Top 10 World Cup moments so far
As the round of 16 comes to an end and eight teams move on to the World Cup quarterfinals, we take a look back at the 10 best moments from Brazil ... so far.
Neymar starts the party
Brazil is a place where things don't work, yet eventually work somehow. Visitors to this World Cup would recognise a sense of confusion as hotel or airport staff stare blankly, only for everything to ultimately work out fine.
That also appears to be how the national team operates. Their opener against Croatia was preceded by an opening ceremony that set new levels for amateurishness, before the Selecao stumbled into the tournament. It took two goals from Neymar to dig them out, and a pattern was set for the rest of the campaign.
Van Persie torpedoes Spain
The top goal of the tournament happened on its second afternoon. It also was the moment that defending champions Spain's butterfingers lost grip of their title. Daley Blind's diagonal ball was a peach, Iker Casillas was in no-man's-land, and Van Persie recreated the Flying Dutchman with the hang time of an Olympic gymnast.
Spain were leading through a Xabi Alonso penalty, and were feeling their way into their metronomic style, only for RVP's goal to pierce what proved a thin membrane of defence. Netherlands won 5-1, the heaviest defeat ever for a defending champion. They would last just 90 minutes more.
Pepe the prat
Portugal's meeting with Germany in Salvador was one of the group stage's most keenly awaited fixtures. Though Cristiano Ronaldo's injury problems lessened the chances for Portugal, they were expected to make more of a game of it than they did.
They were already 2-0 behind by the time Pepe got himself sent off, but there was little doubt over the scapegoat's identity. A poor excuse for a head-butt on Thomas Muller -- more a pressing of sweaty hair into the German's face -- left Pepe's team scuppered. The concession of two more goals meant Portugal would be playing a catch-up game they were always unlikely to win.
The last action hero
John Brooks, born in Germany, raised in Germany, playing for a German coach, but an all-American hero, supplied a moment to match Landon Donovan's winner against Algeria four years ago.
Ghana were pinning back the United States in Natal after Clint Dempsey's first-minute strike. Once Andre Ayew scored, there seemed but one winner, yet instead, Graham Zusi's corner found Brooks. His headed winner buried the ghost of Ghana, America's tormentors in 2006 and 2010. Brooks' celebration took so long that his teammates eventually left him to it.
- Photo gallery: Top 10 2014 World Cup moments so far
No future in England's dreaming
Defeat in Manaus to Italy was greeted by English media with an odd satisfaction. The boys had given it a go in defeat, played attacking football, died with their boots on.
The next game in Sao Paulo brought the same 2-1 score line but returned familiar calls of exasperation and dismay. This was a greatest hits set of English failure on the international scene. Against a pretty poor Uruguay team, England played as though it were a junior-school kick and rush game. Premier League stars turned to turkeys while Luis Suarez, playing through the pain barrier, scored both goals. He made sure to let everybody know how much he enjoyed himself, too.
Klose the history man
If this World Cup is missing something, it is a true classic encounter, though the group stage offered a worthy candidate with Germany's 2-2 draw with Ghana in Fortaleza that even included a moment of history being made.
Miroslav Klose, from inches out, scored his 15th World Cup finals goal -- equalling Ronaldo -- to level a pulsating match. It is sad that Ghana's campaign shall be remembered for bust-ups and pay disputes when they played full part in such excitement. Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan lurched the Germans toward disaster before the old master was brought on to prevent the worst from happening.
When everybody is really enjoying themselves, there's always somebody to bring the party vibe crashing down. It should have been little surprise that such a person was Luis Suarez. Wasn't he supposed to be a reformed character? Simulating dental pain was certainly a new one on most. Reaction veered between high amusement and outrage, until Suarez's refusal to admit he had bitten Italy's Giorgio Chiellini meant he had his whole country lying for him, including Uruguay's elected president.
And then, to make fools of them all, he admitted his wrongdoing, to follow the pattern of his previous outrages. Barcelona have expressed public approval for Suarez's contrition, which is convenient.
All hail Cesar
In an era where sports psychology is so fashionable, an approach of shedding tears before a penalty shootout has yet to meet critical mass. Yet Julio Cesar, tied in knots like the rest of us by Brazil's Belo Horizonte round-of-16 match with Chile, didn't stop the waterworks. The host team have spent much of the tournament sobbing. So far it has worked, though only just.
Cesar, unlike the five players who failed to score in a shootout wracked by heebie-jeebies, recovered his nerve. He saved compatriots Hulk and Willian from a lifetime of pain, with some fine keeping and a psyching out of Gonzalo Jara for the 10th kick.
Avenues of the Americas
Brazil has been a triumph for the entire Americas, though it is Costa Rica who carry the flag furthest for CONCACAF. Having beaten both Uruguay and Italy, they ventured to uncharted territory by beating Greece, a team who fulfilled the always necessary role of unloved agitators. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas proved the hero, both in extra time, and then in a penalty shootout in which nine players scored. Theofanis Gekas' shot was well saved.
Team USA played an exhilarating part in the pick of the round-of-16 matches before eventually succumbing to Belgium. How about the free-kick routine that could have got it back to 2-2? What about the Chris Wondolowski moment? No matter, USA earned worldwide footballing respect.
Hats off to Herrera
This World Cup's breakout performer has been Mexico's Miguel Herrera, forever seconds from becoming the first coach to internally combust in tournament history. He has harangued referees, bear-hugged players and even been more exciting to watch than the excellent football.
Sadly for TV directors, he went the way of all Mexican flesh when his team lost in the round of 16 for the sixth tournament in a row. His team had the lead against the Dutch, only for Wesley Sneijder's equalising guided missile to set up the inevitability of a Mexican exit. Herrera, the lowest-paid boss in Brazil, signed off with harsh words for Arjen Robben and some typical heart-on-sleeve histrionics.