14 things you’ve probably forgotten about the 2014 World Cup
8. Robben’s crime and confession
“Everybody dives, but nobody admits to it – especially not in the World Cup,” explained Ruud van Nistelrooy. Arjen Robben had done just that throughout Holland’s last-16 tie with Mexico, treating Brazil’s ‘Big Castle’ stadium like a giant trampoline.
"I have to apologise. In the first half I took a dive,” the Dutch winger admitted afterwards. According to Mexico coach Miguel Herrera, Robben blatantly dived three times and should have been sent off in the first hour. Yet the winger wasn’t even cautioned – and with numerical parity, the Dutch scored a late equaliser through Wesley Sneijder, followed by an even later winner.
The deciding goal was a penalty; no prizes for guessing who controversially won it.
9. Wasted Rubles
Russia manager Fabio Capello, on an annual salary of $11.2m, earned twice as much as any other coach at Brazil 2014. In fact, the Italian was reportedly on three times as much as the man who masterminded Germany’s triumph, Jogi Low, and earned more in a week than Mexico boss Miguel Herrera pocketed in a year.
But his Russia side failed to win any of their three snooze-fests before exiting in the group stage. Mexico took seven points from Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon, and were then two minutes away from eliminating the Netherlands and reaching the quarter-finals.
10. Tim Howard can save anything
It’s not often that a goalkeeper concedes twice, ends up on the losing side and emerges as the man of the match. Tim Howard nonetheless did from a rip-roaring last-16 clash between the USA and Belgium. The American made a staggering 16 saves – a World Cup record – to get #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave trending globally.
Responses included the extinction of dinosaurs, the Titanic from sinking, Blockbuster videos from folding and Janet Jackson from being exposed during the Super Bowl. One jester changed the incumbent of the United States Secretary of Defense post on Wikipedia to a certain US goalkeeper. Even president Barack Obama called up Howard and Clint Dempsey post-tournament to congratulate them for their displays in Brazil. "He watched it with his family and his daughters so I’m going to say he is a fan," Howard recalled.
11. Quenchers and towels
Unprecedented cooling breaks were introduced in this tournament. Portugal vs USA, in the searing heat next to the Amazon rainforest, was the first to feature one – but because officials only added two minutes of first-half injury time despite a three-minute pause for refreshments and tennis-style towel-wipes, FIFA classified the next one (undertaken during Holland vs Mexico) as the first 'official' cooling break.
Dutch boss Louis van Gaal attributed his side’s dramatic, come-from-behind victory in that game to cooling breaks affording him the chance to dole out a few tactical masterstrokes. Very modest, Louis.
12. Grobbelaar 2.0
In the 121st minute of a goalless quarter-final between Holland and Costa Rica, World Cup history unfolded: Tim Krul became the first goalkeeper to be sent on solely for a shootout. The Dutch No.23 had saved just two of 20 penalties for Newcastle, but it was two more than first-choice keeper Jasper Cillessen (who had no idea of Van Gaal’s plot) had managed in his entire career.
For each of the five Costa Rican penalties, Krul approached the kicker and, going a step beyond Bruce Grobbelaar's leg-wobbling gamesmanship, used verbal intimidation. The referee twice had to usher the Dutchman back to his line. He then used physical intimidation, bouncing his 6ft 4in frame across the line.
It seemed to work. Krul, being booed by the Salvador crowd, dived the right way for all five spot-kicks he faced, saved two of them and put the Dutch in the semi-finals. There, despite a shootout looming once again, Van Gaal curiously used all three of his subs and Cillessen’s record was extended to 20 penalties faced, zero saved, as Argentina won.
13. Brazilian defenders are FIFA all-stars
Brazil conceded 10 goals in their last two games and 14 overall – five more than any other team. Naturally, David Luiz, Marcelo and Thiago Silva took up three of the four defenders’ positions in FIFA’s team of the tournament. Did FIFA manage to usurp Brazil’s display in that 7-1 loss to Germany in the shambles stakes?
14. Neuer rewrites the job description
Manuel Neuer did what the football dictionary generally terms ‘goalkeeping’ exceptionally well at Brazil 2014. He frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo, charged from his line for an exceptional sliding block on Islam Slimani, produced a stupefying one-handed stop from Mathieu Valbuena and exasperated Paulinho with a double save.
By the time the tournament had ended, however, the Gelsenkirchen native had rewritten the definition of his position courtesy of ball-playing that added an opponent-befuddling dimension to Germany’s game. Overall, Neuer completed 244 passes during the tournament – more than Lionel Messi (242), Wesley Sneijder (242), Thomas Muller (221), Arjen Robben (201) and Paul Pogba (197). Passmeister.