Why this was the best World Cup yet

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Following what felt like a whirlwind of matches and goals, Kurt Baldacchino from the popular Facebook page ‘I Quote Football’ gives us an overview of the highlights from this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Goals – Every football tournament offers memorable goals. And this World Cup provided fans around the world with some jaw-dropping strikes. James Rodriguez’s goal for Colombia against Uruguay is considered by many as the goal of the Cup, but Van Persie vs Spain, Cahill vs the Netherlands, David Luiz vs Colombia, Messi vs Iran, Jermaine Jones for the USA vs Portugal, Shaqiri vs Honduras and Schurrle vs Brazil were all spectacular goals too.

Match standard – It is safe to say that most of this year’s matches were entertaining. Nearly every team tried to play for the win, rather than trying to keep a 0-0 score. Every match had its moments; from the plenty of goals to the dramatically staged falls of players barely touched. Even non-avid football viewers enjoyed watching this World Cup’s matches.

Goalkeepers – The last Cup was surrounded by controversy regarding the ball used, called the Jabulani. In 2014 it was replaced by the Brazuca, and the outcome from a goalkeeper’s perspective was fantastic. Most of the goalkeepers gave stunning performances, especially those from North and South America. Germany’s keeper Neuer was probably the best player of the tournament. Mexico’s Ochoa and his saves against Brazil and the Netherlands and Navas for Costa Rica against the Netherlands also stood out.

Drama – Germany’s goal in extra-time against Argentina in Sunday’s final was without a doubt the most dramatic moment this year. Gotze’s goal came at a time when everyone thought the final would end in penalties. Other remarkable goals that came late in the game included the Netherlands’ penalty against Mexico, Switzerland vs Ecuador, Portugal vs USA, Argentina vs Iran, Argentina vs Switzerland, USA vs Belgium, and Greece vs Ivory Coast.

Surprises – The biggest bombshell was probably Costa Rica topping a group consisting of themselves, Italy, England and Uruguay, then making it to the quarters and nearly to the semis, only to lose by penalties against the Netherlands.  Another remarkable surprise was Algeria’s performance, especially against Germany, as well as improvements from Mexico, Nigeria, Chile and the USA. Upsets on the other hand included Spain’s terrible campaign, and obviously Italy and England both being eliminated in the group stages.

Keylor Navas in action

Keylor Navas’ impressive displays for Costa Rica have seen him linked with a move to Bayern Munich.

Revelations – This Cup served as a showcase for some talented yet not well-known players. Rodriguez, M’Bolhi, Campbell, Manolas, Medel, Navas, De Vrij, Origi and Feghouli all had an impressive tournament.

Veterans – Although considered by many as the weak point in their respective teams, several veteran players had positive campaigns. Colombia’s captain Yepes was perfect in defence, and Marquez was not any less for Mexico. Klose broke Ronaldo’s all-time goal scoring record, while Cesar, Howard, Kuyt, Cahill, and Beasley all maintained good performances. Soon-to-retire Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld also deserves a mention.

Fans – They are the ones who create the atmosphere and bring elated fun to the stadium. From costumes as Panini stickers, to countless easy-on-the-eye South American spectators; what’s not to love? The Brazilian watermelon man, the Ivory Coast statue and the banter between England fans were great too. Stadiums were always full, and there was constantly an abundance of passionate chanting while national anthems were played. But luckily no vuvuzelas!

The Brazilian 'watermelon man'

The Brazilian ‘watermelon man’

Managers – From social media chitchat after Roy Hodgson’s and Scolari’s tactics, to Capello blaming laser interference by Algerian fans as the reason to Russia’s elimination, managers also had their own shining moments. Herrera of Mexico became an internet sensation with his epic way of celebrating. Costa Rica’s manager said that winning the group was his best day since he got married. Finally, Zaccheroni and Prandelli were this year’s two resigning managers.

Substitutions – Joachim Low carried out perfect substitutions in the final against Argentina. In fact, the goal during extra-time came from substitute Gotze, and he was assisted by Schurrle; another substitute. However, a more unforgettable substitution was made by Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal by substituting goalkeepers for the quarter-final penalty shootout. Van Gaal’s decision turned out to be positive since Tim Krul managed to save 2 penalties, thus eliminating Costa Rica.

Comebacks – The Netherlands made important comebacks during this campaign against Spain, Australia and Mexico. Others were of Belgium vs Algeria, Algeria vs Russia to make it to the last 16, Switzerland vs Ecuador, and USA vs Portugal.

Craziness – The craziest moment was of course Luis Suarez’s bite on Giorgio Chiellini, for which he had to pay serious consequences. Joining it on a lower pedestal were Bruno Martins Indi staring at Diego Costa during a set-piece in Spain vs Netherlands, and Nigeria’s goalkeeper Enyeama shouting non-stop at his team-mates.

Unpredictability – It was one of those World Cups where there were so many teams playing fantastic football that it was impossible to predict early on the winning contenders. In the end, with Germany facing Argentina, and the Germans grasping the cup, it was a truly exciting final.

Social media – It helped football fans greatly in obtaining instant updates and statistics. It also served as a discussion outlet about the matches, being able to follow every team and player with a simple click. World Cup goals and other highlights went viral very quickly, and the level of banter during this tournament was nothing short of brilliant!

Referees – Yuichi Nishimura was a nightmare during the opening Brazil vs Croatia match. But other referees, including Howard Webb in Chile vs Brazil and Italian Rizzoli throughout the whole tournament, deserve to be praised. Rizzoli also refereed Sunday’s final.

Goal-line technology – Finally! This helped referees in making important decisions during moments of uncertainty, the most evident case being Costa Rica’s goal against Italy. Furthermore, the vanishing spray for free-kicks was an interesting addition.

Pundits – Perhaps the Maltese pundits were not ideal, but they all tried their best in covering this World Cup. Foreign channels had a number of very interesting pundits including football stars Thierry Henry, Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Clarence Seedorf, Fabio Cannavaro and Alex Del Piero.

Records – Klose became the World Cup’s all time top goalscorer with 16 goals, surpassing Ronaldo’s record for Brazil. Howard for USA made 16 saves in one match against Belgium. Colombia’s Mondragón was the oldest player at any World Cup at the age of 43. England were eliminated in the group stages for the first time since 1958. Finally, it was the first time a European team won a World Cup hosted in South America.

Miroslav Klose celebrates after beating Ronaldo's previous record

Miroslav Klose’s goal in Germany’s 7-1 drubbing of Brazil was his 15th World Cup goal, a new record.

Fans and players’ relationship – Luiz gave a Brazil shirt to a young fan, Sulley Muntari walked around the streets of Rio handing out money to the homeless, and the Mexican team played beach football with local children. Most notably, Algeria. players donated their bonus to war victims in Gaza, and Van Persie awarded his third-place medal to a loyal Dutch fan.

Watch Ghana’s Sulley Muntari hand out money to the poor people of Rio.

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