Spectacular humpings, lost marbles and strops aplenty: FourFourTwo's World Cup 2014 round-up

The FourFourTwo team – and a couple of friends – reveal their best, funniest and maddest moments from this summer's World Cup...

David Hall, editor

Best game
Ghana 2-2 Germany. A timely reality check for the Germans, and a cracking game to boot. This was a genuine ding-dong that epitomised a lot of what went on the group stages. It was a surprising result with many expecting the Ghanaians to get steamrolled, but with the unexpected being very much expected at this World Cup, the Africans traded blows with their opponents. It got me off the sofa more than a couple of times.

 
Best goal
Robin van Persie vs Spain. Day two of the World Cup and the first indicator that we could be in for a spectacular tournament. Not only did the grand old house of Spain get their arses handed to them, but Van Persie stepped up with this epic diving header. It was part incredible skill, part amazing athleticism, part utter lunacy as he threw himself at the looping ball ahead. I was sat in a pub run by a gaggle of rather uninterested, tattooed MOR staff… even they were applauding after that one went in.
 
Best moment
James Rodriguez’s goal vs Uruguay. I was lucky enough to be at the Maracana for this game. Rodriguez had an incredible match, and his first-half performance in particular was faultless, with his first goal the crowning glory. About five yards outside the box, he received the ball on his chest with his back to goal. In one movement, he made the ball drop as he swiveled, firing home a left-foot volley. It was a Matrix-style moment – the whole world stopped as James played on.
 
Funniest moment
Poor old Joe Fletcher, a Canadian assistant referee who found himself next to Iker Casillas in the tunnel prior to the Spain vs Chile match. There was a lot of handshaking going on and, as you would, he offered his hand when he thought a shake was coming his way. Sadly the handshake wasn’t reciprocated, but smooth as you like, Fletcher swung his hand up and pretended to smooth out his hair – doubly amusing as his barnet is virtually skull-cropped. The Fonz couldn’t have done it better. Casillas noticed the incident and the two shared a laugh – a funny and lovely World Cup moment.
 
Biggest surprise
Without a doubt, Team USA. I hold my hands up and say that we woefully underestimated their potential, predicting that a no goals, no points World Cup was genuine concern. Then Landon Donovan was dropped – the Yanks have all gone bloody mad, right? Wrong. This World Cup outing will improve the global view of US soccer ten-fold. Awesome.
 
Biggest disappointment
I arrived back in the UK after 10 days in Brazil full of the joys of all things World Cup and its host nation. Less than two days later, Germany were weaving a nation’s face into the canvas with a humping so spectacular that people uploaded it to Pornhub. I felt a bit sick. This wasn’t just the end of a nation’s dream – it was a calamity.
 
Lesson I've learned
Future World Cups have a bloody hard act to follow. Aside from the football itself, which was more often than not packed with drama, incident and some epic football, the host nation deserve much praise for creating an incredible vibe around the whole event. I’ll never forget trying to hail a cab in Rio an hour before Brazil vs Chile. One cabbie who stopped declined our fare saying (with excellent sign language): “That is too far. I go home now. I eat. I watch the football.” That’s Brazil.
 

The USA's rousing tournament began with a late win over Ghana

Hitesh Ratna, deputy editor

Best game
Belgium 2-1 USA, round of 16. For about two hours, every great American from Barack Obama to Hulk Hogan and everyone in between stopped to watch a soccer match. And while they may have been disappointed by the result, the game and the performance of their side was anything but a let down. This game had a bit of everything: a record-breaking goalkeeping performance by the new Secretary of Defence Tim Howard; a quick one-two from Belgium; a late fightback from the USA, and 56 chances on goal. Yes, 56. That's almost as many as a basketball match.
 
Best goal
Tim Cahill’s volley vs the Netherlands: a brilliant goal in its own right, made even better for being scored by Tim Cahill. When Messi curled one in from 25 yards against Iran, it was good but hardly surprising. It’s Messi. That's what he does. As for Robin van Persie’s gravity-defying header; well the Dutchman has made a career out of brilliant finishing. That was just his latest effort. James Rodriguez? Well, he's already a £40m player. Stunning strikes like his chest and volley against Uruguay come as standard at that price.
 
But when the ball looped in the direction of the former Everton midfielder, no one – NO ONE! – expected that. If the quality of a goal has an inverse relationship to the ability of the player (and I think it should) then that goal might not just be the best of this World Cup, but of all time.
 
Best moment
That should be moments, as these outbursts of delirium came every time Mexico scored and their manager Miguel Herrera 'lost his s***'. The best of his wild-eyed celebrations came during his side's win over Croatia, where Andres Guardado's goal was the cue for a jubilant roll-about with defender Paul Aguilar. How every goal should be celebrated.
 
