What a World Cup!

Brazil 2014 was the perfect demonstration of World Cup football’s beautiful unpredictability.

It was a World Cup of high expectations. Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar were supposed to score seven goals a piece. Iker Casillas was going to block every ball in sight. Mexico was going to make it past the quarterfinals for the first time. Most aficionados expected a Brazil-Spain final, hoping for a Brazil-Mexico or a Brazil-Argentina scenario.

One hapless starry-eyed catracho even hoped Honduras would win a match.

None of it happened. Instead, Spain became the first defending champion to be eliminated in the second match, Brazil nearly went down to Chile in penalty kicks in the round of 16, Costa Rica almost beat the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, Uruguay’s Luis “The Cannibal” Suarez bit a guy and was kicked out of the tournament, Neymar fractured a vertebra, and Team Ronaldo were eliminated early in the group stage.

Oh! And then Germany redefined the word annihilation with a 7-1 victory over Brazil in the most lopsided semifinals match in World Cup history.

While we’re on the topic of history, the 2014 World Cup brought with it a few other records. Goal-line technology was utilized for the first time in a World Cup, and the 171 goals scored in Brazil this year tied the all-time record number of goals scored in a single tournament set back in France in 1998. With 121 different men putting a point on the board, the 2014 World Cup also had the most number of goalscorers.

On the downside, Honduras tied the record for most appearances never winning a match, three, while Mexico set the record for the most consecutive eliminations from the round of 16, six. The 14 goals scored against Brazil were the most conceded by a host nation.

Off the field, the German national team won a record $35 million in first-place prize money and FIFA walked away with a record $4.5 billion in revenue, while the over $14 billion Brazil spent on the tournament make it the most expensive ever. (By comparison, Germany had set the record at $6 billion back in 2006.)

Germany proved to be a powerhouse yet again, scoring 18 goals, more than any other team. The seven goals scored against Brazil were the most ever in a semifinals match. German striker Miroslav Klose’s two goals in the tournament were enough to make him the all-time leading goalscorer in World Cup history with 16, placing him in a group with Uwe Seeler and the great Pelé as the only players ever to score in four separate World Cup tournaments. He also tied Brazil’s Ronaldo by scoring at least one goal in 11 matches. Germany’s win this year also makes Klose the owner of a gold, a silver and a bronze World Cup medal,

After Brazil’s embarrassing elimination, many Latinos were understandably pulling for Argentina to hoist the 18-carat trophy.

Not only was Messi denied the honor, but Brazil also lost its third-place match against Netherlands, 0-3. Messi, however, won four Man of the Match awards this year, more than any other player, along with the Golden Ball, given to the best player of the tournament. (Past winners include Argentina’s former greatest of all time, Maradona).

Despite not winning the championship, Latin America made a strong showing this year. The Americas saw the highest percentage of their teams advance past the group stage, and Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile played well against perennial favorites.

Los ticos beat everyone in their group (former champions Italy, England and Uruguay), beat Greece in penalty kicks and lost to the Netherlands in penalty kicks, which means they were technically undefeated at the 2014 World Cup. Colombia reached the quarterfinals for the first time, and their phenom James Rodríguez, who turned 23 this past Saturday, was the only player to score six goals — and in only 399 minutes of playing time — earning him a Golden Boot. Neymar tied Messi and Dutchman Robin van Persie with four goals, but Neymar was awarded the Bronze Boot for having played the least amount of minutes. (Germany’s Thomas Müller scored five goals and won the Silver Boot.)

Relatedly, American goalkeeper Tim Howard’s 16 saves against Belgium set another World Cup record.

Considering this was the first World Cup tournament in Latin America since Mexico in 1986, and the first one in Brazil since 1950, that a European country went home with the cup, especially one as dominate as Germany, was a bit anticlimactic. Latinos worldwide were hoping one of their heroes would emerge victorious at the end — either Messi, Neymar, James or Chicharito — but in the end, Germany won its fourth championship, ending with its 12th top-three finish and 8th top-two finish, more than any other country.

Ultimately, Germany’s championship and Messi’s Golden Ball were safe bets.

Now that World Cup fever has passed, we’ll have to see if hosting the world’s greatest tournament was worth it for Brazil, especially as the country of over 200 million gears up to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. For hosting the most expensive World Cup in history (three times as much as the matches in South Africa four years ago), as well as the second most attended (over 3.4 million), Brazilians are hoping the much-needed infrastructure projects they were promised by Pres. Dilma Rousseff — and which have cost the lives of 10 people so far — are finally completed, especially those related to transportation, like the airports and mass transit systems.

Seeking reelection later this year, Pres. Rousseff‘s hoping Brazilians will remember Brazil’s late exit and forget the disastrous match — Brazil’s worst World Cup performance — that eliminated the Seleção. Polls show her at around 38 percent, which means the president could face a runoff election against conservative Sen. Aécio Neves in October.

In the end, however, football fans across the globe didn’t tune in for the past month simply for political reasons. They didn’t paint their faces, unfold their flags and were their teams’ jerseys just to see if Rousseff big gamble would pay off. They wanted to witness something amazing, something beautiful, something heartbreaking, something damn-near miraculous.

And in all of those things, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil — with its ups and downs, suspense and surprises, joys and upsets — never, for a minute, disappointed.

[Photo: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons]

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