The Daily Iowan

2018 FIFA World Cup — best ever?

As the world’s biggest sporting event draws to a close, here are some of the biggest moments from the past month.

Landon+Donovan+of+the+United+States+celebrates+after+scoring+against+Mexico+in+the+second+half+during+2014+FIFA+World+Cup+Qualifying+at+Columbus+Crew+Stadium+in+Columbus%2C+Ohio%2C+on+Tuesday%2C+Sept.+10%2C+2013.+Donovan+is+encouraging+Americans+to+root+for+Mexico+in+the+World+Cup%2C+after+the+U.S.+failed+to+qualify.+%28Kyle+Robertson%2FColumbus+Dispatch%2FTNS%29
Landon Donovan of the United States celebrates after scoring against Mexico in the second half during 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. Donovan is encouraging Americans to root for Mexico in the World Cup, after the U.S. failed to qualify. (Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Landon Donovan of the United States celebrates after scoring against Mexico in the second half during 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. Donovan is encouraging Americans to root for Mexico in the World Cup, after the U.S. failed to qualify. (Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Landon Donovan of the United States celebrates after scoring against Mexico in the second half during 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. Donovan is encouraging Americans to root for Mexico in the World Cup, after the U.S. failed to qualify. (Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Jordan Zuniga, [email protected]

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It didn’t take long after the final whistle of the July 15 match for pundits to start labeling the 2018 World Cup the greatest ever.

While recency bias will always play a central role in a tournament that only takes place every four years, there is certainly ample reasoning to the claim that this tournament topped them all. From the plethora of last-minute goals to the number of upsets and unexpected heroes throughout, this was a World Cup that won’t be forgotten soon.

Like every great tournament, this one had moments that stood out from all the rest, here are the top-three takeaways from this tournament.

France is just getting started

At the end of it all, the French team stood victorious over the other teams that traveled to Russia for the World Cup. The French were also the second-youngest team among the 32, which means this could just the beginning for Les Bleus.

While the team is full of budding young superstars, one name stands out from all the rest: Kylian Mbappe. He made defenders look lost all tournament long, and he put his name alongside soccer legend Pele as the second teenager to score in a World Cup Final.

After the tournament, he won the Silver Ball, an award recognizing the best young player in the tournament.

He certainly made a name for himself this summer, and he should probably invest in a large trophy case, because this hardware seems as if it’s just the beginning for the teenager.

Croatia surprises the field

Perhaps the biggest surprise from this tournament was the tournament’s runner-up, Croatia.

The squad barely qualified for the World Cup, needing a play-in game in order to stamp its ticket to Russia. You wouldn’t be able to tell that by the way it played.

It started with an upset of Argentina in the group stage, then after two-straight penalty wins in the knockout rounds, the Croatians spoiled England’s party in the semifinals.

While it’s hard to say a side that lost, 4-2, looked like the better team, Croatia certainly looked like the better side throughout the July 15 final.

For the Croatian stars ​— Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Mario Mandzukic — the loss might sting for a while, but years down the road, they should be able to look back on this tournament with pride knowing they took their team further than it had ever gone.

England has a team to be proud of again

English soccer fans are used to early disappointment in the World Cup, so much so that the rabid fans seemed almost uninterested at the start of the tournament.

Entering the tournament, England had very little hope for this young team, which had gotten knocked out against Iceland at the 2016 Euros. That changed after the team’s Round of 16 win against Colombia.

The Colombia match was unique because it was the first time in its history that England had won a World Cup game on penalties and just the second time overall. To make it worse, England has lost the most penalty shootouts, and it had been eliminated in three of the last seven World Cups on penalties.

It’s safe to say English fans were pessimistic when they realized the game against Colombia would come down to penalties. England was able to prevail, 4-3, and galvanize the players and fans all the way to a semifinal run to tie its second-best finish.

Adding to the excitement is England ties France as the second-youngest team in the tournament. It seems as if exciting times are ahead for the Three Lions.

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