Funniest moment
There was something brilliantly childish (hence hilarious) about the moment when Jogi Low palmed off one of his numerous boogers to Cristiano Ronaldo as the Real Madrid forward exited the pitch after Portugal's match with Germany. Snot big, snot clever, but it is funny.
 
Biggest surprise
Algeria. Credit must go to our Algerian correspondent Maher Mehazi, who predicted the Desert Warriors would spring a few surprises in our World Cup guide. In the office we weren't so sure. But he was right; Christian Gourcuff's side did well to emerge from their group – thanks largely to a gung-ho savaging of South Korea – and pushed eventual winners Germany to extra time in their round of 16 game. Not many people would have predicted that. 
 
Biggest disappointment
You can only be disappointed if you're expectant. Which is why England failing to get out of the group and Brazil's descent into humiliation via mediocrity weren't huge shocks (although no one saw that 7-1 score line coming). My biggest gripe comes away from the pitch and in the punditry arena where, Rio Ferdinand aside, the general standard was more Sunday League than World Cup. The recurring question to no one in particular was: I wonder what Gary Neville thinks of this game/goal/pass/tackle?
 
Lesson I've learned
Never bet against the Germans. Ever.
 

Algeria's destruction of South Korea was mightily impressive

Gary Parkinson, FFT.com editor

Best game
The big batterings for the champions and hosts were the tournament's major news, but hammerings make headlines rather than good games. The best battle was Belgium vs USA, in which the protagonists traded 56 – fifty­-six! – attempts on goal. More than half were Belgian, making a meme out of Tim Howard, but the Americans had more possession and passing, constantly carrying a threat with the undying belief of evangelists. More folks back home watched that game ­– an afternoon kick-­off back home – than either the World Series or the NBA Finals, both in primetime.
 
Best goal
Hamez's take­-and-­twonk was memorable, Schurrle's Brazil­-killer instinctive, but for doing the unthinkable it has to be Van Persie's header against Spain. Talking about thinking outside the box: try building a computer able to assess the trajectory of the falling punt, ascertain the whereabouts of a target while facing in the opposite direction and then twist to propel the ball past a moving shot-stopper. Not many things make a jaded journo involuntarily say "wow". This did.
 
Best moment
The winning goal in the final. Partly because it meant the sport's greatest fixture would (probably) avoid the messy denouement of a penalty shootout. Partly because said shootout would be a ugly thing to cover journalistically: a tournament truncated to a trite tweet. Partly because it meant that the best team would win, as opposed to merely the most functional of this tournament's one­-man teams ­– co-dependent collectives who have thrived by relying on one man's input. But mainly because your correspondent, for reasons which needn't be explained here, was entirely surrounded by very pleasant Germans, three­-fifths of whom hadn't been born last time their country won the cup.
 
Funniest moment
When David Luiz lost his ability and marbles. Tormented by Thomas Muller, he tried to do that thing all defenders have done or at least thought, where you clatter through the ball and take the man with the follow­up. Typically, he missed both, swinging wildly six inches short of the ball and a bemused Muller.
 
Biggest surprise
Not all surprises are pleasant, and it was interesting to note the Twitter reaction when Luis Suarez did that thing again: a moment or two of disbelief, checking and awaiting replays, then a parade of tirades and amazement. Pity it dragged on thereafter but the tournament soon reasserted itself, and the player was off these shores in mercifully short order.
 
Biggest disappointment
The punditry. The backroom staff were excellent, the pre-prepared packages interesting, the presentation never less than thoughtful, but the "experts" were all too often dullards with nothing but the screamingly obvious to say. Both broadcasters experimented with new blood, to mixed results; they both need to clear deadwood and seek media-­savvy, intelligent newcomers who are delighted to get an ideal job.
 
Lesson I've learned
Even after a decade in the job, and even on precious little sleep, it's still an enormous privilege to be paid to watch football for FourFourTwo.
 

Gotze provides a fitting end to the final in Rio

James Maw, online features editor

Best game
Without wanting to come across all hipster, Algeria's 4-2 win over South Korea was as open and entertaining a match as we saw all month. The pace and precision of Algeria's attacking play was at times breathtaking and it was impossible not to smile at the wild-eyed celebrations of their fans.
 
Best goal
Obviously James Rodriguez against Uruguay, but Tim Cahill's dipping volley against the Netherlands deserves to be fondly remembered too.
 
