14 things you’ve probably forgotten about the 2014 World Cup
1. Spain were smashing the Netherlands
“This game should be over. Spain are trying to walk the ball in.” The ominous words of Mark Lawrenson, co-commentating for the BBC, towards the end of the first half. Xabi Alonso had put the world champions 1-0 up. Diego Costa wasted a couple of good looks at goal. Andres Iniesta came close. David Silva tried to square the ball instead of slotting home an easy chance.
Then, after Holland had received their second booking (Stefan de Vrij following Jonathan de Guzman into the book), Iniesta’s no-look pass sent Silva clean through. The Manchester City playmaker could have slid it home; he could have slipped Costa an open goal. Instead, he attempted a chip best saved for showboating on the training ground.
Within 90 seconds, Robin van Persie had equalised with that 44th-minute header at the other end. 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, 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. Humiliating.
3. Revenge for Rene
Roger Milla famously undid a Colombian keeper at Italia ’90. The hip-wiggling Cameroonian was, however, overtaken by one in Brazil. Faryd Mondragon, at 43 years and three days, came on against Japan to outrank Milla and become the oldest player in World Cup history. (At least until 45-year-old Essam El-Hadary will beat him for Egypt in 2018).
Mondragon, of Lebanese ancestry, also broke a 64-year-old record for the longest span between appearances in the competition (16 years). Well, Faryd does mean ‘unmatched’ in Arabic.
4. Bite leads to a breakthrough
Italy required just a point. Uruguay required the full three to escape Group D with Costa Rica. In the 79th minute, with the game scoreless, Luis Suarez made Giorgio Chiellini his third career bite victim after Otman Bakkal and Branislav Ivanovic. The Italy No.3 collapsed to the floor in pain. Uruguay's No.9 scandalously fell to the floor, clutching his face, faking a collision.
When Chiellini returned to his feet, he yanked his shirt down – Gaston Ramirez was pulling his opponent’s jersey back up – 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 game's only goal.
FIFA slapped Suarez with the longest suspension they had ever handed out for a World Cup incident (nine internationals), but Italy were out of the competition.
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.
Small consolations did come from Wayne Rooney scoring his maiden goal in the competition at the 10th time of asking, and Luke Shaw becoming the youngest player to feature at Brazil 2014 – but that’s clutching at straws. Brazilian bar staff were, nevertheless, tickled and impressed that the English would order litre bottles of lager – designed to share – per person. Well, they did have 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. Yet, hyperextending his leg, he made an impeccably-timed sliding challenge to deny Ecuador’s Michael Arroyo a clear-cut opportunity to win the game.
The bleached-blond Behrami 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 Behrami’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.
His form earned him a summer move to Real Madrid.