For all the headlines, talking points, twists and turns, the 2014 World Cup has witnessed some of the most jaw-dropping upsets and intriguing incidents that had fans gasping for breath leading up to the final. Here's a compilation of events that has made this edition an unforgettable one….
BRAZIL, BAD AND BEATEN
In what could be described as the biggest shocker in World Cup history, five-time champions and hosts Brazil were routed 1-7 by Germany in the semi-final at Belo Horinzonte. It was Brazil’s worst defeat in international soccer since 1920 and came as a bolt from the blue for the entire soccer fraternity. The hosts were looking to make the final at the start, but the euphoria soon turned to tears as the Germans scored five goals in the first 30 minutes — four of them in a seven-minute span that destroyed the Brazilian defence.
NEYMAR’S FRACTURED DREAMS
The injury to Brazilian striker Neymar on the eve of the semi-final against Germany was perhaps the biggest blow to Brazilian dream of winning the World Cup on home turf. The poster boy of Brazilian soccer suffered the injury in the quarter-final against Colombia when defender Zuniga kneed him in the back. It sent the hosts to a kind of national mourning and the Neymar-less Brazil suffered a humiliating 1-7 defeat against Germany. Though Fifa did not take any disciplinary action against Zuniga, he apologised for the foul.
SUAREZ AND THE BITING BUG
In one of the worst controversies ever in the World Cup, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez was suspended for nine matches and banned for four months “from any football activity” by Fifa for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Italy. He was also fined £65,700 for the incident. It is the harshest penalty in World Cup history. Suarez became the biggest topic of discussion in the social media and was labelled as the “serial biter”.
TIKI-TAKA, PASSES TO PASSE
After dominating world football since 2008, Vincente del Bosque’s Spain made an early exit from the World Cup after suffering two back-to-back defeats, including a 1-5 rout against the Netherlands. It was regarded as the end of an era for the Spanish tiki-taka style that had left the soccer world mesmerised with their possession football. So much was the influence of the 2010 champions on their country’s soccer fans that when the team captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas said sorry for the early exit, one newspaper editorial said: “Don’t be, you have given us so much… it was lovely while it lasted.”
ROBBEN’S DIVING LICENSE
With just seconds remaining in Mexico’s last 16-clash with the Netherlands, veteran defender Rafael Marquez launched into a clumsy tackle on Dutch winger Arjen Robben. As Robben shimmied away from the centre-half, the Dutchman plummeted to the floor with his arms aloft and referee Pedro Proenca was so convinced by his theatrics that he pointed to the spot. While the penalty sealed the fate of the gallant Mexicans, Robben was widely accused of cheating.
KLOSE’S GOAL: ONLY GOALS
Miroslav Klose made World Cup history after becoming the competition’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 16 strikes. The 36-year-old had already pulled level with Brazilian legend Ronaldo’s haul of 15 when he scored in the 71st minute of Germany’s clash with Ghana. The first player ever to appear in four World Cup semi-finals, Klose then went on to do one better in Belo Horizonte by scoring against Brazil in historic 7-1 triumph.
RED CARD TO CAMEROON
Not only had Cameroon’s performance been woeful, their general demeanour had been embarrassing. Alex Song’s elbow chop on Mario Mandzukic, which earned him a red card in the 0-4 loss against Croatia, was downright foolish and unprofessional.
He, however, later apologised and said he had let his country down. But the most shocking incident came when Benoit Assou-Ekotto head-butted his teammate Benjamin Moukandjo in a blind rage after the latter refused to pass the ball. The incident almost continued in the tunnel before injured striker Samuel Eto’, who watched the match from the sidelines, stepped in two separate the two.
PEPE HEADS FOR TROUBLE
Regarded one of the favourites on the eve of the tournament Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal not only made an early exit but were also disgraced after their defender Pepe head-butted German striker Thomas Mueller in the 0-4 defeat. The Real Madrid defender was red carded and fined 12,300 Euros and suspended for one match for the incident. Pepe’s arm caught Mueller during the group league match and the German fell to the ground grimacing. Pepe, infuriated at what he considered Mueller’s play-acting, then pushed his head onto the German’s forehead and was shown the red card.
BEND IT LIKE MESSI
Lionel Messi scoring from a free-kick is nothing new for soccer fans across the world but the one against Nigeria once again emphasised why he is regarded as the world’s undisputed No.1 player. Messi saw one free-kick pushed away from the top corner but when he got the chance to take it again two minutes later, he could not be stopped. It was softer this time, curling away into the corner. Nigeria goalkeeper Enyeama ran towards the ball but stopped en route. It had already landed in the net.
KRUL’S TOUCH SAVES DUTCH
When the Netherlands ended Costa Rica’s amazing run in the World Cup quarter-final, it was Dutch coach Louis van Gaal’s master-storke that brought the downfall of the South American side. No one in World Cup history had tried Van Gaal’s move: bringing on a goalkeeper specifically for the shootout. The decision turned out to be an inspired one, with substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul becoming the hero by saving two Costa Rica penalties and helping his team secure a semi-final spot.
THE NAME’S JAMES
James Rodriguez’s wonder-goal for Colombia against Uruguay was a memorable strike. It was one of the finest goals seen at a World Cup, the perfect combination of audacity and breath-taking technique. Glancing over his shoulder to check the positioning of Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, the Monaco star cushioned the ball expertly on his chest and, in one smooth, elegant movement, dispatched an immaculate volley that crashed in off the bar.
FOUL BY THE REFEREE?
Hosts Brazil opened their World Cup campaign with a controversial 3-1 victory over Croatia, thanks to a dubious penalty decision by Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura. It was the first of a series of poor supervising decision in the 2014 World Cup and received severe criticism from the Croatian coach Niko Kovac. If that was a penalty, Kovac said, everyone should play basketball instead of football.