No event escalates individuals to the status of national hero or global villain as dramatically as the World Cup. The idolatry that follows success and the stigma that follows failure are woven into the fabric of history, and the repercussions will typically follow footballers for the rest of their lives. Daily, we’ll take a look at who played the role of hero and who played the role of villain at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Heroes and Villains of the World Cup: Matchday Five
Hero: Harry Kane (England)
I really don’t want this feature to turn into “X dude scored, X dude is the hero,” but when your captain scores a brace, including a 91st-minute winner to snatch three points from the damning jaws of a massive letdown and a lot of impending national handwringing, well, you’re the goddamn hero.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 18, 2018
He’s always had it in him. It just took a manager like Gareth Southgate to unleash the beast.
Harry Kane scoring from corners instead of taking them. pic.twitter.com/UV3NZCp2e0— Mohamed ElNneny (@ElNnenyM) June 18, 2018
Honorable mention: This group (Tunisia)
The man with the guitar and the man with the Magneto cap and body paint. Watch them lose it when Tunisia equalize at 2:17 below.
— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) June 18, 2018
Villain: Joel Aguilar (Referee for Sweden vs. South Korea)
In the end, I think all the penalty decisions in the Sweden vs. South Korea match were correct. Aguilar waved away early appeals from both Sweden and South Korea — in each instance, the defender clearly got the ball first before crunching the attacker, which I think is fantastic — and then VAR got the assist on the third, which was a bit more reckless from Kim Min-woo.
The match was a stop-start shit show with 43 fouls and three yellow cards. Aguilar’s decision not to book a Swedish player in the first half after he took out a breaking Son Heung-min was preposterous. That decision simply informed every player on the pitch that overt cynicism was fine.
Honorable mention: The skeeters* (Volgograd sons of bitches)
Fukin mosquitos lol pic.twitter.com/KzQOCCCty5— JONESYS JUKEBOX (@JonesysJukebox) June 18, 2018
It was heart wrenching to watch goalkeeper Mouez Hassen get taken out in the 15th minute following an early English onslaught. His situation was greatly exacerbated by the fact that while he was lying prone on the ground receiving treatment, he was being eaten alive by an army of mosquitos. That’s a classic Minnesota summer night out there!
*Definitely some mother-loving midges out there as well.