That was the World Cup that was
Alas, despite our denials, the 2014 World Cup is over. Wasn't it splendid? To celebrate the entertainment the tournament treated us to, here are the biggest news stories, some strange incidents and the best of social media.
Before the defending champions kicked off their campaign in Brazil, Spain captain Iker Casillas was one clean sheet away from breaking Walter Zenga's record of 517 minutes for a goalkeeper not conceding at a World Cup. Ninety minutes later, five goals had whistled past him against Netherlands. Any hopes of a return to form in their second match against Chile were emphatically snuffed as the other Roja beat them 2-0, dumping a squad containing seven players from last season's Champions League final out of the competition before their third group game.
All those watching Uruguay's Group G clash with Italy were united in disbelief in the 79th minute when Luis Suarez collided with Giorgio Chiellini. Both men went to ground -- one holding his teeth, the other his shoulder. FIFA came under pressure to act decisively regarding a player who had already served two bans for biting opponents, and so it did. The striker was suspended for nine international matches and "all football-related activity" for four months, making his 75 million pound move from Liverpool to Barcelona eerily low-key.
When the World Cup draw was made in December, no one gave Costa Rica a prayer as they were picked alongside three former world champions -- Uruguay, England and Italy. But the nation of just 4.8 million people shocked the world by topping Group D with two wins and a draw, and then went even further by beating Greece on penalties to set up a quarterfinal against the Netherlands. That proved a bridge too far, but Costa Rica's shootout defeat meant they exited the tournament with the best defensive record (just two goals conceded) and the only team other than Germany and the Dutch to not lose a match in open play in Brazil.
Brazil's hopes of winning the World Cup on home soil were all but extinguished when their star player and talisman was floored late in the host nation's 2-1 quarterfinal win over Colombia. In real terms, a clumsy knee to the back from Juan Camilo Zuniga fractured Neymar's third vertebra in the lumbar region, but the emotional impact shook the entire squad. David Luiz and Julio Cesar openly shed tears as they held up Neymar's shirt in tribute ahead of their semifinal against Germany, which they went on to lose 7-1 in a historic humbling by the eventual champions.
Lazio striker Klose had already entered the record books going into Germany's clash against Brazil -- his goal against Ghana in the group stage saw him beat Gerd Muller to claim Germany's World Cup goal record, and he became the first player to play in four semifinals when he started against the hosts. But with his tap-in to put Germany up 2-0 in Belo Horizonte -- sparking a deluge of four goals in just six minutes -- he overtook Selecao legend Ronaldo's all-time record of 15 finals goals.
England team physio Gary Lewin suffered a dislocated ankle while celebrating Sturridge's goal pic.twitter.com/zueYbB9FN0- ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 15, 2014
England's chief medic Gary Lewin was sent home from the World Cup after suffering a fracture and dislocation of his ankle while celebrating Daniel Sturridge's first-half equaliser in their opening 2-1 loss against Italy. Lewin left the field on a stretcher after a short break in play following what arguably turned out to be the high point of England's campaign.
England boss Roy Hodgson said after the match: "That was a very sad moment for us. In celebrating the goal he jumped up, landed on a water bottle and dislocated his ankle. It was very painful. He was taken to hospital. The doctor set it, put it back in at the side of the field, but it's the end of the World Cup for Gary."
The clamour to enter the Maracana to see Chile's round-of-16 clash with Brazil was so intense that about 100 ticketless Chile supporters stormed through the stadium's media centre to try to get in to see the match.
ESPN FC correspondent Miguel Delaney tweeted from the besieged room: "Loads of Chilean fans have just stormed the media centre, running around. A makeshift wall has been knocked down. Oh. A few people seem to have got hurt, more seriously, including a middle-aged fan coming to the stairs beside us. It wasn't a protest. It was fans without tickets, who were already gathering outside gates five hours before kickoff."
Following the incident, 87 Chile supporters were arrested.
The Ghanaian government had to fly over briefcases containing about $3 million in cash to Brazil to settle a row over bonuses on the eve of the team's decisive Group G match against Portugal. A Ghana FA statement said that the nation's president, John Dramani Mahama, "waded into the matter after agitation from the Black Stars players" in order to bring "some assurance" to the squad. Despite the money being delievered, two Ghana players were sent home on the morning of the match for disciplinary reasons. Ghana lost the match 2-1, with defender John Boye -- who was pictured kissing his share of the cash the night before the game -- scoring an own goal that helped see his country finish at the bottom of their group.
Russia's exit at the group stage was so uninspiring that a Kremlin politician called for coach Fabio Capello -- the highest-paid boss at the World Cup -- to be summoned in front of the government and justify his 6 million euro salary.
"We need to look into his work and ask him to resign," Vladimir Zhirinovsky said. "But he's greedy, so of course he won't. It's pretty good to get [millions] for doing nothing. The team lost and it doesn't affect his pay in any way. Thief!
"Even the way he looks makes it hard to like him. He looks like a schoolteacher."
Germany midfielder Christoph Kramer was so dazed after suffering a blow to the head during the World Cup final that he had to ask the referee what match he was playing.
Nicola Rizzoli said: "Shortly after he'd been struck by [Ezequiel] Garay, Kramer came to me, asking, 'Ref, is this the final?'
"I thought he was joking so I asked him to repeat the question, and he said: 'I need to know if this is really the final.'
"After I said 'yes,' he was a bit stunned and said: 'Thanks, that's important to know.'
"I informed [German teammate Bastian] Schweinsteiger and they replaced Kramer."
Italy striker Mario Balotelli may have scored the winner against England, but he was prepared to make amends in his next game -- for a price.
If we beat Costa Rica i want a kiss,obviously on the cheek, from the UK Queen.������.- Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) June 19, 2014
Rihanna's relentless World Cup coverage on Twitter culminated in her fraternising with Germany's World Cup winners while holding the trophy.
Podolski x RiRi x Shweinsteiger pic.twitter.com/Sq0HDFDcaB- Rihanna (@rihanna) July 14, 2014
Colombia's James Rodriguez landed the Golden Boot with six goals. The omens was there when a six-legged monster landed on his arm during the game against Brazil.
Nobody can stop Rodriguez from scoring, not even giant Brazilian insects. pic.twitter.com/xk1opP9DO8- ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 4, 2014
The football world was left stunned by Brazil's mauling in their semifinal against Germany -- with several star players unable to contain their shock as their fellow pros were humbled.
Oooh myyyy goood pic.twitter.com/uYIFJ1Mpmm- R.Lukaku Bolingoli (@RomeluLukaku9) July 8, 2014
2014 was the year that "#Persieing" became a thing...
... and when Tim Howard's presidential campaign began.
Here are all 16 saves Tim Howard made in his epic performance against Belgium » http://t.co/x5e3fNYDkw- ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 2, 2014