Four years is an awfully long time in football, and while certain events from the 20th edition of the World Cup remain etched in our memories – Germany’s 7-1 crushing of hosts Brazil is the most obvious– it’s only natural that other things have slipped out of our brains. In this slideshow, we pick out 14 things you’ve probably forgotten about the 2014 World Cup…
1. Spain were smashing the Netherlands
After Xabi Alonso put the holders 1-0 up, Diego Costa wasted a couple of presentable openings to double Spain’s lead. Andres Iniesta also came close, while David Silva tried to square the ball instead of slotting home an easy chance.
Then, after Holland had received their second booking, Iniesta’s no-look pass sent Silva clean through. The Manchester City schemer could have slid it home or slipped Costa in for an open goal; instead, he attempted a chip which failed to find the net.
Within 90 seconds, Robin van Persie had equalised with a remarkable diving header. Only one team came out for the second half as Spain, so dominant in the first, were trounced 5-1.
2. Pride-free Lions brawl by the jungle
Alex Song had already earned the Song family its third World Cup red card for an elbow on Croatia's Mario Mandzukic that Macho Man Randy Savage would have been proud of. Cameroon were already 4-0 down in injury time in this group game. It couldn’t get much worse for the Indomitable Lions, could it?
Oh, yes it could. Benoit Assou-Ekotto headbutted team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo, before Pierre Webo got between his fellow Lions. The brawlers began round two in the tunnel before Samuel Eto’o intervened.
3. Revenge for Rene
Roger Milla famously undid a Colombian keeper in Rene Higuita at the 1990 World Cup, but the hip-wiggling Cameroonian was overtaken by one in Brazil. Faryd Mondragon, at 43 years and three days, came on against Japan to replace Milla as the oldest player in World Cup history (at least until Egypt’s 45-year-old shot-stopper Essam El-Hadary knocks him off top spot this summer).
Mondragon, of Lebanese ancestry, also broke a 64-year-old record for the longest span between appearances in the competition (16 years).
4. Bite leads to a breakthrough
Italy required only a point, while Uruguay needed the full three to escape Group D with Costa Rica. With the game still scoreless with 11 minutes left on the clock, Luis Suarez made Giorgio Chiellini his third career bite victim after Otman Bakkal and Branislav Ivanovic.
When Chiellini returned to his feet, he yanked his shirt down to reveal the bite marks on his shoulder, but the referee waved play on. Less than a minute after the Italian players pleaded incredulously with the official, Uruguay won a corner from which Diego Godin headed home the winning goal.
5. Tears and beers
English fans booked cross-Atlantic trips to Brazil in their droves, but the Three Lions were out before some of them even got there. England crumbled out after just two games, falling at the first hurdle for the first time since 1958, while their solitary point was their worst-ever return from a World Cup group stage.
Brazilian bar staff were nevertheless tickled and impressed that English supporters would order litre bottles of lager – designed to share – per person. Well, they did have considerable sorrows to drown.
6. Behrami survives knockdown to help land knockout
Valon Behrami endured a forgettable Germany 2006, and an even worse South Africa 2010. In Switzerland’s opener against Ecuador in 2014, with the game poised at 1-1 after 93 minutes, the Yugoslavia-born midfielder ran the risk of conceding a penalty when he went to ground – but his tackle was perfectly timed to deny los Amarillos.
The bleach-blond Behrami then leapt to his feet and charged upfield, only to be bulldozed to the ground in midfield. Following a couple of forward rolls, Behrami – remarkably and refreshingly – leapt to his feet again and fed the ball out wide. Just 19 seconds after the midfielder’s last-ditch tackle, Haris Seferovic had snatched victory for the Swiss.
7. Mount Navas
Two things were taken for granted of Costa Rica: they’d fall at the first hurdle and leak goals in a tough group containing three former world champions.
In reality, Los Ticos conceded just two goals in eight-and-a-half hours of action and only missed out on a semi-final spot due to a penalty shootout loss against Holland. The chief reason for their success? Keylor Navas. He was exceptional throughout, winning three man-of-the-match awards and leaving Brazil with a tournament-high 91% save percentage.
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 the Netherlands’ last-16 tie with Mexico, treating Brazil’s ‘Big Castle’ stadium like a giant trampoline.
According to Mexico coach Miguel Herrera, the winger blatantly dived three times and should have been sent off in the first hour. Yet Robben wasn’t even cautioned – and with numerical parity, the Dutch scored a late equaliser through Wesley Sneijder, followed by an even later winner.
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 pocketing three times as much as the man who masterminded Germany’s victory, Joachim Low, and supposedly earned more in a week than Mexico boss Miguel Herrera took home in a year.
Money doesn’t guarantee success, though, and Capello’s side failed to win any of their three snooze-fests and crashed out at the group phase. It was a pitiful showing which, as hosts, the world’s largest country will be desperate to better in the coming weeks.
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 United States 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 American goalkeeper.
11. Quenchers and towels
Unprecedented cooling breaks were introduced in Brazil. Portugal vs USA, played 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. How very modest of him.
12. Grobbelaar 2.0
In the 121st minute of a goalless quarter-final between the Netherlands 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, but his approach worked: Krul saved two efforts to send Holland through to the last four.
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?
It’s a baffling decision even if you discount that historic semi-final shellacking, which Silva admittedly played no part in. Luiz’s goals against Chile and Colombia perhaps helped his cause, but it’s still difficult to see how all three were included.
14. Neuer rewrites the job description
Manuel Neuer did what the football dictionary generally terms ‘goalkeeping’ exceptionally well at Brazil 2014, making saves, claiming crosses and communicating effectively with his back four.
By the time the competition had ended, however, the Bayern Munich glovesman had rewritten the definition of his position courtesy of his brilliant ability with the ball at his feet. Overall, Neuer completed 244 passes during the tournament – more than Lionel Messi, Wesley Sneijder, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Paul Pogba.
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