The story of the 2014 World Cup, as related by Nick Harper...
Every day during the World Cup, El World Cup Diario has been striving to bring you the full flavour of the World Cup. Some of it was sweet, some of it was bitter, and some of it tasted like Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder. Consider the following a chronological smorgasbord – and if you want more, click the date to read the full El Diario entry.
DAY 1: Thu 12 Jun
Brazil 3-1 Croatia
Let's overlook the civil unrest and police brutality raging outside the Arena de Sao Paulo and focus purely on the fact that the first official day of the World Cup featured the traditional and sadly unavoidable Opening Ceremony. In its defence, it was respectfully short, clocking in at around 30 minutes, and with big dancing trees, men with drums, Ooompa Loompas, J-Lo and a giant, unexplained wooden phallus, it had something for everyone.
Straight after, Brazil wept during the national anthem and then came from behind to beat Croatia 3-1 thanks to a brace from Neymar, a Golden Globe-worthy performance from dying swan Fred and a few favours from the referee. "We should just give them [Brazil] the World Cup and everyone can go home," moped Vedran Corluka, suggesting something shady was afoot. And the tone was set.
DAY 2: Fri 13 Jun
Mexico 1-0 Cameroon, Spain 1-5 Netherlands, Chile 3-1 Australia
The big news on Day 2 was that Spanish football was officially dead, trampled into the ground by a rampant Holland, who survived an early storm to run out 5-1 winners. “Humiliated”, “ridiculed”, “destroyed”, cried the Spanish newspapers, in Spanish. Meanwhile, England prepared for their crucial Group D opening encounter with Italy by going to a shopping mall and buying stuff.
And Neymar posted a very smug selfie of himself on some social network, standing topless, draped in a supermodel and with a Superman motif on his mobile phone cover. But as El Diario said at the time: "Crow now, young man... but it's hard not to think there's a crushing blow in the post."
DAY 3: Sat 14 Jun
Colombia 3-0 Greece, Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica, England 1-2 Italy, Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan
The day England's World Cup campaign got off to a losing start, mugged in the jungle in the middle of the night by those sneaky Italians. In truth, there were more positives than negatives to be taken from the 2-1 defeat, most notably the emergence of Raheem Sterling as the new saviour of English football, which just about compensated for the loss of team physio Gary Lewin, who jiggered his ligaments celebrating England's goal and was sent home on a stretcher.
Also, the fact Uruguay were beaten by Costa Rica in the other Group D game meant all was not lost. England simply needed to beat hopeless Uruguay on Day 8, and then beat clueless Costa Rica on Day 13 and they would still progress. Simple. Excellent.
DAY 4: Sun 15 Jun
Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador, France 3-0 Honduras, Argentina 2-1 Bosnia
On the same day Ivory Coast beat Japan (in the tiny tiny hours) and Switzerland did for Ecuador, France announced themselves as being possible long-haul material by soundly thumping Honduras. Admittedly Honduras were the worst team witnessed so far at these finals, but the French dismantled them with admirable ease. Far less impressive: Argentina, who squeezed past World Cup debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina with a lacklustre display. Messi scored a wonder-goal to win it, but few were convinced.
DAY 5: Mon 16 Jun
Germany 4-0 Portugal, Iran 0-0 Nigeria, Ghana 1-2 USA
By the fifth day, we were all in agreement that this had been the finest World Cup finals in living memory, a claim backed up by the cold hard stats that showed THIRTY SEVEN! goals had rained down in the first 11 games, 19 more than in South Africa. But amid the warm fuzzy buzz we all had, things appeared to be turning slightly sinister.
The goals had begun to dry up – the fifth day brought the first goalless draw, between an Iran team who didn't seem to want to score and a Nigeria side who didn't know how to. The French were being spied on by an unmanned drone seen hovering low over their training session, sent in to gather footage and see if they'd started arguing with each other yet. And reeling from being robbed in their first group game, the Croatians were hit by another low blow when images of them relaxing stark-b*ll*ck naked by the pool appeared on some smutty website.
