Germany struck a blow for UEFA, as it became the first European nation to win a World Cup on South American soil.
THE MAIN STORY
The World Cup came “home” in 2014, the tournament hosted by Brazil, long considered the spiritual caretakers of the sport. It marked the first time the World Cup was staged in South America since Argentina welcomed the world in 1978.
Brazil entered the tournament as the heavy favourite and full of confidence as the host nation. But the Selecao were also dogged by past failures. They lost the 1950 World Cup after an upset defeat to Uruguay in Rio, a loss that Brazilian fans still talked about more than 60 years later. The Brazilian team ended up making history at this World Cup – but for the wrong reasons.
The top two teams from each of the eight groups advanced to the knockout round.
For the third time at the World Cup, Germany and Argentina squared off in the final. Both sides won their respective groups, with the Germans hammering Brazil in the semis and the Argentines outlasting the Netherlands to get to the final. More than 74,000 fans jammed into Rio’s iconic Maracana Stadium to watch a final pitting what many considered the best national team (Germany) against the world’s best player (Lionel Messi).
Both sides named unchanged starting line-ups from their semifinals, but German midfielder Sami Khedira suffered a calf injury in the pre-game warmup and had to be replaced by Christoph Kramer, who made only two brief substitute appearances during the tournament. Kramer ended up suffering a head injury after colliding with Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay early in the game, and although he kept playing he had to come out in the 31st minute due to a concussion.
Gonzalo Higuain squandered a golden scoring chance in the first half when he dragged his shot wide after capitalizing on a mistake by Germany’s Toni Kroos to break in on goal. Ninety minutes of pretty mundane soccer gave way for extra time, where both sides carved out scoring opportunities, including Messi who fired wide from inside the penalty area.
The breakthrough finally came in the 113th minute when André Schürrle, who came on for Kramer, delivered a cross to Mario Götze from the left flank. The Bayern Munich star collected it on his chest and then hit a sweet, left-footed volley past Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Late in extra time, Messi had a free kick, but he hit it over the crossbar. Moments later, Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli blew his whistle, and the Germans won the World Cup for a fourth time.
Number of participating teams: 32
Top scorer: Colombia’s James Rodriguez (6 goals)
Number of games: 64
Total goals scored: 171
Average goals per game: 2.67
Highest scoring game: Germany’s 7-1 win over Brazil on July 8.
Total attendance: 3,429,873
Average attendance: 53,592
MAN OF THE TOURNAMENT
James Rodriguez. The Golden Ball award went to Lionel Messi, but it was Rodriguez who made the biggest impact in Brazil. He scored a tournament-high six goals in helping Colombia top its group and reach the quarterfinals for the first time in the nation’s history. He also became the first player to score in each of his first five career World Cup appearances since Peru’s Teofilo Cubillas (across the 1970 and 1978 tournaments).
MATCH OF THE TOURNAMENT
Belgium’s 2-1 win over the United States in the round of 16. This one managed to get better the longer it went on. American goalkeeper Tim Howard stood on his head in making 16 saves. Even when the U.S. went 2-0 in extra time, they managed to claw back a goal and nearly forced a shootout. Thrilling, breathless stuff.
This will go down as the most famous – or, if you are Brazilian, infamous – result in World Cup history. Both Brazil and Germany arrived at the semifinal in Belo Horizonte with unbeaten records in the competition, but the hosts were considered the favourites. When Thomas Muller gave the Germans a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute, it was a sign of things to come. Germany ripped apart Brazil’s fragile defence in scoring four goals in six minutes to take a 5-0 lead at half time. Substitute André Schürrle added a pair of goals in the second half to make it 7-0. Oscar notched a late consolation goal for the hosts, but it was too late. The Seleção suffered a humiliating defeat before hundreds of millions of TV viewers around the world, and tears flowed from fans inside Estádio Mineirão as the nation of Brazil mourned. The loss broke Brazil’s 62-match home unbeaten streak in competitive matches going back to the 1975 Copa America. Still reeling from the national shame, Brazil lost the third-place match to the Netherlands several days later.
EARLY EXIT FOR SPAIN
A defending World Cup champions, Spain entered the competition as one of the favourites. But La Roja bowed out in disgrace, losing 5-1 to the Netherlands in its opening match, and then 2-0 to Chile. After only two matches, the Spaniards were officially eliminated. Spain’s early exit meant that three of the previous four teams to win the World Cup went out in the group stage (France 2002, Italy 2010, Spain 2014).
SUAREZ TAKES A BITE OUT OF CHIELLINI
The most notorious incident of the tournament occurred in a group stage game when Uruguay forward Luis Suarez bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder. Uruguay won 1-0 to advance at the expense of the Italians. Suarez was not issued a card for the offence, but two days later he was hit with a nine-game ban from international play, ruling him out for the rest of the tournament. It was the longest such ban in World Cup history.
ENGLAND AND ITALY WIPE OUT
Spain wasn’t the only marquee team to bow out in the opening round. Italy and England finished behind surprise leaders Costa Rica and Uruguay in Group D, with the English collecting just a single point. Fresh off a semifinal finish at Euro 2012, Portugal also exited the World Cup in Brazil after the first round.
LETS GO TO THE REPLAY
Goal-line technology was used for the first time at a World Cup in Brazil. The Goal Control system, featuring 14 high-speed cameras, ended up reviewing three goal-line incidents, including during a group stage game between France and Honduras when a goal was awarded for the first time at the World Cup with the support of goal-line technology.
KLOSE THE NEW KING OF THE HILL
German forward Miroslav Klose became the top scorer in World Cup history with his strike against Brazil in the semifinals. With 16 goals to his credit, he surpassed Brazil’s Ronaldo. Klose scored his goals in 24 matches across the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
UEFA have won the last three World Cups – Italy in 2006, Spain in 2010, Germany in 2014 – marking the first time a single confederation has won three in a row.
Because of the hot temperatures in Brazil, cooling breaks were introduced at the World Cup for the first time. Breaks could take place at the referee’s discretion after the 30th minute of each half if the temperature exceeded 32 °C. The first cooling break in World Cup history took place in the first half of the Round of 16 match between the Netherlands and Mexico.
ALL THE CHAMPIONS PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR
Every World Cup-winning team since the first tournament held in 1930 – Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Uruguay – qualified for this World Cup.
BIG SURPRISE! MEXICO OUT IN 2ND ROUND
After beating out Croatia for second place in Group A, Mexico lost to the Netherlands in the Round of 16. The Mexicans have been knocked out in the second round in all six World Cups since 1994 – no team has been knocked out at this stage as often as this.
WHAT’S IN A SONG?
Cameroon has been issued eight red cards at the World Cup. Alex Song earned one of them in Brazil. His uncle Rigobert earned two red cards, which means the Song family have claimed three of Cameroon’s eight red cards at the World Cup.
• Germany’s Sami Khedira is the 10th player to win the European Cup/Champions League and World Cup in the same season.
• There were more goals scored by substitutes at this World Cup (32) than in any previous tournament.
• Colombia’s Faryd Mondragón became the oldest player to ever play at a World Cup with his appearance vs. Japan (43 years and three days).
• Honduras has played more games without a win at the World Cup (three draws and six losses) than any other nation.
• Teams flew 280,000 kilometres across Brazil during the tournament, the equivalent of travelling seven times around the world.