Who won the last World Cup? Russia 2018 winners of FIFA football tournament and route to the final explained

With injuries to key players in top teams, the Qatar football tournament could turn out to be the most open draw for years

The Qatar World Cup 2022 is proving to be one of the most controversial football tournaments ever staged, with actions off the pitch thus far matching the intrigue on it.

The row between national football associations and FIFA over the One Love armband campaign shows no signs of dying down, while fans have been barred from wearing any rainbow colours to promote human rights in the infamously oppressive state.

On the pitch, there has already been one major upset, with Argentina losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in their Group C match on Tuesday (22 November). England are set to play against the USA in Group B on Friday (25 November).

The last tournament, held in Russia in 2018, was also controversial given Russia had already annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014 and itself had a poor human rights record. For England fans, it was the first time the country had seriously competed in a major football tournament since the 1990 World Cup.

But who won the 2018 event - and could they repeat the feat in Qatar? Here’s everything you need to know.

The World Cup 2018 took place in Russia (image: Getty Images)

Who won the 2018 World Cup?

The 2018 World Cup was won by France - a victory that came exactly 20 years after their previous success on home soil in 1998.

The team that travelled to Russia had a mesmerising blend of experience and youth. The likes of Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe provided different focal points of attack upfront, while players like Ngolo Kante, Raphael Varane and Hugo Lloris provided a solid base for the team.

Here is the France 2018 squad in full:

  • GK - Hugo Lloris
  • GK - Steve Mandanda
  • GK - Alphonse Areola
  • DF - Benjamin Pavard
  • DF - Presnel Kimpembe
  • DF - Raphael Varane
  • DF - Samuel Umtiti
  • DF - Adil Rami
  • DF - Djibril Sidibe
  • DF - Lucas Hernandez
  • DF - Benjamin Mendy
  • MF - Ngolo Kante
  • MF - Paul Pogba
  • MF - Corentin Tolisso
  • MF - Steven Nzonzi
  • MF - Blaise Matuidi
  • FW - Olivier Giroud
  • FW - Kylian Mbappe
  • FW - Antoine Griezmann
  • FW - Thomas Lemar
  • FW - Nabil Fekir
  • FW - Ousmane Dembele
  • FW - Florian Thauvin

What was particularly impressive was that the France 2018 squad was missing several high-profile names, including: Laurent Koscielny, Adrien Rabiot, Aymeric Laporte, Moussa Sissoko, Dimitri Payet and Kinglsey Coman. Karim Benzema was also still out of contention given the sex tape blackmail scandal he was involved in.

France’s campaign actually got off to a slow start, with the team narrowly beating Australia and Peru before drawing a blank against Denmark in their Group C games. Having topped the group, they secured a 4-3 victory over Argentina in their first knockout match, before overcoming Uruguay with a comfortable 2-0 win in the quarter-finals.

A tight 1-0 victory over high-flying Belgium secured their spot in the final where they faced equally tough opposition in the form of Croatia. They secured their status as World Champions with a 4-2 win on 15 July 2018, thanks to goals from Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, as well as an unfortunate own-goal from Mario Mandzukic.

Could France win the Qatar World Cup 2022?

France will present yet another stiff challenge, with many of their key stars making it to Qatar. Once again, their team contains a decent blend of age and skill, with their attacking contingent arguably being the strongest of any team at the tournament. Here’s the squad:

  • GK - Hugo Lloris
  • GK - Alphonse Areola
  • GK - Steve Mandanda
  • DF - William Saliba
  • DF - Raphael Varane
  • DF - Ibrahima Konate
  • DF - Axel Disasi
  • DF - Benjamin Pavard
  • DF - Dayot Upamecano
  • DF - Theo Hernandez
  • DF - Jules Kounde
  • MF - Eduardo Camavinga
  • MF - Youssouf Fofana
  • MF - Matteo Guendouzi
  • MF - Aurelien Tchouameni
  • MF - Adrien Rabiot
  • MF - Jordan Veretout
  • FW - Ousmane Dembele
  • FW - Olivier Giroud
  • FW - Antoine Griezmann
  • FW - Kylian Mbappe
  • FW - Randal Kolo Muani
  • FW - Kingsley Coman
  • FW - Marcus Thuram

Several big star names are missing once again. Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba, Christopher Nkunku and Ngolo Kante all suffered injuries in the run up to the Qatar tournament. Manchester United forward Anthony Martial was left out for tactical reasons.

A thumping 4-1 win over Australia has got the world champions’ World Cup bid off to a flying start, with Olivier Giroud equalling his country’s all-time scoring record of 51 goals which he now holds alongside Thierry Henry. Group D fixtures against Denmark (Saturday 26 November) and Tunisia (Wednesday 30 November) are still to come.

Kylian Mbappe looks set to be France’s key man at the 2022 World Cup (image: AFP/Getty Images)

If France gets out of its group as expected, it will face a tough fixture in the Round of 16. It would either play the winner or runner-up of Group C, which could be any one of Argentina, Poland, Mexico or Saudi Arabia.

Should the country make it into the quarter-finals having won its group and the Round of 16 game, Croatia, Belgium, Germany or Spain could lie in wait. Say France gets through as a runner-up, Brazil, Switzerland, Cameroon, Portugal, Ghana or Uruguay look to be the likeliest teams to be in the mix to meet them.

It means France is likely to face some stiff opposition before it can even think about reaching the semi-finals or final. But with one of the strongest squads out there, you would not bet against them.

Should they land a second World Cup in succession, they would become the third team to do so and the first since the legendary Brazil teams of 1958 and 1962.