Elsewhere, Roy Hodgson stoked the flames ahead of England's crucial clash with Uruguay on Thursday by suggesting Luis Suarez may not be a great player. "You can be a great player in your league but to be recognised as one of the all-time greats you have got to do it at the World Cup," he chomped.
DAY 6: Tue 17 Jun
Belgium 2-1 Algeria, Brazil 0-0 Mexico, Russia 1-1 South Korea
The big news of the day was that Coleen Rooney was flying out to Brazil to lend moral support to her under-fire husband, whose lumpy performance against Italy had led to calls for his removal from the team. The really big news was that Coleen was travelling with 18 pieces of luggage, having packed for an extended stay in Brazil.
We all shared her confidence at that point but it was seeming likely that if England were to hoist the trophy on July 13, they'd probably need to beat Germany somewhere along the line. Jogi Löw's team had opened their campaign on Monday with a muscular 4-0 demolition of Portugal, for whom Pepe The Clown saw red and ruined the game. By contrast, on Tuesday Brazil and Mexico played out a lively 0-0 draw that only confirmed the hosts aren't very good.
DAY 7: Wed 18 Jun
Australia 2-3 Netherlands, Spain 0-2 Chile, Cameroon 0-4 Croatia
The big story of the day was the confirmation that Spanish football is dead. The champions' 2-0 loss to Chile, combined with Holland's woefully laboured 3-2 defeat of Australia, confirmed the champions' early exit. "I would never have believed that we could go out in the first phase," sniffed Vicente del Bosque.
The most entertaining match of the day, however, came in Cameroon's 4-0 trousering at the hands of Croatia. Four goals, the most ridiculous red card in history for Alex Song and Benoit Assou-Ekotto sticking the head on his team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo – this one had it all.
DAY 8: Thu 19 Jun
Colombia 2-1 Ivory Coast, Uruguay 2-1 England, Japan 0-0 Greece
Today, England lost again. Despite being no more than 12% fit, Luis Suarez scored twice to send England home. No need to dwell on this again, is there? Robin van Persie's granddad was pictured on the floor of his home, 'Persieing' – the tribute to his grandson's flying header against Spain that was supposedly virus-ing the planet. He's 93, you know.
Oh and late on today - perhaps during the awful Japan-Greece snoozer - someone did the math and announced that in fact, all was not quite lost for England, who could still progress if Italy won both of their remaining games and England beat Costa Rica! It was back on!!
DAY 9: Fri 20 Jun
Italy 0-1 Costa Rica, Switzerland 2-5 France, Honduras 1-2 Ecuador
It wasn't back on for long!! Despite Mario Balotelli being on a promise with the Queen if he inspired his team-mates to win, Costa Rica beat Italy, sending England and Coleen and all her luggage home on the first available flight, though they'd still have to play out their dead rubber with the plucky 'Ticos' in a few days' time.
Amid calls for his head, Roy Hodgson received a nice vote of confidence. "We do not see any value in changing," announced England chairman Greg Dyke. "We think Roy has done a good job and... we hope to do better in the European Championships." Vicente del Bosque received a better one. “From top to bottom in the federation we are all behind Del Bosque,” said Jorge Pérez, Spain’s director of football. “If we have the best coach around, why would we change?”
In actual football news, France picked up where they left off, beating Switzerland 5-2 to guarantee a Swiss Roll headline and suggest they might just be in this for the long haul. "Dizzying!" cried the front page of L'Equipe. It was also announced that Luis Suarez had signed for Barcelona for £52m or for Real Madrid for £68m. And Marouane Fellaini vowed to cut off his Afro if Belgium win the World Cup. "Am I sure?" he said. "Yes, absolutely. We have a deal."
DAY 10: Sat 21 Jun
Argentina 1-0 Iran, Germany 2-2 Ghana, Nigeria 1-0 Bosnia
Having witnessed Argentina play like England to narrowly defeat Iran, having narrowly defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina in their first game by also playing like England, El Diario was in the mood for wild speculation today. "There are now only two teams capable of lasting the distance: Germany and Germany's reserves," it wrote, dismissing the hopes of France, Chile, Holland and, oddly, Ghana, who hadn't actually had any hopes of winning it until El Diario dashed them.
