History and Statistics > WORLD CUP HISTORY

WORLD CUP HISTORY

Jules Rimet assumed the presidency of the Federation International of Football Association (FIFA) in 1921.

In 1926, with his statement "Soccer could reinforce the ideals of a permanent and real peace".

He proclaimed the need for organizing within a period of no more than three or four years, the first world tournament involving all the federations, without distinction between professionals and amateurs

Rimet with the help of another five people in an assembly have decided to organize the competition in 1930. In three congress of FIFA (Barcelona, Zurich and Geneva), the system of the competition and the period of time between each competition were established. On May 26, 1928 the World Cup was born. Five European countries (Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Hungary and Sweden) with Uruguay wanted to hold the tournament.

On May 18, 1929 at the congress of Barcelona, Uruguay was proclaimed host of the First World Cup because of their record in the Olympics tournaments and Rimet thinking to make soccer a universal sport.

Abel Lafleur was hired to design the trophy: a Winged Victory made of 1800 grams of gold who suffered a lot of harrowing episodes until Brazil kept it in 1970 when they won it for the third time. There have been 18 World Cup tournaments played between 1930 - 2006.

1930 URUGUAY
Champion - Uruguay

The inaugural World Cup Tournament was held in Uruguay and featured 13 nations, including seven from South America. European nations objected heavily after being overlooked as hosts and did not enter any of its main powers. The two semi-final matches featured Argentina against the United States and Uruguay against Yugoslavia.

Argentina and Uruguay humiliated their opponents, winning by identical scores of 6-1 and setting up a South American Final.

At the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo, Uruguay took the lead after 10 minutes on a goal by Pablo Dorado before Peucelle and Guillermo Stabile gave Argentina a 2-1 lead going into intermission.

In the second-half, Uruguay dazzled the 80,000 spectators with goals from Pedro Cea, Santos Iriarte and Manco Castroto to defeat Argentina, 4-2, and win the first-ever World Cup. Guillermo Stabile of Argentina was the tournament's leading scorer with eight goals.

1934 ITALY
Champion - Italy

In its second edition, the World Cup had become a worldwide event. Thirty-two of FIFA's 50 affiliated member nations took part in the qualification rounds, with 16 gaining berths to the Finals. In the semis, Italy defeated Austria's famed "Wunderteam", 1-0, and Czechoslovakia downed Germany, 3-1.

In the Finals in Rome, Laslo Puc gave the Czechs an early one-goal lead but Raimondo Orsi scored with eight minutes left to send the match into overtime. Angelo Schiavo's goal nine minutes into overtime gave Italy and Europe its first World Cup title. Czechoslovakia's Oldrich Nejedly was the tournament's leading scorer with five goals and Schiavo was second with four.

1938 FRANCE[/b]
Champion - Italy

For the first time ever, the host nation France and defending champion Italy were automatic entrants into the Finals. Italy went into the tournament as the heavy favourite after winning both the World and Olympic championships. At the Prince's Park Stadium in Paris, Italy got two goals each from Gino Colaussi and Silvio Piola to record a 4-2 triumph over Hungary in the Finals and retain the World Cup.

Italy's head coach, Vittorio Pozzo, is revered as a master innovator of tactics and his team is lauded for its unselfish play. The tournament's leading scorer was Leonidas da Silva of Brazil, who had seven goals.

1950 BRAZIL
Champion - Uruguay

After a 12-year interruption following World War II, the Finals went back to South America. Brazil was awarded the reopening of the competition and built a new 200,000-seat stadium in Rio de Janiero called Maracana. Brazil entered the tournament as the heavy favourite. For the first time ever, the four British Federations participated in the qualifiers, with England being the lone representative to advance to the Finals.

The greatest upset in international soccer history took place in the opening round. The United States, on a goal by Larry Gaetjens, scored a shocking 1-0 victory over England. Brazil, which played magnificently throughout the opening round, went into the Final needing only a draw in the round robin tournament to win the title. However, Uruguay, playing a European brand of soccer, got second half goals from Juan Jose Schiaffino and Alcide Ghiggia to defeat their South American rivals, 2-1, and reclaim the World Cup title.

Ademir of Brazil was the leading scorer with nine goals. Brazil's head coach, Flavio Costa, had to be hidden by police to avoid the fans' vengeance.

