Today, in my morning paper (San Francisco Chronicle), Ann Killion's World Cup article began, "Is this the greatest World Cup ever?" Part of her answer can be found in the title of the column: "Let’s enjoy it while it lasts because changes are coming soon". She notes that the next World Cup in Qatar will be different enough that if nothing else, the World Cup will never be the same. (Case in point: it will take place in November and December.) But that's not an answer to if this is the best Cup ever, just a prediction about where it is heading. As Killion writes, "It seems inevitable that history will look back on the 2018 tournament as the last great World Cup."
She then asks, "What makes a great World Cup? Close games, surprises, drama. And the 2018 World Cup has all of that."
If I had to list the best features of this World Cup, I would put, at the top of the list, that I have rarely been annoyed or grumpy. I have admittedly been a grouch in the past ... maybe I'm just mellowing out in my old age.
There has only been one scoreless draw in the first 63 matches. That's a good thing.
There have been some very good matches. Spain had a poor tournament, but they had a couple of entertaining group matches, a 3-3 draw with Portugal and a 2-2 draw with Morocco that came down to a stoppage time goal that required VAR to decide it was good.
In their first match, finalists France needed a late own-goal to defeat Australia, 2-1. Sounds better than it was ... two of the three goals were from penalties. France took part in one of the wildest matches, their 4-3 win that eliminated Argentina:
The final day of Group D matches was dramatic, including this goal:
Serbia-Switzerland eventually decided which of the two teams would advance:
Eventual semi-finalists England got off to a shaky, if excited, start against unfancied Tunisia:
Their last match was also something, as they crashed out to Croatia, who were playing their third straight 120-minute match:
In the quarter-finals, Croatia broke the hearts of the home team:
And I shouldn't forget Belgium, who had some exciting moments in the knockout phase. They beat Brazil, but the most amazing match came against Japan, featuring the best second-half of the tournament: