England and Belgium turned on the style to record big wins – Belgium beat Tunisia 5-2 while England thrashed Panama 6-1 – to secure their place in the knockout stages. It came down to the final game to find the group winners, and Belgium – who made nine changes to their line-up compared to England’s eight – just edged it with a goal from Adnan Januzaj. Tunisia came from behind to beat Panama 2-1, meaning they went home with some pride.
Group H was easily the closest contest. Poland were eliminated after defeats to Senegal and Colombia, who consequently had a chance of qualifying following an opening day defeat to Japan. They did just that by overcoming Senegal 1-0, and the coupling of that result with Poland’s 1-0 triumph over Japan meant Aliou Cisse’s side were eliminated due to fair play rules. The Samurai Blue consequently followed Colombia out of the pool.