Elsewhere, Diego Maradona claimed Costa Rica would be prevented from winning this World Cup because an unfashionable minnow wouldn't appeal to the sponsors. Fifty-three-year-old Miroslav Klose equalled Ronaldo's World Cup goalscoring record in Germany's very lively draw with Ghana. And supposed Anglophobe Sepp Blatter said. "I think England were unlucky. England looked like a good team." But he's 78, you know.
DAY 11: Sun 22 Jun
Belgium 1-0 Russia, South Korea 2-4 Algeria, USA 2-2 Portugal
More thoughts on England were offered on Day 11, although not before it was revealed that Cesc Fabregas had been asked to leave Spain's training session for being disruptive and so flounced off on a push-bike. "I think about all of the players – they only think about themselves," sniffed Del Bosque.
As for England, Wayne Rooney suggested they just aren't well versed enough in the dark arts to ever contend in World Cup finals, even though that doesn't appear to have stopped Germany, for example. And despite not being asked, Sven-Goran Eriksson offered his assessment of England's exit and the manager, Mr Roy Hodgson. "I know for sure, if that had been me, I would have been sacked at once," he sniped.
But the big news was that some England players don't like playing for England and will do all they can to avoid a call-up, said honest Harry Redknapp, who failed to name any names before driving off to let the headlines write themselves.
In the football, Portugal and USA shared four goals in the very late game, Belgium beat Fabio Capello's hopeless Russia and Algeria become the first African team to hit four in a World Cup match as they swept to a 4-2 win over South Korea.
DAY 12: Mon 23 Jun
Netherlands 2-0 Chile, Australia 0-3 Spain, Croatia 1-3 Mexico, Cameroon 1-4 Brazil
Day 12 was a tetchy, bad-tempered old affair. Chief Inspector Steve Gerrard demanded that Harry Redknapp name names in the great England Players Hate England rumpus. "Should Harry not name them? If it’s the case, it’s disgusting," seethed Gerrard, but Harry was long gone by now.
It was also announced that The President of Ghana's Football Association had been caught agreeing to fix games of football – for money! And Louis van Gaal accused FIFA of "playing tricks" with the tournament schedule to favour Brazil. "Those sorts of comments are either stupid or ill-intentioned," snapped Big Felipao. "I repeat: stupid or ill-intentioned."
And when the bleating finally finished, the last group games started. Holland beat Chile to finish top of Group B, then Brazil avoided Holland by beating Cameroon to finish top of Group A. Which solved that little problem.
DAY 13: Tue 24 Jun
Costa Rica 0-0 England, Italy 0-1 Uruguay, Greece 2-1 Ivory Coast, Japan 1-4 Colombia
Woop woop! England took a point from an under-strength Costa Rica. "I’m pleased to have given the fans something to cheer about," said a straight-faced and fist-pumpin' Roy Hodgson. In the other game in Group D, Diego Godin's header saw Uruguay go through at Italy's expense in a largely unremarkable and incident-free game.
The really big news on Day 13 was the revelation that Holland's surge to the knockout stages was the result of Louis van Gaal's lucky gold penis. "Maybe Louis does have a golden willy," said Arjen Robben, apropos of nothing.
Elsewhere, proof that this World Cup was – up to now – the best one ever came when even Greece showed some attacking ambition, beating Ivory Coast to the runner-up spot in Group C with a preposterously late and possibly nonsensical penalty.
Oh, hold on there was something else. Luis Suarez bit a man. But that's hardly news now, is it? And as Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said: "This is a football World Cup, not about morality."
DAY 14: Wed 25 Jun
Nigeria 2-3 Argentina, Bosnia 3-1 Iran, Honduras 0-3 Switzerland, Ecuador 0-0 France
Argentina won again; France didn't but still went through to the last 16; even Bosnia-Herzegovina finally beat somebody, Iran, although they still went home. But by now the world was obsessed with Luis Suarez's "crazy biting attack" and trying to make a story where there was no story. "Did you see it today or did you see what happened in other years?" asked his captain, Diego Lugano. "You couldn't have seen it today because nothing happened."
