Five things that shook the World Cup
Rated before the tournament as Russia's worst ever team, the hosts quickly went about proving their doubters wrong by romping to a 5-0 win in their tournament opener against Saudi Arabia, led by a Denis Cheryshev brace.
However both Messi and Argentina were found wanting, sputtering through the group stage before being knockout out by France in the last 16. Messi looked a shadow of the player that has won five Ballon d'Or awards, scoring just once in four matches.
Roberto Martinez's Belgium
Belgium's so-called golden generation has finally turned potential into concrete results by reaching the last four of the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Coach Roberto Martinez has succeeded where his predecessors failed by making the team greater than the sum of its parts.
The World Cup champions curse continued as Joachim Loew's men were dumped out in the group stage. It was the third consecutive time that the holders have failed to reach the round of 16, following on from Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014.
MOSCOW, July 8 (Xinhua) -- The World Cup in Russia has thrown up no shortage of surprises as favorites have been toppled, heroes vanquished and new stars born. Here we look at the five biggest shocks of the tournament so far.
Something just wasn't right from the start of their first match against Mexico, which they lost 1-0. A brilliant Toni Kroos free-kick routine saved their blushes against Sweden before they collapsed to a 2-0 loss to South Korea in their final group match.
Stanislav Cherchesov's side won their next match against Egypt 3-1 before losing 3-0 to Uruguay after being reduced to 10 men early. They then beat 2010 champions Spain on penalties in the round of 16 but bowed out in the quarterfinals against Croatia in another duel decided by spot-kicks.
By Michael Place
Germany dumped out
Messi kept in check
Argentina fans had hoped that this tournament would provide a glorious and belated coronation for Lionel Messi after the Albiceleste lost three straight finals in major tournaments: the 2014 World Cup, 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America.
The Spaniard has also shown great tactical pragmatism by setting up his side to suit the characteristics of his best players and exploit the weakness of opponents. This was exemplified in the team's 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Brazil, when Kevin de Bruyne was deployed as a false nine while Roman Lukaku and Eden Hazard where pulled wide.
The 19-year-old forward almost single-handedly fired his team to victory over Argentina in the round of 16 by scoring twice and earning a penalty. In doing so, he became the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to net a brace in a single World Cup match. His explosive speed and lethal finishing has drawn comparisons with Brazil great Ronaldo.