1954 SWITZERLAND
Champion - West Germany

The fifth edition of FIFA's World Cup witnessed the beginning of live television broadcasting of matches. FIFA had now reached a membership of 80 affiliated nations of which 36 participated in the preliminary rounds. Hungary's "Magnificent Magyars" were considered the finest team of its time. However, it was West Germany, rebounding from a stinging 8-3 opening round loss to Hungary, which would emerge as World Cup champion.

Ferenc Puskas and Zoltan Csibor gave Hungary an early two-goal lead before Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn produced goals in an eight-minute span to tie the score at 2-2. With five minutes remaining, Rahn scored the winner, giving West Germany a 3-2 victory and its first World Cup title. Hungarian soccer has still never recovered from the devastating defeat. Sandor Kocsis of Hungary had 11 goals to lead all players. His mark is the second best of all-time.

1958 SWEDEN
Champion - Brazil

A new era began in World Cup soccer as 17-year-old Edson Arantesde Nascimento, who played under the name Pele, burst onto the world scene to lead Brazil to its first World Cup triumph. In the Final, Brazil defeated host nation Sweden, 5-2, with Pele and Vava scoring two goals apiece. Brazil, led by the trio of Pele, Didi and Garricha, is generally considered as the greatest team ever to take part in World Cup competition.

Just Fontaine of France was the tournament's leading scorer with 13 goals, a record that still stands. Pele had six goals.

1962 CHILE
Champion - Brazil

After a 12-year absence, the World Cup returned to South America with Chile as the host. In a World Cup Tournament, which saw tight defensive play, Brazil went on to win its second straight title. Pele was injured in the opening round against Mexico and had to sit out the Final against Czechoslovakia. Josef Masopust gave Czechoslovakia an early lead but goals by Amarildo, Zito and Vava lifted the superb Brazilians to a 3-1 victory and their second straight World Cup crown.

Brazil joined Italy as the only two nations to repeat as champions. Garricha and Vava were among five other players to score four goals apiece.

1966 ENGLAND
Champion - England

In the Final, England scored a hard-fought 4-2 overtime victory over West Germany at Wembley Stadium, with Geoff Hurst scoring the first-ever World Cup Final hat trick. However, the dramatic match was marred by controversy. With the score tied at 2-2 in overtime, Hurst blasted a shot against the underside of the crossbar sending the ball bouncing along the goal line.

Germany's defense cleared the ball away for a corner kick. The referee after consulting with the linesman ruled it a goal, giving England its first and only World Cup Trophy. Years later, the German weekly Kicker reconstructed the sequence with photographs showing that the shot in dispute should not have been ruled a goal. Portugal and West Germany presented to the world two of the greatest players ever to appear in the Finals.

The brilliant Eusebio scored nine goals as the tournament's leading scorer, helping Portugal to a third place finish. West Germany showed off its young genius, Franz Beckenbauer.

1970 MEXICO
Champion - Brazil

Considered by many to be the greatest World Cup competition ever, the Final was a classic match up of South America's Brazil against Europe's Italy. Brazil cruised into the Finals going 5-0-0.

Italy defeated West Germany, 4-3, in overtime in the semi-finals. In the epic Final, Brazil won, 4-1. Pele, Gerson and Jairzinho scored but it was Carlos Alberto's magnificent goal from the top of the box that sealed it for Brazil. Brazil had become the first three-time World Cup champion and retired the Jules Rimet Cup.

It would be Pele's last international match and he became the only player to be crowned three-time champion. Gerd Muller, "Der Bomber" of West Germany, led all scorers with nine goals.

1974 WEST GERMANY
Champion - West Germany

The 1974 World Cup saw FIFA elect its new president, Brazilian-born Joao Havelange. Two of the most talented teams ever assembled reached the Finals. The top performer of the 1970s, Johan Cruyff, led Holland and West Germany had its elegant sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer.

Holland and West Germany met in the Final at the Munich Olympic Stadium. After an exchange of penalty kick goals by Johan Neeskens of Holland and Paul Breitner of West Germany, Gerd Muller struck with two minutes remaining in the half from short range to give West Germany a 2-1 triumph and its second World Cup Title. Poland's Grzegorz Lato was the leading scorer with seven goals.

