France: champions

I could not be prouder of my team. To see France do so well and bring such happiness to the country has been an incredible experience. Raphaël Varane stood out for me at the back. A hardworking and humble hero who was full of heart, he kept world class strikers quiet throughout the tournament. The perfect footballer to look up to. We’re such a young, talented team so must be heavy favourites for the World Cup again in four years. Rachel Grillot

Croatia: finalists

The three group-stage wins showed how strong we were as a team, but I still could not believe we would go all the way to the final. Our key players found form at the right time, with Ivan Perisic joining the party in the last couple of games. We shouldn’t feel at all bad for coming second. Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and the rest of the boys have done the country very proud. Aryan

Belgium: third place

Expectations for our “golden generation” have been high since the quarter-final defeat in Brazil four years ago and we finally lived up to the hype this summer. We’ve had star players for a while, but only under Roberto Martínez have we looked like a team, fighting together and winning together. Unfortunately we were edged out in a close semi-final, but we should be proud of our performances and the free-flowing attacking football that made us the highest scoring team in Russia. We should enjoy our third-place finish for a while, before hopefully going on to do better things in Euro 2020. Marie Bruyndon

Belgium players greet the public in Brussels after their third-place finish at the World Cup.
Belgium players greet the public in Brussels after their third-place finish at the World Cup. Photograph: Royal Belgium Pool/Getty Images

England: fourth place

We did a lot better than expected. People talk about English arrogance, but most England fans I know have only ever wanted the players to care as much as the fans do. And that happened this year. For the first time since 2004 watching England at a tournament was enjoyable. Yes, they got lucky with the draw and relied too much on set pieces, but their progress was very un-England like. A win in the opening game, battering inferior opponents, winning on penalties and comfortable progress from the quarter-finals. And yet, there’s that nagging sense of what might have been if Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard put England two or three goals up in the semi-final against Croatia. Gareth Southgate instilled the belief in our youngsters. Kieran Trippier, Jordan Pickford, John Stones and Harry Maguire will be the first names on the team sheet now. The goodwill built up with the public through this World Cup must not be wasted. Adrian Foster

Russia: quarter-finalists

I thought we would get through the group, but to defeat Spain in the second round was quite something. We rode our luck but were so brave and deserved our penalty shootout success. It’s such a shame our run ended in another shootout, against Croatia, in the quarter-finals. But we’ve hosted the World Cup amazingly well and left a lot of fans with happy memories. As the host nation we feel much prouder of our national team than we ever expected to. Bernard

Brazil: quarter-finalists

Brazilians are frustrated. Frustrated at having losing such a tight quarter-final against Belgium and frustrated that the world’s opinion of our country seems to have been soured because of Neymar’s theatrics. That has clouded the way we played, which was pretty good overall. We’re not as angry as we were after the 2014 World Cup. Nobody questions Tite is the best coach and that he will improve the team for 2022. A newfound worry is that South America as a whole seems to be regressing. How do we step up to counter Europe’s dominance? Pedro Fernandes

Brazil’s forward Neymar reacts after a tackle at the World Cup
Neymar reacts after a tackle at the World Cup. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Sweden: quarter-finalists

We didn’t play the most attractive football, but it was effective and got us into the last eight. That was definitely above my expectations. Our solidity at the back and the fighting spirit we showed proved that hard work can get you quite far. Captain Andreas Granqvist was our player of the tournament. He scored two decisive penalties and drove the team on when they were stuck. Unfortunately our offensive play wasn’t up to scratch, despite Marcus Berg’s work ethic. Ola Toivonen’s superb goal against Germany will be remembered for a long time. Morris Andersson

Uruguay: quarter-finalists

My head says we did well and fell at the hardest hurdle but I wonder if Edinson Cavani could have caused the France defence more problems in the quarter-finals. Left-back Diego Laxalt was an incredible surprise, and the strong young midfield trio Matias Vecino, Lucas Torreira and Rodrigo Bentacur is glorious. We will come back stronger. Andrés da Silveira Stein

If only Cavani had been fit for the quarter-final.
If only Cavani had been fit for the quarter-final. Photograph: Hassan Ammar/AP