Best moment
On a personal level, watching Lionel Messi score in the Maracana against Bosnia on the opening weekend. It was an iconic moment that would perhaps have had more resonance had he and his Argentine chums completed the job on the same pitch four weeks later. Celebrating an England goal on Copacabana beach comes a close second.
 
Funniest moment
The moment of embarrassed realisation that followed Gonzalo Higuain's prolonged celebration after 'scoring' in the final. This was done despite the Argentina forward looking across at the linesman, who had clearly flagged for offside.
 
Biggest surprise
The meek way with which Spain slipped out of the competition in their 2-0 defeat to Chile. The fight seemed to have gone from one of the truly great teams of the modern era.
 
Biggest disappointment
It was a shame not to see Croatia make much impact. With Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and young Mateo Kovacic in midfield, not to mention Mario Mandzukic up top, they had potential to be the dark horse of dark horses. In the end they only managed to beat Cameroon, which, let's face it, barely counts.
 
Lesson I've learned
That Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising will be the new Sloop John B (i.e. bastardised at football grounds up and down the UK until we're all sick of it).
 

Messi dazzled in the group stage, but struggled from there

Gregg Davies, online news editor

Best game
Spain 1-5 Netherlands; a game which was seemingly going to script  – the holders ambling to an interval lead – only to be completely turned on its head by some devastating counter-attacks and equally hapless defending. Suddenly a Dutch side that wasn’t even expected to get out of the group were ‘contenders’ while the champs knew a tough Chile test, and potential, unthinkable, early elimination awaited.
 
Best goal
Robin van Persie’s header in the same game; crucial in its timing – shortly before half time to equalise, after David Silva had missed a great chance to double Spain’s advantage – and sublime in its unusual execution.
 
Best moment
Them ruddy Dutchies again, and Louis van Gaal’s ‘genius’ introduction of Tim Krul for the quarter-final shootout against Costa Rica. A pity it couldn’t be repeated in the semis; it wasn’t too hard to see why Jasper Cillessen is yet to save a penalty in his professional career, letting Maxi Rodriguez’s winner squeeze through.
 
Funniest moment
Igor Akinfeev’s chocolate fingers moment in Russia’s opener against South Korea. No doubt Rob Green had a chuckle, as did most England fans at seeing Fabio Capello come a cropper because of another goalkeeper gaffe.
 
Biggest surprise
Hard to look beyond ‘little’ Costa Rica. Expected to be the whipping boys in a group containing three former World Cup winners, the Ticos made a mockery of such a tag and topped the group, dismantling Uruguay and Italy with some expert crossing, defiant defending and organisation. A couple of spot-kicks away from the semis.
 
Biggest disappointment
The speed of England’s exit, and the naivety of the defending which caused it. Poorer performances from the Three Lions have been good enough to reach the knockout stages in the past two World Cups. The manner of Brazil’s six-minute dismantling by Germany was hilarious for a few moments, before the reality of its bubble-bursting repercussions on the tournament and its jovial atmosphere set in.
 
Lesson I’ve learned
Sleep for longer. Evidently it does benefit you once in a while.
 

A Dutchman, flying

Joe Brewin, staff writer

Best game
Brazil-Germany was a stupid and ridiculous match that nobody will forget (unless you’re FFT’s Andy Murray, who went shopping during the first half), but in terms of two-sided affairs I thoroughly enjoyed USA vs Portugal in the group stage; both sides dropping leads, a beauty from Jermaine Jones and C-Ron producing his only glorious moment of the tournament in the last minute. If you were still awake to see it all. 
 
Best goal
Originally I'd have been inclined to say James Rodriguez's beautiful chest and volley, but Robin van Persie's header in the Netherlands' demolition of Spain was incredible – arguably a much harder skill to execute. Truly good aerial ability isn't part of most strikers' repertoires, but the Manchester United man has got it. Even Louis van Gaal got excited about it. 
 
Best moment
Sorry, Sepp. Your tournament is great and everything, but Luis Suarez being mental and biting Giorgio Chiellini is too interesting to ignore. The fallout was amusing, Suarez got his comeuppance, and then his lucrative move from Liverpool to Barcelona. Wait, something’s wrong there…
 
Funniest moment
You shouldn’t laugh really, but physio Gary Lewin doing in his ankle celebrating one of England’s two goals at this World Cup was worth a chuckle. Alanis Morissette take note: that’s actually ironic.  
 
Biggest surprise
Costa Rica, you plucky blighters. People have been quick to dredge up FFT’s pre-tournament predictions of humiliation, but come on – who knew? Winning Group D was incredible, not least after coming from behind to beat Uruguay in the first game, but they ended within a penalty shootout of the semi-finals. Which is silly. 
 
