Sadly, Germany’s 1-0 victory over Argentina in the World Cup Final signaled the conclusion of the greatest tournament in the world. But even in our grief, we can still look back on this summer’s World Cup and be pleased.
I think that we all can say that this is easily one of the greatest World Cups in our lifetime. 171 goals were scored, equaling France ’98 as the most potent goal-scoring World Cup ever. Nearly every match had some form of drama and suspense.
Unfortunately, I was tasked with the difficult assignment of choosing the top five moments of the tournament. There were so many incredible moments in the tournament that it was nearly impossible to pick out a select few that stood apart from the rest. But after much consultation with my inner circle (old soccer teammates), I finally settled on a select five. Here is the list:
5. The CONCACAF Triad
In a tournament filled with great attacking play, it’s unbelievable that some goalkeepers still made headlines. Keylor Navas of Costa Rica, Tim Howard of the United States, and Guillermo Ochoa of Mexico picked up a combined SEVEN Man of the Match awards at the tournament.
Each keeper was highly instrumental in sending their sides into the knockout rounds. Huge saves were customary for them, and each player had a defining match.
Navas, who led the trio with three Man of the Match awards, palmed away a vital Theofanis Gekas penalty during their Round of 16 shootout. Ochoa made two seemingly impossible saves off Neymar and Thiago Silva headers in a vital Group A match. He preserved a scoreless draw against the Brazilian hosts, and picked up the first of two Man of the Match awards. Against Belgium, Howard pushed himself into international soccer lore when he recorded the most saves ever in a World Cup match (16). These goalkeepers were immensely valuable to the successes of their sides.
4. RVP or Superman?
The fourth best moment of the World Cup came during only the second day of the competition. The day was highlighted with the two 2010 finalists, Spain and Netherlands, meeting in a much anticipated Group B opener.
After Xabi Alonso put Spain ahead on a 27th minute penalty, Robin Van Persie scored a dramatic equalizer. Right before halftime, Dutch wing-back Daley Blind played a lofted ball into the box. Van Persie lifted himself to nearly impossible heights and headed the ball over Iker Casillas and into the Spanish net.
The combination of field sense, athleticism, and incredible leaping ability easily made this one of the best goals of the tournament. The goal was also significant in the fact that it signaled the demise of Spanish hopes in the tournament. Netherlands ended up thrashing Spain 5-1, and the World Cup holders never fully recovered during the competition.
3. Klose’s Record Breaking Performance
German striker Miroslav Klose came into this World Cup knowing that only two goals would give him the all-time tournament scoring record.
After not playing in the first match, he was substituted into the second group stage match against Ghana and immediately made a difference. He scored the equalizing goal after Toni Kroos’ corner kick was flicked onto his right boot. The match ended 2-2.
After making a substitute appearance against USA, he finally got his first start in the quarterfinal against France. After going goalless in that match, Klose finally delivered in the semifinals.
With Germany already up 1-0 over Brazil, he finally got his chance. He found space in the box and hit a driven shot that Julio Cesar parried. The rebound went right back to Klose, and he made no mistake, putting the ball into the empty Brazilian net.
That goal was his 16th World Cup goal, breaking Ronaldo’s record. And the fact that it came against Ronaldo’s nation made it that much more sentimental. To top it off, just a few days later, Klose finally lifted the World Cup trophy for the first time in his career. This World Cup was instrumental in cementing his legacy.
2. David and James
The conclusion of the Brazil-Colombia quarterfinal brought us one of the most heartwarming moments in World Cup history.
James Rodriguez, the young Colombian playmaker, had just put forth one of the best tournament performances ever by a youngster. Despite a penalty kick goal – his sixth goal of the tournament – his team still bowed out to Brazil 2-1.
Brazilian center back David Luiz noticed that James was quite emotional after the loss, and quickly went and comforted the Colombian. He also implored the crowd to applaud James. Fans all over the world shed a tear at that moment. It was amazing that Luiz pushed the Brazil-Colombia (and also PSG-Monaco) rivalry to the side and respected the great play of James. That is what makes the game truly beautiful.
1. Brazilian Debacle / Costa Rica’s Surprise Run
I chickened out and didn’t pick just ONE top moment from the World Cup. It was impossible to do so. I had to let Brazil and Costa Rica share the top spot. The sorrow of Brazil’s semifinal and the joy of Costa Rica’s shocking run are vastly contrasting feelings, but they do represent the tournament very well.
Sadness and Happiness are embodied in every match of the tournament. You win, you lose, or you tie (depending on the circumstances) and no matter what, you feel those two emotions. The fact that Brazil failed so miserably on home soil was heartbreaking. Obviously, the Germans were the better team, and they went up 2-0 early. Then a third goal came. Then four, five, six, and seven came in rapid succession. Before you knew it, Brazil’s embarrassment was complete. They had suffered their worst loss ever on home soil.
In contrast, Costa Rica stole the hearts of fans all across the world. The fact that they TOPPED a group that had England, Italy, and Uruguay was absolutely incredible. The fact that they also allowed only two goals the entire tournament was even more incredible. When Netherlands ended Costa Rica’s tournament in a quarter-final shootout, fans in the stadium and across the world applauded Costa Rica’s effort. A nation of under five million people was center on the world’s stage, and they scored big time.