Colombia: round of 16

We were never going to win it, but I thought we had a shot at the quarter-finals. Our only brilliant game was the 3-0 win over Poland. In the others we had to rely on our team’s mental strength to get us over the line. Yerri Mina was our standout player. His goal against Senegal took us through the group stage and it looked like he had rescued us against England as well. The injury to James Rodríguez was a tragedy. I thought our coach José Pékerman made strange call throughout as well. Pedro Gallo

Spain: round of 16

Spain’s performance was very disappointing. As France coach Didier Deschamps has said, football has changed and you cannot play the same way forever. Spain have been a wonderful team and won many trophies, but the magic has worn off. And if you change your coach two days before a World Cup, you’re asking for trouble. Our tiki-taka style must be adapted to new times. It needs to be much more direct and faster. Everyone played below their capacity, apart from Isco perhaps. He tried to get us moving. And I’ll miss Andrés Iniesta. He was a top player. Javier Pérez

Sergio Ramos, Andrés Iniesta and their Spain team-mates reflect on defeat to Russia.
Sergio Ramos, Andrés Iniesta and their Spain team-mates reflect on defeat to Russia. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Denmark: round of 16

We achieved good results in maybe not so great performances. Our potential was only on show for 10 or 15 minutes in each game, which was disappointing. The defensive organisation was almost faultless, but we were far too toothless in attack. We need to find other ways of scoring goals that relying solely on Christian Eriksen. Kasper Schmeichel showed that he’s among the best keepers in Europe. Andreas Christensen also produced some mature performances. Eriksen scored a beautiful goal against Australia, but it was a shame we didn’t see much of him in the other games. Jean-Robert Tankred

Argentina: round of 16

The team performed reasonably well. We went out to France in the round-of-16, but at least it was the game of the tournament. Unfortunately Jorge Sampaoli’s tactics were not the best. Leaving out Sergio Agüero until the dying moments in this crucial match against France was a blunder. Not using Paulo Dybala and leaving Serie A top scorer Mauro Icardi at home were also questionable decisions. Sampaoli’s has paid the price with his job. I was impressed by Ever Banega. He really stepped up and provided the passing and footwork our attackers required. Lionel Messi had a tough tournament but his classy goal against Nigeria was a highlight. Alex Riha

Japan: round of 16

They did their best. Our team was always going to be on the back foot with the coaching change just before the tournament, but Akira Nishino trusted the team’s spontaneity and we were rewarded with good performances against Colombia and Senegal. And the last-16 tie against Belgium was the most exciting match ever. Takashi Inui was agile and nimble in attack and his two goals were fantastic. I hope the team can grow; I can’t wait to see what they do next. Eiko Yoshizumi

Takashi Inui curls in Japan’s first goal in their 2-2 draw against Senegal.
Takashi Inui curls in Japan’s first goal in their 2-2 draw against Senegal. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Portugal: round of 16

I didn’t have too high expectations, predicting they would reach the quarter-finals, but they didn’t even manage that. The real problem isn’t so much the results, but the negative playing style and the misuse of the creative and attacking resources we do have. Portugal keep playing dour, negative games and it was more of the same in this World Cup. The performances against Morocco and Iran were particularly dire. Pepe and José Fonte are simply too old at the back. It’s also time the team stopped expecting Cristiano Ronaldo to solve all our problems. This World Cup showed we cannot expect to ride our luck all the time like we did in 2016. Ricardo Quaresma’s goal against Iran was a highlight and Ronaldo played well against Spain. But maybe the problem wasn’t the players but rather the management. João Melo

Switzerland: round of 16

We put in great performances but fell agonisingly short and missed a golden opportunity. We were very disciplined against Brazil, but our performance against Serbia was definitely our standout game. Once we got into the game we were superb. Not only did I see my favourite player, Xherdan Shaqiri, score a 90th-minute winner, but I saw it live. We didn’t have the cutting edge to beat Sweden in the second round. Yann Sommer was excellent in goal and defender Manuel Akanji made us all forget that this was his first major tournament. We look to the future with hope. Many of our young players showed bags of potential. Nischal Schwager-Patel

