The Protector new head of sport, Will Woodward, explains how he tackled one of his first chores in the role encompassing Russia 2018

As Eric Dier slotted home his penalty against Colombia, there was a brief roar across the Guardian sports desk. It wasn't the full detonation of cathartic exultation in Moscow as England players and fans celebrated a first World Cup shootout win. It started loudly but was more strangled than that. Now there was a lot of work to do, quickly.

Russell Cunningham, our production editor, pressed “launch” on a first take of the match report for the website that was alerted to worldwide. Our correspondents at the Spartak Stadium- Daniel Taylor, Barney Ronay, Dominic Fifield and Martha Kelner– finished and sent their takes of a match that( nearly by definition) was settled by the last kick of the game. The headline on the back page took on an entirely different character from the one drafted a minute or two earlier when England's Jordan Henderson had missed his penalty, seemingly sending England out. The game objective at 9.52 pm UK time; the narrative was on the site at 9.55 pm; eight pages of coverage were sent for the first edition of the paper by 10.10 pm. Digital editors marshalled and organised coverage on the web as pieces were processed, launched and revised at breakneck velocity and readers to the liveblog maintained coming by their thousands.

Then we went again- new pieces, revised pieces, with reaction, different images, new prospers for web and the later edition of the paper. Sometime around 3.30 am Moscow time, 1.30 am UK time, that day's work was considered done … with a few hours' infringe until 5am when our athletics editor in Sydney launched the next day's World Cup news liveblog, full of reaction to England's win.

England England director Gareth Southgate celebrates after England played Sweden in the quarter-finals. Photograph: Lee Smith/ Reuters

One can get a bit Monty Python about this-” What do you know about get up at five o'clock in t'morning to fly to Paris, back at the Old Vic for drinkings at 12 ?”- but it probably shouldn't need expressed the view that covering Russia 2018 was a marathon and several sprints; hard work and also enormous fun. After five weeks away from home Taylor wrote this week that collecting his ticket for the final was ” always a privilege “; and that feeling was shared for those of us working on it back in London, watching it on TV. It felt like there was a great drama every day. Spain v Portugal, on day two of the World Cup was already a special game when Ronaldo hitched his shorts up and smacked in a free-kick as only he can. Belgium-Japan was an unexpected thrill.

And no one watching it will ever forget Germany's early deviation. Jonathan Wilson, who encompassed that game for us, has described his reaction to South Korea's crucial goal thus:” There is a moment of stillnes as the truth daybreaks … then a flurry of keyboards being hammered. One of the great' Christ, this is happening …' moments .” On his match report Wilson's first sentence was:” This, then, is how the world aims , not with a bang but with a whimper .”

We set out to be live, international and interactive. We liveblogged all 64 games and ran a World Cup news liveblog every day for 32 days. The website's athletics desk was the founding father of the the whole concept of live blogs, style back in 1998, and we like it when we do them well. Our World Cup Football Daily podcast was on every matchday; impressively the double act at the heart of it, Max Rushden and Barry Glendenning, did not come to blows. In Russia our team of writers- 10 members of staff from the athletic and international departments and five regular freelancers- encompassed 60 games between them, sometimes alone, often in pairs, and on one occasion with half a dozen.

Our tradition and our audience meant that we invested a lot in encompassing England. But with Guardian Australia we also reported extensively on the Socceroos, we operated liveblogs in Japanese and our US office took a special interest in Mexico. Our Madrid-based football novelist Sid Lowe was in Russia to follow Spain's early exit and more. Our football correspondents David Hytner and Stuart James encompassed the World Cup in Russia for a month but saw England live only once between them. And we were outward appearing in our selection of columnists. Jorge Valdano, a World Cup winner in 1986 with Argentina, wrote pieces of profound, vast range. Marcel Desailly, a World Cup win himself, from his first column onwards wrote vividly about what it was like to win the World Cup and what France needed to do to win it. They duly did, managed by Didier Deschamps, Desailly's former team-mate and godfather to his son. Felt like we struck gold there.

Like Gareth Southgate's squad- OK, a bit like Gareth Southgate's squad- the World Cup involves a huge amount of preparation. This started long before I arrived back in London in April after three years in Sydney working for Guardian Australia. Sport's editorial manager, Blake Ivinson, began booking travelling( final total: 78 airliners, seven develops ), and accommodation as soon as the describe for the group stages was unveiled in December 2017. Shaun Walker and Andrew Roth, Moscow correspondents past and present, the managing editor's department and our information security team offered practical advice on how to navigate potential risks.

And much of the content itself took months to make. Marcus Christensen and Jon Brodkin, our football editors, took most of the burden, directing content with senior editors, designers and developers across the Guardian. The single biggest piece of content- and arguably our most successful- was an interactive guidebook to all 736 World Cup squad players, featuring the work of journalists from 30 countries and a huge amount of design work. The 100 -page World Cup guide we published in Saturday's Guardian the week before the tournament, featured team-by-team guides including the answer to the question: if this country was a Russian doll, what would that Russian doll look like? Frankly, it made a lot of sense to us.

Some of the planning was wasted, I acknowledge. After England played Sweden in the quarter-finals, we had to think harder. What shall we do if England construct the final? What shall we do if England win the World Cup? Maybe we'll maintain those plans somewhere for Qatar 2022, just in case. On the other hand that disposed headline- the one for when England go out on penalties again- might come in useful too.

Will Woodward is the Guardian's head of sport