Brazil 2014 came up with a few surprises (mostly on the field).
It started off with an own-goal by the hosts and ended with a wonderful strike in the final to settle the prize.
There was shock and awe. There were plenty of tackles, cards and significant injuries. We list our top 10:
1. Marcel-oh no!
This wasn't how things were meant to start for the hosts who were desperate to win World Cup on their own soil for first time. Just 11 minutes in to the tournament, their big opening night in São Paulo, and Marcelo was holding his head in their hands. An own-goal. At least Brazil showed some resolve and, inspired by Neymar, they came back to win 3-1. Little did they know of the horrors to come.
2. RVP takes flight
For some, the goal of the tournament was James Rodriguez against Uruguay. For others, it was Tim Cahill against the Netherlands. But for me, one goal was head and shoulders above the rest. The Robin Van Persie header against then-champions Spain. How did he do it? How did he laugh in the face of physics? I can't have been the only one to watch the replays open-mouthed.That goal ignited this unbelievable tournament. Spain were on top but after that goal, the World and European champions were taken apart. Final score: 5-1.
3. Spain's early exit
|Spain were the first team to have their fate sealed in Brazil [EPA]|
For three major tournament in succession, Spain were the last team standing. In Brazil, they were first to go - just six days into tournament. It was a shock to see one of the great football teams of history brought to its knees. The suspicion was that winning in South America might be a bridge too far for the inventors of tika-taka. But the brutally quick demise of a great team was shocking.
4. Costa Rica slay the beasts
Even Costa Rica's best player Bryan Ruiz accepted his team didn't have much hope of qualifying from their seemingly brutal World Cup group. Up against three former world champions - Uruguay, Italy and England. First they stunned Uruguay 3-1, then a remarkable follow-up 1-0 win over Italy and by the time they drew with England, had already qualified as group winners. At the odds of 66-1! Were they finished? No. Goal-keeper Navas was inspired and a win over Greece took them further than ever before. Their journey ended from the spot against the Netherlands. But surely an example of how World Cup progress can lift a nation and pump it full of pride.
5. A Krul substitution
...that Netherlands v Costa Rica match will be remembered because of a historic substitution, another piece of Louis Van Gaal innovation. For the penalties, off came Jasper Cillessen and penalty specialist Tim Krul was introduced. When Krul guessed all four penalties right, saving two, it was hailed as another masterstroke.
6. Greece's progress
In a World Cup of jaw dropping excitement and drama, I sincerely hope you were not exposed to the stalemate between Greece and Japan in Natal. The worst two teams in the tournament on display? Not quite. But two of the weakest. So there were more than few bewildered expressions, in fact mild shock, when the realisation dawned that Greece had qualified for the knockout stage with their 2-1 win over an all-of-sorts Ivory Coast.
Luis Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini. He bit him. During Uruguay v Italy. Yes I know you realise that but let's just take a step back and remind ourselves what a hideous act it was. From the second it happened, to now, to beyond, my view is clear: It's disgusting, it's wrong, it's near criminal and it's unacceptable. For the third time, this curious little football genius committed the offence on a football pitch yet the amount of apologists for him is incredible. FIFA, for once, acted swiftly and got it spot on with four-month ban. Suarez got his desired move to Barcelona. Shocking.
8. Algeria v Germany
Revenge is a dish best served cold, right? In 1982, Algeria stunned West Germany with a 2-1 victory in the World Cup. But a few days later, Germany and Austria infamously colluded to obtain the draw that eliminated Algeria. But their historic qualification for the knockout stage in Brazil presented them with an opportunity for revenge. Germany are so strong, aren't they? So who can have expected an Algerian green machine to run them ragged for 90 minutes. Germany prevailed in extra-time. But if it wasn't for the formidable German goal-keeper Neuer, Algeria may well have repeated their shock of '82.
9. Humiliation for Brazil
|Fans were left devastated after Brazil's 7-1 humiliation against Germany. [Al Jazeera]|
Sometimes in sport and life, you cannot quite believe what is happening in front of you. I'm not sure the World Cup semi-final in Belo Horizonte will fully sink-in, the most incredible scoreline in my major game of football ever. Brazil had not lost a competitive match at home since 1975. Yet, 30 minutes into the match, Germany had scored five, lining up to score like adults playing a schoolboy team. Where was the defence? Literally. The rain lashed down in major cities and doused some of the Brazilians anger, but their hurt will remain.
10. Messi blows it in the final
Only a panel arranged by FIFA could name Lionel Messi 'Player of the tournament'. Not Rodriguez or Neuer. Some of the comments directed at Messi during the tournament were unfair. That he was not involved enough in games, not his usual self. not only was he being swamped by defenders, but he was making decisive contributions. Four goals and match-winning moments in last-16 and quarter-finals. But when he was through on goal in the second half of the final he had to score but screwed it wide. To be given Maradona-level credit he needed to be a World Cup matchwinner. I don't think he will be in four years time in Russia. He's astonishing for Barcelona, but for Argentina? It's harsh, but Messi messed up his big moment.
Source: Al Jazeera