Mexico: round of 16

After the initial excitement of beating Germany, we were pretty much par for the course. That much hoped for fifth game remains out of reach. No matter how much talent is in the squad, no matter how much the mentality has improved, we once again failed when up against a top side in the knock-out stages. The team lacked depth and the gaps left by ageing stars like Carlos Vela need to be filled. “Chucky” Lozano was the breakout star for obvious reasons. Hopefully he’ll get a move to a mid-table team in one of the bigger leagues, preferably La Liga or the Premier League. Jesus Gallardo also shone playing out of position against Germany, but then earned the dubious distinction of earning the fastest yellow card in WC history. Eduardo Hurtado

Hirving Lozano celebrates after scoring the winner against Germany.
Hirving Lozano celebrates after scoring the winner against Germany. Photograph: David Ramos/Fifa/Getty Images

Senegal: group stage

It will take some time getting over being the first team ever to leave the World Cup because of a worse fair play record than another team. But the momentum was kind of lost in the second game against Japan, where we had the lead twice but threw it away on both occasions. The farcical Japan v Poland game was hard to take, but what is more frustrating is that we had destiny in our own hands for most of the group stage. Lamine

Iran: group stage

The dream was to go through to the knockout stages and they almost did it. Although they defended passionately and looked tactically sound, there is room for debate over the ultra-defensive style. We looked better when we went behind against Spain and Portugal and were forced to come out and try to create. That left me and many fans wondering if we should have started the games more positively. Payam Kalantar

South Korea: group stage

We performed much better than four years ago, even if we were knocked out at the group stage again. Narrow defeats to Mexico and Sweden meant it was over at the earliest opportunity, but beating the reigning champions Germany in the final group game was surreal. If you had told me before the tournament that South Korea would finish above Germany, I’d have been really excited. Son Heung-Min impressed again, as did goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-Woo. Keeping a clean sheet against Germany will surely be one of his greatest career achievements. M Park

Kim Young-gwon gives South Korea the lead against reigning world champions Germany.
Kim Young-gwon gives South Korea the lead against Germany. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Peru: group stage

It was more or less over after our defeat to Denmark in the first game. We missed too many good opportunities, including a penalty, and that was the difference in what was a tight group. But we won our first World Cup match for 40 years, with players such as Luis Advíncula and André Carrillo performing brilliantly in all the games. We have a good team but it lacked a bit in tournament experience. They will fight for the title in the next Copa América and qualify to Qatar 2022. Bruno Favio

Nigeria: group stage

We have a young team that showed flashes of its potential and so very nearly knocked Argentina out of the tournament. Ahmed Musa, Tyrone Ebuehi and Leon Balogun were particularly impressive. If we can keep them together for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, we could win it. But the usual political rubbish at the Nigerian Football Federation remains a constant threat to the team. Demola Adeniran

Ahmed Musa goes round Iceland’s goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson before scoring his second goal in Nigeria’s 2-0 win, their only victory at the 2018 World Cup.
Ahmed Musa goes round Iceland’s goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson before scoring his second goal in Nigeria’s 2-0 win, their only victory at the 2018 World Cup. Photograph: Sergei Bobylev/TASS/Getty Images

Germany: group stage

Considering that Die Mannschaft reached the semi-finals at the previous three tournaments, this performance was very poor. At first I was disappointed when they lost to Mexico, but I thought it was just a bad day. I didn’t expect their poor play to continue in the next two matches. There was no sense of urgency from the players. They passed casually most of the time, particularly in midfield, which set up deadly counterattacks for the opposition. Tactically the team made little effort as well. Players who appeared to be unmotivated were starting over players who impressed coming off of the bench. We deserved our early exit. Christopher Silbernagel

Serbia: group stage

We came so close to reaching the knockout stages, an achievement that was overlooked given the political controversy that overshadowed the Switzerland game. The midfield trio of Nemanja Matic, Luka Milivojevic and Sergej Milinković-Savić showed their strength against Costa Rica and positives can be taken from a tight but predictable 2-0 loss to Brazil. Qualification for Euro 2020 is a must and the team should be able to walk through their Uefa Nations League group. Jake Mihailovic

Poland: group stage

A new manager has already been appointed, which tells you everything you need to know about our World Cup. It was terrible. There was no cohesion in defence, which was not helped by Kamil Glik’s farcical injury in training while attempting an overhead kick. For our first game against Senegal we lined up with a team so attacking it felt like an insult to the opposition. Perversely, we were in no rush to get the ball forward and in the end a fairly limited Senegal side got a deserved victory handed to them on a plate. Our evisceration at the hands of an exciting Colombia side was pretty inevitable as wholesale changes were made for the second game. If anything, the meaningless victory in our final game against Japan exacerbated our pain, mirroring our group performances from 2002 and 2006. Kuba Witkowski

