Host nation: Brazil Games: 64 Goals: 171 (2.67 per match) Dismissals: 10 Venues: 12 Winners: Germany Top scorer: James Rodriguez (6 goals)
It wasn’t much fun for the hosts – it was, in fact, an economic and footballing hellscape – but for everyone else it was a terrific lark. Brazil provided the sea, sun and samba-fuelled party of cliché off the pitch, and on it, a truly fascinating finals unfolded. England were flaccid and out in under a week, but elsewhere there was plenty of attacking quality: a scorching-hot Chile, Group-of-death-surviving Costa Rica, the dynamic Dutch and resurgent Colombia. Ultimately it was all about the fading of one great European nation, Spain, and the rise of another, Germany.
Ladles of Latin American loveliness: top scorer James Rodriguez, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Alexis Sanchez – plus the drama of Neymar’s broken back and Lionel Messi as an ultimately thwarted player of the tournament. France’s Paul Pogba announced himself spectacularly, while Germany’s Neuer, Ozil, Kroos, Muller, Gotze, Schweinsteiger et al shone as true team champions.
Commendations for James’ chest-twist-hit for Colombia against Uruguay, Messi’s 91st-minute whack against Iran and Tim Cahill’s arrow for Australia against the Dutch. But Robin van Persie stole the show against Spain with a gravity-defying Superman header (left).
It was shaping up to be one of the more uncontroversial tournaments until Luis Suarez (below) decided to have a gnash on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. He issued one of the best denials ever: “I lost my balance and my face hit the player, causing pain in my teeth.” Not that it did him much good – he got a nine-game ban.
Arguably the most astonishing result in World Cup history, Germany’s brutal 7-1 humbling of the Selecao will forever plague the nightmares of Brazilians. With Neymar injured and defensive kingpin Thiago Silva banned, Die Mannschaft turned the screw. By the end, Mats Hummels admitted they just “didn’t want to humiliate them”.
After violently pooping the hosts’ party, the Germans were expected to dazzle, and get a better contest from an Argentina team featuring The World’s Greatest Player. But they weren’t as ruthless, while Messi put in a limp display at the Maracana. The only goal was worth the extra-time wait, though: a super chest-and-volley from Mario Gotze.
Root-and-branch reviews and remodels for an ageing Spain, plus an exposed Brazil side who had been expected to do much better.