In many ways, the 2014 World Cup was great — perhaps even one of the greatest World Cups ever. But now that it's over, the level of its greatness will be left up to our imperfect memories and whatever YouTube clips and Vines that FIFA hasn't gotten around to taking down yet. So having had a few days to gain perspective on the month-long festival of football and profiteering before it all becomes too hazy, it's time to compile a document that pulls together everything that must be remembered about this World Cup. Even if some of it didn't actually happen. This is that document.
The 2014 World Cup began with Brazil defender Marcelo scoring an own goal. Instantly realizing that this was foreshadowing of unspeakable horrors yet to come, the host nation quickly tried to convince FIFA and all of the fans from around the world that this was actually a robot volleyball tournament and they were all in the wrong place and should go home immediately. This did not work, though. So the tournament continued as the Brazilian government cursed the fact that their airports and stadium construction projects were not as obstacle laden and ruinous as the foreign press had insisted they would be in the months prior.
Brazil survived that initial scare on the doomed back of Neymar, but 2010 champions Spain weren't so lucky in their opening match against the Netherlands. Flying through the air like a freakishly large hummingbird, Robin van Persie scored with a header as he did a complete loop in the sky and softly landed on his belly. The Netherlands won 5-1 and Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque's mustache went home before the match even finished, signalling a conclusive end to Spain's six years of domination.
On day three, England physio Gary Lewin dislocated his ankle while celebrating Daniel Sturridge's goal in their 2-1 loss to Italy. The team decided to skip the rest of the tournament, enjoy the beautiful surroundings Brazil had to offer and start new lives as an especially large a cappella group called Goal Thugs-n-Harmony instead. They were never heard from again.
Pepe provided the tournament's first unexplainable moment of madness when he was sent off for headbutting Thomas Muller in Portugal's 4-0 loss to Germany. Watching on television, Luis Suarez nudged a teammate and said, "That's nothing" as he buffed his teeth with an electric floor waxer.
Later that same day, substitute defender John Brooks scored a very late winner against Ghana that started an dramatic run for the U.S. and invigorated their fans' popular "I believe that we will win chant." The U.S. played three more matches and won none of them because the football gods get their jollies from punishing hubris.
Uruguay's 1-0 win over Italy was overshadowed by Luis Suarez eating roughly 30 percent of Giorgio Chiellini's body and only stopping when he suddenly became concerned that the Italian defender might not be gluten free. Since this was the third time Suarez bit an opponent in his career, FIFA banned him from all football-related activity for four months and Barcelona signed him in a big money deal just to teach him that adults who bite people are desirable members of society.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal were eliminated from the World Cup on the final day of the group stage because he had an awesome life to get back to and the biggest sporting event on the planet was really just wasting his valuable time.
After losing to Brazil by the slimmest of margins in the round of 16, Chile's Mauricio Pinilla got a tattoo of his extra-time shot off the crossbar that nearly eliminated the host nation. Brazil goalkeeper and penalty shootout hero Julio Cesar, meanwhile, had two plastic bags attached to his face to simplify the process of collecting his many tears.
Germany, the eventual champions of this tournament, attempted a patently ridiculous free kick routine during their 2-1 extra-time win over Algeria in which their top scorer, Thomas Muller, did a terrible job of pretending to fall down to try and distract the opposition. This, above all else, must be mentioned in every discussion of Germany's brilliance in this tournament. Because for as good as they were, they still tried to fool Algeria with Thomas Muller acting like a newborn giraffe. Which, to be fair, isn't too far off from how he usually looks when scoring.
Two late goals from the Netherlands eliminated Mexico in the round of 16 and ended the joyous reign of Miguel Herrera as the tournament's most hardcore goal celebrator. It just wasn't the same without him.
Costa Rica continued an unexpected run that began with humbling a trio of underwhelming past champions in the group stage by beating Greece on penalties in the round of 16. Internet searches for "Is magic real in Costa Rica and if so, can I go there?" rose 9,000 percent immediately after this game.
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard earned the title of Secretary of Defense for a setting a new World Cup record for most saves in a 2-1 extra-time loss to Belgium. Upon arriving in Washington D.C., he soon became disenchanted with government work and decided to be a nightclub bouncer in Toledo, Ohio. The club went out of business because he wouldn't let anyone in. Not even on ladies night.
In the quarterfinals, Brazil again just barely got through, beating Colombia 2-1 after employing their secret weapon — a cricket big enough to go on most amusement park rides — to mark the tournament's standout performer, James Rodriguez. But Brazilians were even more devastated than Colombians after the match when it was revealed that Neymar would miss the rest of the tournament with a fractured vertebrae. Though it was estimated that he would only need four weeks to recover and resume his promising young career, the entire country treated him like he was dead. Several of his teammates even tried to put their hands through his body as if he were a ghost. When that didn't work, they realized that they were ghosts too. This is the only possible explanation for how they then lost 7-1 to Germany in the semifinals. They were all ghosts all along.
The Netherlands reached the semifinals by mind humping Costa Rica in yet another penalty shootout by switching goalkeepers at the end of extra time. After saving two of Los Ticos' shots, Tim Krul pulled off his mask to reveal that he was actually starting goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, who then pulled off another mask to reveal that he was really magician David Blaine.
The Netherlands and Argentina supposedly played the other semifinal match, but scientists are still debating whether it happened or not since no one was able to describe one thing that happened in it.
The Netherlands avenged the nothingness of their semifinal by making Brazil cry one last time in the third-place match. And in the final, Germany prevented Lionel Messi from winning the one thing that all of the world's bullies have decided he needs to win just because it's the only thing he hasn't won yet. Messi was given the Golden Ball award in an attempt to cheer him up, but this only seemed to make him sadder.
In the end, the best team won. But the best team did still try that pratfall free kick routine in a desperate bid to beat Algeria by any means necessary, so...yeah. This World Cup was weird. And that's what made it so wonderful.
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