Greatest. World. Cup. Ever. #WorldCup— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) July 7, 2018
World Cup games can be defined by the quality of the play, the drama or what is at stake. The 2018 World Cup was fortunate to be served up on the second night by the Iberico Clasico -- a 3-3 tie between Spain and Portugal, featuring a hat trick by Cristiano Ronaldo. Even though that game proved to be the high point of the tournament for the two teams -- they finished with only two wins between them and exited in the round of 16 -- it set a high bar for the tournament.
Spain-Portugal has already been matched or surpassed by at least two games: France-Argentina and Belgium-Japan in the round of 16. The France-Argentina game featured two lead changes, two golazos from Angel di Maria and Benjamin Pavard and a brilliant individual performance from Kylian Mbappe. Belgium became the first team since West Germany in 1970 to come back from two goals down to win a game in the knockout stage -- and the Red Devils won on a thrilling counterattack in the dying seconds of regulation to break the hearts of a fantastic Japanese team.
France-Argentina and Belgium-Japan are two of five knockout games in which the winner came from behind to advance. You have to go all the way back to the 1934 World Cup to find a tournament in which more knockout games -- and that tournament was played entirely as a knockout competition -- were won by a team that had trailed.
Russia's shootout victory over Spain has been defined as the biggest upset of the modern era -- the largest gap in the FIFA rankings between the winner and loser -- and the 2018 tournament has featured other surprises, but they don't compare to some of the upsets of the past: Cameroon over Argentina to open the 1990 World Cup, Algeria over West Germany in 1982 or, of course, the USA over England in 1950.
When you throw in the Belgium-Brazil quarterfinal match, the 2018 World Cup certainly has produced the most special games since the 1982 World Cup in Spain, which featured the classic West Germany-France semifinal, but also Italy's wins over Argentina with Diego Maradona and the great Brazil team in the mini-group, and the Algeria upset win in Gijon. (Forgotten is host Spain's opening game: a 1-1 tie with Honduras, the greatest result in Catracho history.)
But when you talk about great World Cups, none will likely surpass the 1970 tournament in Mexico when four of the seven knockout games featured comeback wins -- including West Germany-England in the quarterfinals and Italy-West Germany in the semifinals -- and the tournament was won by Brazil, the greatest of all World Cup champions.