Off the field, the 2014 World Cup will go down as one of the most controversial of all time. Rushed infrastructure projects, hugely inflated costs, missing billions and nationwide protests over the amount of cash spent by the Brazilian government have all been underlying themes of this tournament over the past month and beyond.
But the saving grace is that, on the field at least, Brazil 2014 will go down as perhaps the greatest World Cup of all time. More goals, fewer red cards, unpredictable results and hardly a refereeing controversy to speak of conspired to bring us one of the most surprising and nail-biting tournaments of all time.
The 64 matches spanning 32 days across 12 venues produced a massive 171 goals – the equal most ever scored at a World Cup alongside France 1998. There were only 10 red cards issues – the fewest since Mexico 1996 and seven fewer than four years ago in South Africa – as referees used greater discretion in ensuring the best players were available as often as possible.
Results were anything but predictable. Defending champions Spain lost their opener against the Netherlands 5-1 and didn’t even make it out of the group stages. Neither did 2006 champions Italy. Or Portugal. Or England.
Concerns over possible favoritism directed at host nation Brazil never materialized other than a dodgy penalty awarded in their opening game against Croatia. Although a tournament-ending injury to their star player Neymar in the quarter-finals proved a huge blow to all, no one could have predicted the 7-1 thrashing champions Germany would hand them in the semi-finals to destroy the hopes of a nation. It certainly added a phenomenal twist to an event which had produced plenty.
There was also plenty to fill the highlight reels for decades to come, with three goals standing out in-particular. The first was scored by minnows Australia against giants the Netherlands as a cross from wide on the right was hammered home on the volley by veteran Tim Cahill. The last was scored by the Brazilians with David Luiz producing a remarkable free kick from distance in the quarter-final win over Colombia.
And in between it was Colombian rising star James Rodriquez who came up with arguably the best goal of all when he turned and smashed in a cracker in their 2-0 win over Uruguay – who were missing their own talisman in Luis Suarez due to the bite that shook the world.
Rodriquez would go on to score six goals in the tournament to take out the prestigious Golden Boot award, while it was Argentina star Lionel Messi who was awarded the Golden Ball as best player of the tournament. While Messi easily outshone his long-time nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo for that award, he couldn’t quite add the World Cup trophy itself to his list of achievements despite leading Argentina all the way to the final, although it wasn’t for lack of trying.
In a fitting finale to the 2014 World Cup early this morning Macau time, Germany – who just happened to deal Ronaldo’s Portugal a lethal blow with a 4-0 thrashing in their tournament opener – prevailed 1-0 at the famous Maracana to lift their fourth World Cup trophy. A tense and thrilling final saw both sides produce multiple chances during a scoreless 90 minutes before 22-year-old Mario Gotze scored a brilliant winner in the second half of extra time.
An while Germany were deserved winners, we’ll also take this opportunity to give ourselves a little pat on the back after successfully tipping them to go all the way. In-fact, not only did we tip Germany to win in our special World Cup issue of WGM in May/Jun, we also named Argentina as our second pick – so if you followed our betting tips before the World Cup began no doubt you’ll be celebrating today as much as the Germans are!