The whole world lined up to argue otherwise, with the most reasoned response coming from former England defender Danny Mills. "They've got to throw him in jail and lock him up forever," screamed the voice of reason, though a six-game ban seemed at that stage the more likely result.
DAY 15: Thu 26 Jun
USA 0-1 Germany, Portugal 2-1 Ghana, Algeria 1-1 Russia, South Korea 0-1 Belgium
Today, FIFA announced that something did actually happen with Suarez after all so fined him £66,000 and banned him for nine games and four months, the toughest World Cup suspension in the history of ever. He must have known the game was up when Bruce Springsteen got involved, 'The Boss' urging FIFA to throw the book at him. Elsewhere on a day of disgrace, Ghanaian midfielders Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng were suspended indefinitely by the Ghana Football Association for disciplinary reasons and sent home on the first available flight.
But in some good news, Cristiano Ronaldo finally scored a goal and Portugal finally won a game! But they still went out because Germany beat USA 1-0 to send them both through instead.
DAY 16: Fri 27 Jun
On the first day without football, the Suarez fallout continued with his grandmother finally, finally offering her view. "Everyone knows what they’ve done to Luis," sobbed granny. "They wanted him out of the World Cup. Perfect, they did it. They chucked him out of there like a dog. It’s barbaric what they’ve done to him. I’m his granny and I love my boy loads." Barbaric indeed.
DAY 17: Sat 28 Jun
Last 16: Brazil 1-1 Chile (3-2p), Colombia 2-0 Uruguay
And on and on it rolled. As the world learned Luis Suarez's defence ("I lost my balance... I hit my face against the player... I really did"), FIFA's secretary general urged the insane Uruguayan to seek urgent help. "He should go through a treatment," he suggested. "I don’t know if one exists but he should do something for himself because it is definitely wrong." And just because he thought he should, Diego Maradona took the opposite view to sanity and appeared on national television in a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Luis, we are with you". "FIFA cannot talk about morals to anyone," said that celebrated man of morals.
In football news, Colombia's James Rodriguez single-handedly knocked the Uruguayans out in the last 16, Brazil beat Chile on penalties and a Dutch aerospace engineering company offered to fly the Holland squad to the moon if they win the World Cup. Which was nice.
DAY 18: Sun 29 Jun
Netherlands 2-1 Mexico, Costa Rica 1-1 Greece (5-3p)
Much of the 18th day was spent listening to Big Felipao Scolario rage about conspiracy theories and a plot to deprive Brazil of its rightful place in the World Cup final. The on-penalties win over Chile had featured a disallowed goal and a waved-away penalty that got the big man in a bright red funk. Then came news that Neymar was struggling with an injury ahead of the Colombia quarter-final, having strained a thigh and split a few ends. "It was the most I have ever suffered," he said, not knowing yet the true meaning of the word.
Elsewhere, Team USA were beginning to Believe. "Jürgen [Klinsmann] has been nothing but positive," confirmed defender Omar Gonzalez. "He’s telling us, he’s telling our families to change our flights to July 14 or 15, because we’re going to be here until the very end.”
Mexico went out, cheated by Arjen Robben's heinous penalty-winning death dive in the final seconds, and Costa Rica beat Greece in a game we slept through.
DAY 19: Mon 30 Jun
France 2-0 Nigeria, Germany 2-1 Algeria
Then, unexpectedly, Luis Suarez said sorry. "I deeply regret what occurred. I apologise to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family," he grovelled as part of a pre-prepared statement in no way designed to engineer his move to Barcelona. "I vow to the public that there will never be another incident like this." Gullible imbecile Chiellini fell for it, tweeting back "It's all forgotten, I hope FIFA reduce your suspension."
Arjen Robben also apologised for diving, but not for the dive that led to the winning penalty. "That one was a penalty," he said, fooling nobody, not even himself.
And in the football, France and Germany snuffed out any African hopes, beating Nigeria and Algeria respectively, the latter mainly thanks to the sweeping skills of Manuel Neuer, who had 59 touches during the game, 21 of them outside the penalty area. Efficient.