1978 ARGENTINA
Champion - Argentina

Once again, Holland would reach the Final and would fall short of becoming World Cup champion. After 90 minutes of play, the teams were tied at 1-1. In overtime, Mario Kempes scored his second goal of the game, to put Argentina ahead.

Daniel Bertoni sealed the victory with six minutes left as he scored to give Argentina a 3-1 win and its first-ever World Cup. Kempes had six goals in the competition to become the first player to be a world champion and the top scorer in the same tournament.

1982 SPAIN
Champion - Italy

The Finals had now modified to a format of 24 teams. A single name graced the world in 1982, Paolo Rossi. In the 1978 Finals, the Argentine press dubbed him "Pablito Mundial" for his fine all-around play. In Spain, he was known as the Golden Boy. Rossi led Italy to its third World Cup title by scoring three goals in a dramatic 3-2 second round victory over heavily favoured Brazil. In the semis, Italy defeated Poland, 2-0, with both goals coming from Rossi.

In the Final in front of 90,000 spectators in the stands of the Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Italy defeated West Germany, 3-1. Rossi, Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli scored second half goals. At 40 years of age, Italy's Dino Zoff became the oldest player to win the World Cup. Rossi led all scorers with six goals for the tournament. Italy joined Brazil as the only three-time champions. The Final was watched on television by 2.5 billion fans.

1986 MEXICO
Champion - Argentina

Superstar Diego Maradona led Argentina to its second World C up title with a dramatic 3-2 win over West Germany. With West Germany trailing, 2-0, Karl Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voeller scored in an eight-minute span to tie the game. However, with six minutes left, Jose Burruchaga received a brilliant pass from Maradona and scored Argentina's winning goal for a 3-2 win.

Maradona was crowned world champion in the same Aztec Stadium where Pele played his last international match. The tournament was remembered for Argentina's 2-1 victory over England in the second round. Maradona scored both goals and the first one went down in history as the "Hand of God" goal.

Maradona, looking to reach up to a cross in the box, jumped past England's goalkeeper Peter Shilton and punched in the match's first goal with his left hand. Gary Lineker of England was the top scorer with six goals.

1990 ITALY
Champion - Germany

A penalty kick goal by Andreas Breheme produced the only score and was the margin of victory for Germany. The Germans won their third World Cup Championship and set a record for being a finalist in six of the 14 tournaments held. Argentina played without four of its key players who accumulated red cards in the semi-finals against Italy. The United States made its first appearance in the Finals since 1950 and lost all three of its first round matches.

The 52 games set an all-time attendance record of 2,510,686 spectators. Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci became the hero of the tournament, scoring six goals in leading Italy to a third place finish.

1994 USA
Champion - Brazil

Brazil became the first four-time champion in World Cup history, defeating Italy in the first-ever World Cup final decided by penalty kicks. After a scoreless tie in regulation and overtime, Brazil won on penalty kicks, 3-2, as Roberto Baggio sent Italy's final shot over the crossbar.

Brazilian striker Romario earned the "Golden Ball Award" as the tournament's Most Valuable Player and Russia's Oleg Salenko and Bulgaria's Hristo Stoichkov shared scoring honours with six goals apiece. Salenko set a single-game World Cup record with five goals in an opening-round win over Cameroon. Bulgaria knocked off Argentina and Germany before losing to Sweden in the third-place game.

The United States upset Colombia in the opening round and advanced to the second round for the first time in 44 years before losing to Brazil, 1-0. Colombian defender Andres Escobar, whose "own goal" contributed to his country's loss to the United States and early dismissal, was later murdered in Medellin, Colombia.

Argentine superstar Diego Maradona returned to international play and was expelled from the World Cup after two games for testing positive for banned substances.

The 52-game attendance of 3,567,415 shattered the all-time record set just four years earlier in Italy.

1998 FRANCE
Champion - France

For the first time in its 68 years of existence, 32 nations took part in the 16th FIFA World Cup held in France for the second time. This edition turned out to be one of the tightest World Cups of all time and confirmed that the international game made a great progress, besides also there was no humiliating results. Defending world champions Brazil opened the tournament by beating Scotland 2-1 in front of a full capacity Stade de France.

Norway was seen as Brazil's main opponent in their group, but after drawing to both Scotland and Morocco, it had to beat Brazil in their last match to qualify for the next round. A Rekdal penalty in the last minute of the game gave Norway a 2-1 win, and inflicted on Brazil its first defeat in a first round match for 32 years.