Biggest disappointment
England ruining everything after two games. Not hearing Chile’s national anthem more often. Ronaldo playing half-fit and being sulky. Argentina stumbling through every game to the final, followed by wee Messi winning the Golden Ball quite ludicrously.   
 
Lesson I've learned
Neymar’s presence is draining. When he’s on the pitch you’re not allowed to forget it, on Brazilian television you can’t see an advert without him (unless you see the one where Maradona is a chair), when he gets injured people think he’s dead, he cries at opportune moments, and his agent is an arse. Brazil would be better off by not indulging in his status so much. 
 

Is there an onion around here?

Jonathan Fadugba, staff writer

Best game
I thought Brazil vs Chile was a breathtaking game. It had everything: intensity, tempo, two teams on equally compelling journeys, two belting national anthems and rival fans on edge, all played out in a wonderful stadium with no clear favourite (despite Brazil being on home soil). Chile went very, very close to ending Brazil’s party there and then – as Mauricio Pinilla’s hastily constructed crossbar tattoo bears witness – and in hindsight it would have saved Brazil from the ignominies to come. As it turned out, this was the beginning of Brazil’s unravelling. The emotional energy expended on this game (Julio Cesar crying before and after the penalty shootout, Neymar in tears, Thiago Silva criticised by his manager for not taking a penalty) showed clear signs that Brazil were on an emotional precipice, slowly starting to crack under the weight of the pressure of a 64-year wrong to right. It was an early warning sign. As for Chile, had they been on the other side of the draw I think they could have gone all the way. 
 
Best goal
Has to be King James – James Rodriguez’s turn and volley for Colombia againt Uruguay shot him to the pantheon of international superstars. Arjen Robben’s second goal against Spain was also exceptional, a nail in the coffin of both Spain’s reign and Iker Casillas’s outstanding career.
 
Best moment
Perhaps not the best in terms of enjoyment but Brazil 1-7 Germany has to go down as the most memorable. The beginning of the end of what Brazil represents to the football world? Could be. Only the future can answer that, but what isn’t in doubt is that the game dubbed the Mineirazo will go down in history.
 
Funniest moment
Costa Rica’s jubilant dancing after out-Italying Italy to qualify to the knockout stages for the first time courtesy of their stern defensive solidity and quite brilliantly drilled offside trap. Mats Hummels’ girlfriend straddling him on the pitch as he lay there exhausted after the World Cup final was funny too. She just couldn’t wait. Being world champion is clearly a powerful aphrodisiac.
 
Biggest surprise
Spain going out the way they did. Marca’s iconic front page the day after elimination was confirmed thanks to a 2-0 defeat to Chile in the Maracana said it all: ‘The End’.
 
Biggest disappointment
Not going to Brazil. On the pitch Japan, Portugal and Italy were letdowns.
 
Lesson I've learned
Nobody likes a diver but, quietly, gamesmanship pays. Teams who don’t exaggerate challenges and harangue the ref rarely get the rewards their honesty deserves – see Nigeria vs France and Germany’s altogether different approach to the ref vs France for clear examples. 
 

Aim... FIRE!

Michael Cox, Zonal Marking

Best game
‘The 7-1’ was over after half an hour, and Spain’s 5-1 defeat to the Dutch was, in my opinion, a huge exaggeration of the difference in quality. I thought Chile’s 2-0 win over Spain was actually an even more impressive team performance – they pressed the life out of Spain, threw men forward into attack, and eliminated arguably the most successful side in international history remarkably convincingly. With Chile two goals up midway through the second half, one Chilean full-back motored forward, dragged a cross-shot across the box, and the other full-back popped up and nearly turned the ball into the net. Few teams, at any level, show that commitment to attack.
 
Best goal
The best goal is James Rodriguez's. However, on the basis everyone will say that, I absolutely loved Asamoah Gyan’s goal against Portugal, because the outside-of-the-boot assist from Kwadwo Asamoah is one of the best crosses I’ve ever seen. Also, Mathieu Valbuena’s goal against Switzerland was a tap-in, but at the end of a classic, lightning-fast break from a Switzerland corner: the best counter-attacking goal of the tournament.
 
Best moment
Georgios Samaras is sometimes fairly useless, but his performance in the 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on the final day of Group C was absolutely magnificent – his touch and link play was sublime, the type of thing supposedly only Dimitar Berbatov does. He hadn’t scored for over two years for his country, though, so I held my breath when he stepped up for the last-minute penalty that took Greece through and put the Ivorians out. It took fantastic nerve, and was a fitting way for the game to end.
 