DAY 20: Tue 1 Jul
Argentina 1-0 Switzerland, Belgium 2-1 USA
Argentina squeezed past Switzerland in one of the tournament's most turgid games – Lionel Messi setting up Angel di Maria's winner in the 118th minute – before perhaps the best game so far: Team USA net-guard Tim Howard made a World Cup-record 15 saves in the defeat to Belgium and was promoted to Secretary of Defense of the United States of America (on Wikipedia at least).
The big news, though, was that Fabio Capello was accused of being a thief by a Russian politician. “We need to look into his work and ask him to resign,” seethed Vladimir Zhirinovsky. “But he’s greedy, so of course he won’t. It’s pretty good to get [£6m a year] for doing nothing. The team lost and it doesn’t affect his pay in any way. Thief!"
DAY 21: Wed 2 Jul
On a day of rest, praise be for Diego Maradona. The argumentative little Argentine filled the big news void by offering Pele and Franz Beckenbauer outside for a fight. "Those two, who came out of the museum, come out and talk and say stupid things because they are two idiots," raged the little guy, after both had defended the Suarez ban.
"These two football personalities came out of the sarcophagus and they were told 'Come and talk, defend FIFA because if not this month you will not get paid… they did it most likely because the 'capo' sent them to try and stop the avalanche of injustice that the whole world is talking about." The capo? Sepp Blatter, obviously.
DAY 22: Thu 3 Jul
As tensions climbed ever higher for the hosts, Big Felipao Scolario revealed he had called a psychologist in to help his delicate players stop crying under the pressure of it all, and then told the world to "go to hell".
Former Nottingham Forest striker Pierre van Hooijdonk joined the debate over Arjen Robben's dives. “I was on a plane sitting next to a Mexican and he showed his friend a video of [Arjen] Robben and he was all like blah blah blah,” said Pierre, who possibly doesn't have a shorthand qualification. “I said: 'What's the problem?'. He said: 'Robben dived for the penalty'. I just told him to shut the f*ck up. Robben didn't dive for the penalty."
But, of course, he did.
And in other news, seven of the German squad came down with colds which threatened to derail their World Cup charge, ahead of the clash with France. "They just have throat aches," said Jogi Löw, dismissing those fears.
DAY 23: Fri 4 Jul
Quarter-finals: France 0-1 Germany, Brazil 2-1 Colombia
In the first quarter-final, Germany beat France in a game that bore no resemblance to their much-mentioned 1982 classic, a tedious 1-0 win that only woke up after 80 minutes. The bigger deal went down in Fortaleza, where Brazil pipped Colombia 2-1 in a pyrrhic victory. Having dealt with Colombia's threat by kicking several shades out of James Rodriguez, Brazil could hardly complain when Camilo Zuniga's knee accidentally-ish broke Neymar's back. It put the golden boy on a stretcher and out of the World Cup.
DAY 24: Sat 5 Jul
Argentina 1-0 Belgium, Netherlands 0-0 Costa Rica (4-3p)
With a rub of his magic golden penis, Louis van Gaal secured Holland's place in the semi-finals as brave, plucky, patronised Costa Rica were finally despatched. Twelve-foot-tall Tim Krul was the unexpected hero, replacing regular keeper Jasper Cillessen for the penalty shootout and making the crucial saves that took Holland through, but Van Gaal was the real hero, as Van Gaal knew. In the earlier quarter-final, Argentina scored early and ground out another dull victory over Belgium.
DAY 25: Sun 6 Jul
Another day of rest, but Brazil spent the time asking FIFA if they'd forget about Thiago Silva's yellow card against Colombia and let him play against Germany in Tuesday's semi-final. What did they know that we didn't yet, readers? FIFA shred their fax so Brazil would have to face the Germans with neither their captain nor Neymar, who was airlifted to hospital in a helicopter today. But it's not all doom and gloom. Fred – yes, really – rallied the nation by insisting: "We have to look at our group and realise that it still has a lot of quality." More on this later.
DAY 26: Mon 7 Jul
No games today, but the news was full of glowing obits for Alfredo Di Stéfano, the greatest player of all time – according to the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson. The Blond Arrow passed away aged 88.