Meanwhile Rigobert Song of Cameroon became the first man to be sent off twice in World Cup history. He received a marching order against Brazil in 1991, and another one against Austria in this edition. Host nation France had little trouble in their group, winning all their games, while Spain was the biggest disappointment when it failed to reach the second round and had to make way for Paraguay, who finished second behind France.

South Korea yet again failed to win a World Cup match; Holland topped that group in front of Mexico, while Belgium went home undefeated. The ageing German side recovered from 0-2 down to 2-2 against Yugoslavia and eventually won the group. England and Romania qualified from Group G, while Argentina won all their games without conceding a goal in Group H.

Batistuta scored a hat trick in their 5-0 victory over Jamaica and became the only player to do so in this edition. 10 of the 16 nations qualified for the second round were Europeans. Italy beat Norway 1-0 and Brazil cruised over Chile 4-1.

Laurent Blanc became the first man to decide a game on Golden Goal when he scored for France against Paraguay, while Argentina beat England on penalties. Penalties were also necessary in the France - Italy game, with the hosts qualifying, while the Italians going out for the third World Cup running on penalties! Brazil beat Denmark in an entertaining 3-2, and Holland beat Argentina 2-1 after a brilliant Bergkamp goal in the last minute.

Just seconds earlier, Ortega had been sent off for head butting the Dutch keeper Van der Sar. It was a sad ending for one of the best players in this World Cup. It was also a sad ending for Lothar Matthäus who played his 25th World Cup match (a record) after Croatia beat the Germans. Brazil played Holland in Marseille in the first of the semi-finals. Ronaldo gave Brazil the lead, Kluivert equalized three minutes from the end.

No goals in extra-time meant penalties again. Ronald de Boer missed the decisive penalty for Holland, and Brazil qualified for the second time running. The day after in the Stade de France, the hosts were one goal down, when Lilian Thuram struck twice to turn the game and send France to its first ever World Cup final.

Holland and Croatia faced each other for third placing, with the Croatians beating the Dutch 2-1. In the final, France cruised over defending champions Brazil with a 3-0 win, with Zinedine Zidane grabbing a double, while Emmanuel Petit scoring the other. Meanwhile Davor Suker of Croatia finished as top scorer with six goals.

2002 SOUTH KOREA/JAPAN
Champion - Brazil

From the moment Senegal opened the trapdoor on France's defence of the World Cup, to the instant in which Oliver Kahn shovelled Rivaldo's shot into Ronaldo's path, the first Asian World Cup confounded expectations and defied prediction.

Preconceptions abounded in advance. On the pitch France or Argentina would win, Brazil and Germany were no-hopers, Roy Keane was crucial to Ireland's hopes and England would struggle to get out of their group.
Off it the hosts were convinced English hooligans would spend the campaign raping and pillaging and they meant that literally while the visitors believed they would be unwelcome, lost and bankrupt in a week. Everyone suspected co-hosting was a recipe for chaos.

None of this proved true and much of the credit lies with the Japanese and Korean people, from the few now-famous footballers to the thousands of unknown volunteers. There have been three winners in this World Cup: Brazil, Japan and South Korea.

Outsiders feared Korea's infrastructure would not cope with the demands of foreign media and spectators. It has done so admirably while also experiencing a domestic outpouring of support which put millions of people on the streets.

The 'inscrutable' and insular Japanese, meanwhile, have not stopped smiling since the world arrived. Co-hosting, while sometimes making one feel detached from the other half of the tournament, was largely a success. And the two countries even appear to have developed a sneaking affection for each other.

This might not last, but the memories will. The wonderful trains; the polite shop-assistants; the freshness of the food; the lack of crime, or menace; the fresh air of Cheju, the mountains near Nagano and hills behind Kobe; the vitality of Tokyo; the haunting sadness of Hiroshima; and, most of all, the exuberance with which both countries took to the tournament. In Japan it even made the inflexibility of rules, regulations and officials bearable.

At the semi-final in Saitama some Japanese fans hung a banner which featured the flags of all 32 competing nations and the words: 'Thank you for coming, we're proud of you'.