Funniest moment
There was a Cameroon substitute – I’m not even sure who it was – sitting next to the injured Samuel Eto’o in the second group game. As the camera (and big screen) flashed to a shot of a miserable-looking Eto’o, this unused substitute saw himself on TV and looked absolutely delighted his picture was being beamed around the world, despite the fact Cameron were getting absolutely thrashed by Croatia. Then he suddenly realised he needed to appear professional, and quickly pretended to focus on the game…while sneakily looking at the big screen out of the corner of his eye. These players aren’t all superstars – some of them are simply happy their mum will see them on TV.
 
Biggest surprise
I thought Costa Rica had the least chance of qualifying from their group – not because they were a bad side, but because it was such a tough group. In the end they only fell short of the semi-finals because of penalties, an incredible achievement.
 
Biggest disappointment
England being eliminated within a week and Cristiano Ronaldo – one of the greatest individuals of all time – not being 100% fit. Also, the suspicion that this might be as good as international football gets – the expansion of the European Championship will dilute the quality, the next World Cup hosts simply don’t seem as sexy as Brazil, and players will increasingly focus their efforts on club sides over the next couple of decades.
 
Lesson I’ve learned
In the World Cup, there genuinely aren’t any easy games. Iran, Algeria, Australia and Costa Rica were expected to be pushovers but put up a great fight. Only Cameroon and Honduras were close to hopeless. You don’t get a Saudi Arabia 2002 these days – every side has to fight in every game.
 

Gorgeous Georgios sends the Greeks wild

Mauricio Savarese, our man in Brazil

Best game
Germany 2-2 Ghana. The Germans have traditionally had difficulties playing African sides, but no one expected to see that after they destroyed Portugal 4-0. That one match could have changed the whole tournament: had Ghana seized the opportunity to make it 3-1, Germany could even have gone out at the group stage. Loads of goals, tension, a dark horse really going at one of the favourites: all you need for in a great World Cup match.
 
Best goal
It has to be Robin van Persie. See? I don't even have to describe it. It is a meme, a badge, a sticker, a shirt. Not only it was scored against then-World Cup champions Spain but it was also unlikely from the moment it began. Crossing the ball that high into the penalty box didn't make sense to anyone in Arena Fonte Nova. Jumping to head the ball upwards was even less obvious. If there is one goal for which this great World Cup will be forever remembered, it has to be this one. Tim Cahill and James Rodriguez scored great goals, but we will definitely see some similar in the Premier League this year. No idea when we will see "a Van Persie" again. 
 
Best moment
Cillessen out, Krul in. Of course, we know all about it now. But when Louis van Gaal made that decision at the end of extra time in Netherlands' quarter-final against Costa Rica, everyone thought he was a maniac. Substituting the keeper seconds before a penalty shootout was a one-off, mainly because the Newcastle stopper saved two penalties in the end. A match that the Dutch deserved to lose became the clearest example of the genius of the man who will manage Manchester United. Too bad he couldn't repeat it against Argentina in the semi-final.
 
Funniest moment
Any goal celebration by Colombia's Pablo Armero. Brazilians already knew him from his dancing times at Palmeiras. But this left-back showed in most celebrations that he deserves to be in a Shakira video clip. His hips don't lie.
 
Biggest surprise
7-1. The second biggest surprise is 7-1. And it's the third too. It's Brazil's biggest defeat ever. In a World Cup semi-final they were playing at home. Of course, the Germans were favourites – but not to give the hosts such a hammering. It was so surprising that locals at the Mineirão stadium actually started laughing when the fourth goal was scored. It wasn't because it was funny, it was like seeing an uncle surprise everyone with something very embarrassing at your wedding. Shocker.
 
Biggest disappointment
It has to be Spain. Although Brazil did terribly in their last two matches, the defending champions didn't even get through the group stage. Hammered by the Netherlands 5-1 in their debut; in the match against Chile, tiki-taka was buried with Xavi going to the bench – and it made no difference. Diego Costa didn't even score, despite all the fuss around him. The excuse of "we weren't that focused" that the Spanish used after losing the Confederations Cup final is no more.
 
Lesson I've learned
Score more goals. Defending is not enough, and the idea that you can tiki-taka the opposition until you score is no more. The 2006 World Cup crowned Italian defence and defending midfielders that could pass; the 2010 World Cup showed low-scoring teams who keep possession can win. This time, it's all about goalscoring. Of course there will still be room for catenaccio. But the top teams, the ones most in touch with our time, move their teams forward. Two, three, four or even five strikers in the penalty box were not a rare sight in Brazil. A good trend for those who want to see more changes in the scoreboard in international football.


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