The respectful silence was punctured by the sound of sobbing, as Neymar delivered his "I have a dream" speech. "My dream isn't over," he wailed, from the comfort of his big gold bed. "My dream was interrupted by a play but it continues. I’m certain that my team-mates will do everything possible so that my dream comes true." That dream? To win the World Cup and secure him a big gold medal, to wear round his neck like a Flavor Flav clock.
DAY 27: Tue 8 Jul
Semi-final: Brazil 1-7 Germany
Neymar's dream? Fred's quality? In the first of the semi-finals, the world witnessed an eight-goal thriller. It finished Brazil 1-7 Germany, despite the best efforts of a Brazilian witch doctor, who cast a spell that would bind the legs of Germany's star player. What the voodoo priest hadn't realised was that Germany had star players in every position, and that Brazil had David Luiz, Fernandinho and that man Fred. The dream was finally over.
DAY 28: Wed 9 Jul
Netherland 0-0 Argentina (2-4p)
In the second semi-final, a game destined to go to penalties from the moment they stepped off the bus, Argentina beat Holland. It was a game so heinous it deserves no further recap, so the bigger news on Day 28 was the reaction to The Death Of Brazilian Football, or perhaps the reaction to the reaction to The Death Of Brazilian Football. "Shame" cried one Brazilian front page. "Seleção suffers the greatest humiliation in 100 years of history" added another. The president urged the people to "shake off the dust" and rise again. The people were too busy burning Neymar's shirt and demanding Big Scolario's head on a stick to pay any attention.
DAY 29: Thu 10 Jul
Having witnessed his team bow out on penalties, thus depriving them all of a trip to the moon, Louis van Gaal was busy bemoaning the fact he couldn't find anyone man enough to take the first penalty in the shootout. "I asked two players to take the first [penalty] before ending up with [Roncrete] Vlaar," he explained, naming no names but pointing some fingers. By now, the world was looking ahead to the final on Sunday, until the attention was turned straight back to Brazil, where Neymar's agent unexpectedly labelled Big Felipao Scolario a repulsive "old jerk" – though obviously not to his face.
In other news Marouane Fellaini posted a photograph of himself with a new short back and sides, meaning the promise he made on Day 9 was but a bunch of BS.
DAY 30: Fri 11 Jul
The big news today wasn't that Neymar had dismissed his agent's comments on Big Felipao Scolario ("I don't agree with what he said"). It wasn't that Lionel Messi's dad had revealed his son is jiggered ahead of the final ("his legs weighed 100 kilos"). It wasn't even that Luis Suarez's move to Barcelona was almost sealed (he issued the predictable Heavy Heart, Love You Fans letter).
The big news was that Ray Whelan, the British ticket man who works for FIFA and who was apprehended earlier in the week on suspicion of selling millions of $$$ of tickets, well he's done a bunk and is now considered a fugitive. "He’s now considered a fugitive," confirmed a high-ranking Brazilian investigator.
DAY 31: Sat 12 Jul
Third-place play-off: Brazil 0-3 Netherlands
Just when it seemed it couldn't get much worse for Brazil, less than two minutes into the third-place wooden spoon exhibition with Holland, they were a goal down - Arjen Robben falling legitimately under the challenge of Thiago Silva, Robin van Persie scoring from the spot. We'd come full circle: as last man Silva should have been off, but the referee showed the same leniency as on Day 1 when Neymar was allowed to stay on despite using his elbow. Not that it made any difference: Holland coasted to a 3-0 win and Brazil limped off to lick their wounds.
And ahead of tomorrow's final, Sergio Aguero made a terrible threat. "We have to do the same work we've been doing since the start of the World Cup – be very well balanced in defence, not allow the opposition any spaces and play our game," he said. By that, he meant strangle the game to penalties. Oh dear.
DAY 32: Sun 13 Jul
Final: Germany 1-0 Argentina
And then there was one. After a final far more in the style of 1990 than 1986, the Germans finally overcame a game Argentina, who carved out the better chances but didn't get a single shot on target. Finally, late in extra-time, Mario Gotze's clever prod (technical term) sealed Germany's fourth gold World Cup star and made David Hasselhoff, among others, very happy indeed.