In Taegu, after Turkey had beaten South Korea in the third place play-off, the Koreans unfurled a huge Turkish flag. Imagine that in England.
Well, after this World Cup, you almost can. The English, bolstered by thousands of fans of Beckham-san, were, with the Irish, the best supporters of the tournament. No Japanese fan who saw the congas at Niigata during the Denmark game will ever forget them.

Some of this was due to the distance and cost filtering out the numbers, some, undoubtedly, due to almost a 1,000 known or suspected hooligans having to surrender their passports. A huge factor was the welcome English fans received. A friend who has followed England for more a decade said it was the first time he had not felt a mood of hostility from the local population.

English fans responded to this. In Shizuoka one revealed a flag with the legend: 'Goodbye Japan. Perfect hosts'. Perhaps the word will now get around that following England is a lot more fun when you interact with your hosts rather than threaten them. The England team were ultimately disappointing but had provided much pleasure beforehand, though more from the results than the aesthetic quality of their performances.

The long-passing game was out of step with the tournament's successful teams, most of whom put an emphasis on short-passing, hard-running and attacking brio. No other country has the raw talent of Brazil but the South Koreans, Turks and even the Germans were more prepared than England to take people on, to commit them.

That aside there were no great tactical advances. Goalkeepers are increasingly playmakers which, in England, points to David James being David Seaman's successor but that was signposted in 1998. The rest was contradictory.

There was a shortage of goals in the later stages, which led to a lack of drama, but that was as much due to the quality of the goalkeepers as poor play.

The refereeing (and linesman=ship) improved which was probably due to the greater use of European officials with high-pressure Champions' League experience.

The belief that the long European season was responsible for the poor performance of France and others was questioned by the appearance of more players from Bayer Leverkusen, who had the most demanding season in Europe, in later stages than any other club.

And one of them, Brazil's Lucio, at last got a winners' medal after finishing runners-up in the European Cup, Bundesliga and German Cup. For Bernd Schneider, Carsten Ramelow and others, there was just another silver.

2006 – Germany
Champion – Italy

The 2006 World Cup finals began on 9 June. The 32 teams were divided into eight groups of four teams each, within which the teams competed in a round-robin tournament to determine which two of those four teams would advance to the sixteen-team knock-out stage, which started on 24 June. In total, 64 games were played.

Although Germany failed to win the Cup, the tournament was considered a great success for Germany in general.

The stadia and transportation systems were state-of-the-art, and the German people were lauded for their hospitality and enthusiasm and gained new friends world-wide.

One big innovation was the Fan Fests, where millions of people watched the World Cup matches in public viewing areas.

South Africa has already declared it will emulate this idea for the 2010 tournament. Germany also experienced a sudden increase in patriotic spirit with unprecedented flag waving, traditionally frowned upon by German society since World War II, whenever the German team played.

Despite early success by Australia, Ecuador and Ghana, the tournament marked a return to dominance of the traditional football powers.

Four years after a 2002 tournament in which teams from North America (United States), Africa (Senegal), and Asia (South Korea) made it deep into the knockout stages and Turkey finished third, all eight seeded teams progressed to the knockout stages, and none of the quarter-finalists were from outside Europe or South America.

Six former champions took part in the quarter-final round, with Ukraine and Euro 2004 runners-up Portugal as the only relative outsiders.

Argentina and Brazil were eliminated in the quarter-finals, leaving an all-European final four for only the fourth time (after the 1934, 1966 and 1982 tournaments).

Despite the early goals that flooded the group stages, the knock-out phase had a much lower goals per match ratio.

A prime example of the dearth of goals was Portugal, who only scored in the 23rd minute of the Round of 16, and did not score again until the 88th minute of the third place play-off.

Italy, Germany, Argentina, Brazil and France were the only teams to score more than one goal in a knockout match.

Germany was one of the exceptions to the rule, tending to play an attacking style of football throughout the knockout stage, which was reflected by their being the team that scored the most goals (14).

Germany's Miroslav Klose scored 5 goals to claim the Golden Boot, the lowest total to win the prize since 1962. No other player scored more than three goals.

No player from the winning Italian squad scored more than two goals, though ten different players had scored for them, tying the record for the most goalscorers from any one team.

For the first time ever in the FIFA World Cup, the first and last goals of the tournament were scored by defenders.

Philipp Lahm the German wing-back scored the opener against Costa Rica after only 5 minutes of the first match.

