The 2014 World Cup broke records. It defined excitement. It showed us the country of Brazil in a way we’ve never seen it before. And it brought us one of the best soccer tournaments in recent history. But now, it is gone. In its absence over the next four years, we will have these memories:
The fall of the greatest
It will be written in books and shared down generation lines, but nothing will ever compare to witnessing what happened on Tuesday, July 8. Brazil, the host nation and greatest international soccer team that has ever existed, lost worse than anybody could have ever thought was possible. The 7-1 dismantling by the eventual champions Germany was two hours that stopped the world and will probably never happen again.
A superb host
Many factors made this World Cup great but at the root of it all was the host country, Brazil. The soccer-loving culture fit perfectly, as expected. The atmosphere of games was unmatched. The scenic views of surrounding mountains and the iconic “Christ the Redeemer” statue in Rio De Janeiro topped it off. There was little doubt left of the impact a South American host can have on a World Cup. It’s where soccer is religion and where international tournaments clearly belong.
Who could have predicted the superstardom of Colombia midfielder and World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodríguez? Or the unbelievable surge Costa Rica, a nation of roughly 4.5 million, made to the quarterfinals stage? And what about the last minute victories, the improbable loses, the penalty shoot-out finishes and the consistently close games? Add the social media frenzy with each game and the dramatic story lines that followed marquee names like Luis Suárez and Neymar, and nothing was left out of this tournament.
A showcase of perfect play
In June, we witnessed what perfect basketball could look like through the NBA champions San Antonio Spurs. And in this World Cup, we got to experience what that looked like on a soccer pitch. It shouldn’t be surprising that Germany tied the 2002 champion Brazil team for best goal differential in World Cup history, or that the team’s worst game was a 2-2 tie against Ghana in group play. Their play against Brazil put them on another level, and the way they picked apart teams with their defensive, but aggressive, style was incredible. It was soccer at its finest. Germany will be remembered as 2014 champions, but they’ll be more revered for the way they did it.
The tides possibly turning
Yes, a powerhouse German team did win. And all four of the semifinal teams are considered soccer greats, but down the line, other groups are emerging and ready to take the grand stage next World Cup. This tournament showed true promise of what the next World Cup could look like. Sides like Colombia, Belgium, Mexico, Costa Rica, and even the U.S., demonstrated the potential for less historic countries to make an impact. So many of these games were great because the margin of talent has come closer together between nations. This makes for a 2018 World Cup that should draw heavy attention. Because more than ever, the golden trophy could end up in the hands of first-time champions.