World Cup diary: Top five unforgettable moments of an unforgettable tournament
Whether or not 2014 is remembered as the best tournament ever, it leaves us with some indelible images
Best World Cup ever? Or merely the most memorable?
In terms of classic contests, this tournament has been lacking. But the group stage was tons of fun, right from the start with 2010 champions Spain stunned by Netherlands.
The knockout stage was far more cagey, but almost every match still had a memorable climax or stand-out moment.
Perhaps that is what this tournament will be remembered for more than anything - a collection of moments that seemed hugely significant. Here's our suggestion for the top-five most memorable.
1) The mauling at the Mineirao
Seven. Seven goals. Teams just don't concede seven goals at major tournaments any more, certainly not in the knockout stages. And at a World Cup semi-final? The hosts getting annhiliated in front of their own supporters?
If every other game in this tournament had finished 0-0, we'd still be talking about Brazil 1 Germany 7 for decades to come.
Post-game a lot of experts explained why this had been a long time coming, etc etc, though they were strangely silent about their 7-1 predictions before kick-off.
The long-term impacts remain to be seen. Will we see a complete overhaul of Brazilian soccer as they try to return to 'jogo bonito'? Will the disappointment and despair spell the end of Dilma Rousseff's presidency and have far-reaching economic and social impact on the country?
And most importantly, will Jose Mourinho ever stop laughing that he convinced Paris Saint-Germain to pay GBP 50 million for David Luiz?
2) The bite heard round the world
He didn't just ... did he? NO WAY!
Yup, Luis Suarez, one of football's most horrible little men (a field in which there's plenty of competition) had just bitten an opponent. For the THIRD time (that we know of). Magnificent.
We can all get on our high horses as much as we like, but let's be fair - this was as hilarious as it was repellent.
As was the fallout, with Uruguay railing like delusional paranoiacs about an English-led conspiracy against their star player and even the president sticking his oar in. Suarez meanwhile, is still banging on about appealing the 'fascist' ban he received for chomping Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder.
Of course he was ostracised by the footballing community, and may never play at the highest level ag - what's that? Oh yeah, turns out his punishment was actually a GBP75 million move to one of the biggest clubs in the world and a mega contract worth hundreds of thousands a week.
Well done Barcelona - 'més que un club' - more than just a football team, a social institution, a beacon of civility in the venal world of football. Or just as hypocritical as all the rest.
Still, it's going to be tremendously entertaining when Suarez scores to knock Liverpool out of the Champions League next season - hopefully biting Steven Gerrard along the way - and then claims it as some sort of justice for the 'ill-treatment' he received in England.
3) Taxi for tiki-taka
On day two of the tournament there was a game almost as significant, with one of the best goals you're ever likely to see. It all seems a long time ago now.
When Xabi Alonso put holders Spain ahead from the spot it seemed pretty straightforward - the reigning champions kickstarting their title defence with a close but routine win over a limited Dutch side who weren't going to do anything in Brazil.
Up step Robin van Persie. Or rather up fly Robin van Persie, with surely the best header ever scored at a World Cup, somehow getting his body parallel with the ground and arcing into a U-shape to guide Daley Blind's long ball from the left over Iker Casillas from the edge of the penalty box.
WATCH: Robin van Persie's stunning equaliser
Then Arjen Robben started systematically dismantling Spain's defence, with considerable help from Spain's defence.
Four goals in the second half made it 5-1 to the Netherlands and the end of an era narratives were being hastily written for Vicente del Bosque's side.
The Netherlands, led by the superb Robben, would go on to be one of the most impressive teams at the tournament, finishing third; as for Spain, we wait to see if they can regroup with fresh talent - and maybe a new coach - for France 2016.
4) Arise King Ha-mez
The football hipsters were into Colombia's James Rodriguez before it was cool of course, but for those who feel life's rich tapestry has more to offer than the likes of Bastia v Monaco or Porto v Belenenses, the World Cup was the ideal opportunity to get a better look at Rodriguez than just Champions League highlights or YouTube clips. And what an enjoyable sight it was.
He was simply superb throughout, and delivered plenty of unforgettable moments - his little chipped goal in the group stage, the giant Jiminy Cricket that helped him score a penalty against Brazil - but none more sumptous than his goal against Uruguay, guiding the ball down from the night sky on to his chest, having a little look around, swivelling and volleying into the top corner all in one glorious balletic movement.
WATCH: James Rodriguez's wonder goal
With six goals and two assists (it feels like more, but that's what Fifa says) from five games, he really delivered - and unlike, say, a certain Uruguayan player, seems a genuinely nice person as well. It's just a pity Brazil kicked him off the pitch in their quarter-final, but at least they paid for that karmically with Neymar's injury and the subsequent tonking by Germany.
5) Costa Rica's Krul exit
We have to grudgingly acclaim Costa Rica's tremendous run to the quarter-finals, a tremendous achievement for a team supposedly even worse than Scotland according to Fifa's rankings before the tournament began.
But after their defeat of Uruguay, they were nearly as boring to watch as say ... Scotland. Tremendously well organised by coach Jorge Luis Pinto, very hard-working ... but boring.
So after another snoozefest in the quarter-final against the Netherlands, we had to thank Louis van Gaal for waking us from slumber as he brought on substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul specially for the penalty shootout, a move that required balls of solid titanium, or merely the Jupiter-sized ego of a Louis van Gaal.
Whether a psychological ploy to mess with Costa Rica's players or a simple case of deploying the right resource for the right occasion, it certainly worked, Krul saving two.
In fact, the armchair experts actually had the gall (Gaal?) to criticise the Dutch coach in the next game, when he had used up all his subs before the penalty shootout with Argentina, meaning Krul had to sit on the bench rather than come on to shout in Messi's face.
Van Gaal in general has been tremendous entertainment value - and it's only a few weeks 'til we get to watch him butt type-a personalities with the likes of Mourinho in the Premier League. Bring it on.