Tunisia: group stage

If we’d started our games better, we could have progressed. But losing early goals to England and Belgium made it impossible, and in the end we were just grateful Panama didn’t embarrass us for more than 45 minutes. This was a missed opportunity. Kerym Baccouche

Saudi Arabia: group stage

Saudi Arabia played horribly against Russia in the opening game, with the pressure clearly getting to them. But they improved against Uruguay and ended the tournament on an unlikely high with a win over Egypt. Mohammad Al-Sahlawi and Fahad Al-Muwallad were our standout performers. It will be interesting to see if we can improve further. Sarah

Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al-Dawsari celebrates scoring their late winner against Egypt
Salem Al-Dawsari celebrates after scoring Saudi Arabia’s late winner against Egypt. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Morocco: group stage

Morocco showed their potential with many young players. Unfortunately we lacked the experience and mental strength to beat Iran in the opening game. We coped better against stronger opposition, as both Portugal and Spain were nearly beaten. Our attacking mindset is the way forward. We will be there in 2022 and, with four years of experience under our belts, we’ll be even more competitive. Salim Choudart

Australia: group stage

On paper it went exactly as expected: under a caretaker manager we finished bottom of a strong group, with a lack of firepower our weakness. But in reality our spirited displays against France and Denmark deserved more. If it weren’t for the almighty scare we gave France in our opening game, they may not be celebrating with the trophy now. Credit is due to coach Bert Van Marwijk’s powers of organisation at short notice, bringing defensive resolve to the courage and fearlessness the boys have exhibited when taking the game to more heralded opposition. Patrick Wills

Mile Jedinak couldn’t inspire Australia to a place in the knock-out stages.
Mile Jedinak couldn’t inspire Australia to a place in the knock-out stages. Photograph: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Costa Rica: group stage

It was very disappointing to finish without a win, especially after the success of the 2014 squad had raised expectations beforehand. The team was older and more experienced, but the spark just wasn’t there anymore. At least we drew the final group match and left Russia with a point. I would like to see the team return to a more disciplined approach to defending. Javier Bastos

Iceland: group stage

The draw against Argentina was enough to call this summer a success. It was a wonderful moment to see our captain walk out on to the pitch next to Leo Messi and then secure a draw. Any disappointment really stems from the Nigeria game, where we ran out of gas after some impressive attacking play in the first half. Unfortunately we failed to take advantage of our set pieces, which was surprising, and when Nigeria scored we were in trouble. There will be a bit of a generational transition now, as a number of our key players are in their late-twenties or early-thirties. Heimir Hallgrímsson has announced he will not continue as manager, having been with the team for the last seven years. With some retirements expected, an exciting appointment is vital, as an underwhelming one could lessen public interest and the mood in the team overall. Tryggvi Kristjánsson

Egypt: group stage

Our World Cup run was dreadful. A defeat to Uruguay, even after a brave performance, was expected. But complete collapses against Russia and Saudi Arabia were not. Rumours of discord and rebellion within the squad only made matters worse. Add to that the fact that Mohamed Salah was not ready to be in the squad after his shoulder injury. The whole thing is a massive debacle and a national embarrassment. It was very reminiscent of France’s 2010 implosion, which can only mean that Egypt will be world champions in eight years. Ahmed Aly

Mohamed Salah reflects on a terrible World Cup campaign, with his side the first to be eliminated.
Mohamed Salah reflects on a terrible World Cup campaign, with his side the first to be eliminated. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Panama: group stage

It’s no surprise we finished with zero points at our first ever World Cup. We were naive and inexperienced against superior opposition. Belgium and England were just too good for our defenders. And while we were dreaming of an unlikely win over Tunisia during the half-time break, we couldn’t contain them for the full 90 minutes. But I’m proud of the team and we’ll remember the two goals scored in Russia fondly. Felipe Baloy will never have to buy a drink again. Carl Rodriguez


Guardian readers and Tom Stevens

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