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Brazil 2014 - a World Cup to cherish

17 December 2014, 17:27

Paris - The 2014 World Cup was a captivating carnival of football, rated by many as the best yet, with high drama on and off the pitch, and, in Germany, champions worthy of the name.

Despite a stressful build-up, Brazil put on an $11 billion show to remember.

From Rio's iconic Maracana to the steamy Amazon Forest setting of Manaus, football fans were treated to a month-long diet of mainly breathless, intoxicating action.

Also read: Adidas to continue NFF partnership

It was a timely antidote to the ever-present whiff of scandal swirling around the game's rulers.

European powerhouses Germany had already left their imprint on the tournament with that still hard to fathom 7-1 dissection of Brazil in Belo Horizonte to reach the final.

Germany's sinking of the Selecao raised sky-high expectations back in Berlin of a fourth world title, but, standing in the way of captain Philipp Lahm and his men, were Brazil's arch enemies, Lionel Messi's Argentina.

Argentina reached the final with a penalty shoot-out win over Louis van Gaal's Netherlands after a tense goalless game - the polar opposite in terms of entertainment to the magical madness served up by the Mannschaft 24 hours earlier.

A huge global audience tuned in on July 13 as Messi fixed his sights on a World Cup coronation to emulate Diego Maradona, and Germany chased its place in history as the first team from Europe to win a World Cup in the Americas.

From top to bottom, the German spine exuded quality: Manuel Neuer unbeatable in goal, Mats Hummels silky and solid in defence, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira formidable in midfield, allowing the likes of Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil to flourish.

Thomas Mueller proved a deadly goalscoring threat with five goals -- while the 36-year-old Miroslav Klose chipped in with two to become the World Cup's all-time leading scorer with a 16-goal haul.

In the final, Klose made way for Mario Goetze with two minutes of normal time remaining and the sides goalless.

Dream come true

With penalties looming, the baby-faced 22-year-old's chest and volley on 113 minutes proved a fitting match winner, the tournament's record-equalling 171st goal.

"It's a dream come true to win the World Cup, especially in Brazil," said 'Super Mario'.

Social media ran amok. Twitter reported a record number of tweets a minute -- 618,725 -- as the final whistle went. Facebook had 280 million interactions.

As Goetze and Germany basked in their first title for 24 years, and first as a unified nation, the mood elsewhere was not quite so electric.

Spain had swaggered into town as defending champions, but endured a nightmare defence as Vicente del Bosque's boys were swept aside by the Dutch and Chile.

If Spain were disappointing, England were dismal, suffering their earliest World Cup exit for 56 years.

Defeats to Italy, who also failed to extricate themselves from the first round, Uruguay, and a goalless draw with Costa Rica, did it for Roy Hodgson's side.

Then there was Brazil.

The nation, already shook up after talismanic striker Neymar suffered a fractured vertebrae against Colombia in the quarter-finals, shed tears liberally after the German humiliation.

"We will have difficult days for the rest of our lives," said Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was, inevitably, fired.

Each World Cup produces its stars, one from 2014 was undoubtedly James Rodriguez, Colombia's six goal hero and author of the sensational dipping volley against Uruguay in the last 16.

There are no prizes for identifying the tournament's villain.

Missing from the Uruguayan line-up against Colombia was Luis Suarez, sent home in disgrace after nibbling between meals on Italy's Giorgio Chiellini.

Suarez came out of the sorry affair smelling of euros, a lot of them, after his mega-bucks move from Liverpool to Barcelona.

Money, or lack of it, helped trigger an implosion in Ghana's campaign, with a players' protest over unpaid bonuses only averted when their government airlifted $3 million in cash from Accra.

In general, African teams disappointed, with Algeria and Nigeria bowing out in the first knockout round after Ghana were joined by Cameroon and Ivory Coast as group stage casualties.

Messi ended up as Player of the tournament, James as top scorer, Neuer as best goalkeeper and France's Paul Pogba receiving the Young Player award.

All in all, the beautiful game blossomed in Brazil - Russia 2018 will have a hard job matching it.



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