10 Totally Unforgettable World Cup Moments

Brazil 2014

Thanks for the memories.

Jul 14, 2014 | 06:27 PM

On Sunday, Germany scored a last-minute goal to defeat Argentina 1-0, and—poof! Just like that, the 2014 FIFA World Cup was over.

For the past 30 days, Brazil has been at the center of the universe as it hosted the World Cup. Through unforgettable moments that only the beautiful game could create, spectators worldwide were emotionally invested. They rejoiced in ecstasy when John Brooks scored the game-winning goal against Ghana, gasped in shock when Luis Suarez bit Italy’s defender, smiled in delight as teams danced in celebration of their goals, and cried in defeat when the time ticked away and signaled the end to their country’s World Cup journey.

Here are 10 memorable World Cup moments that captured our hearts and memories forever.

1. The Flying Dutchman

Robin Van Persie’s goal on Day 2 of the World Cup made him an early frontrunner for goal of the tournament. Down one to Spain, the 2010 World Cup champions, Van Persie launched himself into the air and connected on a high-flying, game-tying header. Naturally, Van Persie was instantly dubbed “The Flying Dutchman.”

2. Team U.S.A.’s Stunning Win Against Ghana

This was a game of highs and lows.

Early on, most Americans took a casual interest in the World Cup. But 30 seconds into Team U.S.A.’s first match in the tournament, against Ghana, nothing was the same. Clint Dempsey’s historic goal punctuated the presence of Team U.S.A. at the World Cup and sent the message that the U.S. Men’s National Team had arrived. But Ghana, which previously had beaten Team U.S.A. two times, bounced back like the tough competitors they are to tie the game at one goal apiece. Then, a broken nose suffered by Clint Dempsey and a pulled hamstring that forced Jozie Altidore to miss the rest of the tournament raised doubt among many U.S. believers—until hero John Brooks scored his game-winning goal in the 86th minute. Suddenly, the tide changed again. This game more than any other left American fans chanting, “I believe that we will win!”

3. Luis Suarez Bites Italy Defender

Do you remember where you were when “the Bite” occurred?

Of all the unforgettable World Cup moments, Uraguay’s Luis Suarez taking a bite out of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini wins the prize for most shocking. Suarez’s bold act resulted in him being banned from the rest of the World Cup, nine subsequent FIFA events, and four months of soccer activity. While Suarez’s World Cup journey may have been cut short early, he will live on in World Cup infamy forever.

4. Tim Howard’s Heroic 16-Save Performance

When we think back on team U.S.A.’s journey in the 2014 World Cup, we all will remember the incredible 16 saves that Tim Howard, a.k.a. the U.S. Secretary of Defense, made against Belgium. He was a fortress of a man, impenetrable as he blocked one goal after another. Though he allowed two goals, which resulted in a heartbreaking loss, Howard was recognized as a national hero. President Barack Obama called to express his gratitude, and Howard inspired endless #ThingsTimHowardCanSave memes to be created in his honor.

5. Brazil v. Chile: Off the Crossbar!

Drama reached new heights in a classic South American battle in which Chile had Brazil’s World Cup hopes hanging in the balance. However, the Brazilians narrowly escaped a major upset by defeating Chile in a 3-2 heartwrenching shootout. Neymar’s made kick put Brazil up one goal, but it was Gonzalo Jara’s unfortunate shot bouncing off the post that gave Brazil its ticket to the quarterfinals. So close!

6. “Krul” Substitution

There are no higher stakes in soccer than sudden death in a win-or-go-home situation. With the pressure mounting and time slipping away, that’s exactly where Netherlands and Costa Rica found themselves in the final moments of the quarterfinals match. In minute 120, Dutch manager Louis van Gaal made a gutsy and genius game-winning decision when he subbed goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for the taller and more intimidating Tim Krul. And it paid off. Krul saved two of the five penalties, giving the Dutchmen a 4-3 win in the penalty shootout.

7. Neymar’s Heartbreaking Injury

Brazil’s young star Neymar, Jr. was heralded as the posterboy of the tournament. He accepted the challenges and pressures that came with winning it all for his country with great pride. Powered by his leadership and athleticism, Brazil seemed poised to advance deep into the tournament. Neymar scored four goals and had one assist. He seemed unstoppable, and so did Brazil—and then it was all over in an instant. Colombia’s Puerto Zuniga kneed Neymar in the back, giving the Brazilian striker a tournament-ending fractured vertebre. Neymar wept. Brazil wept. And fans around the world wept along with them, as the rest of the World Cup run ended in disgrace. They were 10-1 in their final two games.

8. What the Flop?

It was the most common complaint among U.S. World Cup watchers—“these guys flop too much!” Yes, the most popular sport in the world is full of floppers, but that’s why we love this game. Whether they're falling dramatically, grabbing their foot, or rolling around on the ground, athletes pull out all the stops at trying to fake-out the refs into pulling out a yellow card. Few sports put on such an artful display of athleticism and acting. What’s not to love about that?

9. It’s a Celebration!

When it comes to the World Cup, it’s often said, “Every goal counts.” And with every goal comes that moment of sheer shock and a delayed realization that a goal was actually scored. And then comes the fun part—the colorful celebrations! Colombia’s lively hip shaking, Joel Campbell of Costa Rica stuffing his jersey to honor his pregnant girlfriend, and of course “the dive”—a soccer tradition. The players showed their thrill for the game through impassioned celebrations that made our love for the beautiful game even stronger.

10. Super Mario Wins World Cup for Germany

Argentina’s Lionel Messi, the top football player in the world, was on track to fulfill destiny and win his first World Cup championship to complement his other top honors, including a gold medal from the 2008 Olympics. But in the end, it was Germany’s “Super” Mario Goetze’s playground. After the game was scoreless in regulation, it looked like penalty kicks would determine the winner of the 2014 World Cup. Neither team seemed to get a leg up on the other. But with seven minutes remaining, Super Mario assisted himself with a chest and volley off his left foot, successfully slotting the ball past Argentina’s goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Messi had an opportunity to tie the match with a free kick, but it sailed well above the net, giving Germany a 1-0 victory over Argentina, and the title of World Champions!

Thank you to every footballer who represented their nation. And a special congratulations goes to Germany for their place in history as the world’s best football team, for the fourth time in World Cup history.

Cover image credit: Instagram/espnfc

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