9 worst moments from the best World Cup ever

Astonishing goals, late drama, shocking exits, and Cinderella runs, we were treated to a full month of the world's favourite sport at its very best. Russia's offering is well deserving of the label "best World Cup ever," as FIFA president Gianni Infantino recently declared.

But it wasn't without its forgettable and regrettable moments, as no tournament ever is. These are the worst:

Worst actor: Neymar

Neymar was the most fouled player in Russia at the time of Brazil's elimination - and he made sure everyone knew it.

Each foul - hard, soft, and occasionally imagined - sent Neymar diving to the ground in hysterics and casual soccer fans racing to the top of soap boxes. This would never happen in hockey, rugby, the other football, etc., it was proclaimed to anyone within earshot.

Even for die-hard fans of the beautiful game - the sort who understand the gamesmanship of embellishing fouls - Neymar's theatrics were indefensible.

One study determined he wasted nearly 15 minutes of playing time rolling in mock pain. That's a quarter-hour Brazil's talisman could have spent showing world-class skills on the ball. His squad would have been better served if he had.

Worst decision: Nikola Kalinic

There's one Croatian who can't be thrilled to see his nation in the World Cup final: Nikola Kalinic, who was selected to his native squad at the tournament's outset but sent home in disgrace after refusing to come on as a sub in Croatia's opening match.

It's still unclear why Kalinic acted as he did. He cited a back injury, but reports suggested he felt slighted at not being named to the starting XI. With his ex-teammates writing Croatian sports history in his absence, one wonders how much pain Kalinic would now happily endure for a chance at a do-over.

Worst medical team: Morocco

Proper diagnosis and treatment of concussions is an issue that pervades all sports, but it's apparent FIFA lags far behind other organizations.

Winger Nordin Amrabat was left dazed by a violent clash of heads in Morocco's opener, and team doctors' laughably inept response included spraying him in the face with cold water and repeatedly slapping his cheeks in an apparent attempt to snap him out of it.

Despite later revealing he suffered memory loss, Amrabat was somehow allowed to play just five days later (despite FIFA stipulating that players suffering head injuries rest for at least six days). On top of that, the protective cap Amrabat wore lasted a mere 16 minutes before it was discarded.

Worst fan: Maradona

Hovering around Lionel Messi's Argentina squad as an omnipresent reminder of the legendary status Messi has yet to (and may never) achieve, Diego Maradona was simultaneously La Albiceleste's biggest fan and biggest distraction.

Perhaps he should also count himself lucky to leave Russia alive.

After Marcos Rojo's dramatic late goal sent Argentina to the last 16, Maradona required emergency medical attention. The legend blamed his health hiccup on drinking "all the wine." Let's hope that's all it was.

The 57-year-old's history with drugs is widely known, and his erratic behaviour in his private boxes (he was shown at times to be dancing, clutching his chest in a trance-like state, giving middle fingers to spectators, and asleep before halftime) prompted obvious speculation.

Worst celebration: Michy Batshuayi

Michy Batshuayi knows the exact moment he "f----- up" and sent social media memers into a frenzy. It came immediately after teammate Adnan Janujaz scored against England and Batshuayi decided to express his joy by drop-kicking the ball back into the net.

Batshuayi's aim betrayed him in that moment and the ball ricocheted off the post and right back into his face, leaving Batshuayi clutching his head in pain and a global audience clutching its sides in laughter.

Even worse: the goal ensured Belgium's victory in the group-stage finale, forcing the Red Devils into the much more arduous side of the knockout bracket.

There's a happy ending, however. Batshuayi and the post embraced later and set their differences aside.

Worst referee: Enrique Caceres

In a tournament largely devoid of officiating controversies due to the overwhelming success of VAR, Enrique Caceres' botched call late in Portgual's group-stage finale against Iran stands out as a particularly unforgivable gaffe.

VAR alerted Caceres that Cristiano Ronaldo jabbed his elbow in to the face of opponent Morteza Pouraliganji, but upon review Caceres brandished only yellow to Portugal's captain.

It should have been red by the letter of the law, but instead served as a distasteful reminder that some rules have exceptions for players of Ronaldo's stature.

Worst haircut: Sergio Ramos

Just look at it. Actually, maybe don't.

Worst sportsmanship: Colombia

With star James Rodriguez watching from the stands due to injury, Colombia reached deep into its bag of dirty tricks in an attempt to conjure a win against England in the round of 16.

Those tricks included a sly head butt by Wilmar Barrios to Jordan Henderson (which the latter certainly overreacted to), Johan Mojica inconspicuously kicking a divot out of the penalty spot before Harry Kane's attempt (which Kane nonetheless converted), and even a senior coach for the team shouldering Raheem Sterling as the latter left the pitch at halftime.

Colombia's tactics nearly helped the squad steal a win, but in the end justice prevailed and England advanced on penalties.

Worst song: "Seven Nation Army"

Where art thou, our beloved FIFA anthem?

The jaunty tune that used to accompany players as they marched down the tunnel and onto the pitch before games has been cast aside in favor of the White Stripes' 2003 song "Seven Nation Army," a catchy rock hit that crosses language barriers but lacks the regality befitting a tournament like the World Cup.

What's on tap in 2022, Darude's "Sandstorm"?

Give us back our anthem.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

9 worst moments from the best World Cup ever
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