In the final, Marco Materazzi, the Italian centre back, out-jumped Patrick Vieira and headed in the last goal of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Final

The final started with each side scoring within the first 20 minutes. Zinedine Zidane opened the scoring by converting a controversial seventh-minute penalty kick, which glanced off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal. Marco Materazzi then levelled the scores in the 19th minute following an Andrea Pirlo corner.

Both teams had chances to score the winning goal in normal time - Luca Toni hit the crossbar for Italy, later having a header disallowed for offside, while France were not granted a second penalty in the 53rd minute when Florent Malouda was felled in the box.

France appeared to be the better side with over ten more shots than the Italian team. They were unable to capitalise, however, and the score remained at one goal each.

At the end of the regulation 90 minutes, the score was still level at 1–1, and the match was forced into extra time. Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon made a potentially game-saving save in extra time when he tipped a Zidane header over the crossbar.

Further controversy ensued near the end of extra time, when Zidane headbutted Materazzi in the chest in an off-the-ball incident and was sent off. Extra time produced no further goals and a penalty shootout followed, which Italy won 5–3.

France's David Trezeguet, the man who scored the Golden Goal against Italy in Euro 2000, was the only player not to score his penalty; his spot kick hit the crossbar.

It was the first all-European final since Italy won the 1982 FIFA World Cup, and the second final (1994 was first, although Italy lost that time) to be decided on penalties.

It was also Italy's first world title in 24 years, and their fourth overall, putting them one ahead of Germany/West Germany and only one behind Brazil.

2010 - South Africa
Champion - Spain

The 2010 FIFA World Cup was the 19th FIFA World Cup and took place in South Africa from 11 June to 11 July 2010.

The bidding process for hosting the tournament finals was open only to African nations; in 2004, the international football federation, FIFA, selected South Africa over Egypt and Morocco to become the first African nation to host the finals.

The matches were played in ten stadiums in nine host cities around the country, with the final played at the Soccer City stadium in South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg.

Thirty-two teams were selected for participation via a worldwide qualification tournament that began in August 2007.

In the first round of the tournament finals, the teams competed in round-robin groups of four teams for points, with the top two teams in each group proceeding.

These sixteen teams advanced to the knockout stage, where three rounds of play decided which teams would participate in the final.

In the final, Spain, the European champions, defeated third-time finalists the Netherlands 1–0 after extra time, with Andrés Iniesta's goal in the 116th minute giving Spain their first world title, the first time that a European nation has won the tournament outside its home continent.

Host nation South Africa, 2006 world champions Italy and 2006 runners-up France were eliminated in the first round of the tournament.

2014 - Brazil
Champion - Germany

The 2014 FIFA World Cup was a tournament of contrasting halves but sustained intrigue.

When Mario Gotze fired Germany to extra-time glory in Sunday's final at Rio's iconic Maracana, Brazil 2014 equalled France 1998 as the highest-scoring World Cup of all time.

That statistic owed much to the vibrant, almost devil-may-care nature with which numerous teams launched their campaigns during the group stages.

The first of many spine-tingling moments arrived before a ball was even kicked, when Brazil's fans and team roared their national anthem in unison at a fervent Arena de Sao Paulo.

Two goals from poster boy Neymar secured a 3-1 opening win over Croatia and, although those strikes papered over obvious cracks in Luiz Felipe Scolari's team, it was impossible to foresee the respective physical and emotional pain the Barcelona forward and his team would end up in as yellow and green optimism flowed.

A day later, world football's established order over recent years was blown to pieces.

Holding a 1-0 lead against the Netherlands as half-time approached and settling into their familiarly seductive passing rhythm, holders and two-time reigning European champions Spain had little indication of the horrors they were about to endure.

But Robin van Persie contorted himself remarkably to head Netherlands level - a goal arguably only surpassed by near crossbar-destroying volleys from Australia's Tim Cahill and Colombia’s James Rodriguez during a tournament packed with dazzling strikes.

After the break, the Manchester United striker and Arjen Robben wrought havoc and Spain collapsed, battered to a 5-1 loss.

That unforgettable night in Salvador had a key impact on the mood of Brazil 2014. Four years ago, teams packing their defences, holding on and praying against the technically excellent likes of Spain made for some insipid viewing.

The sight of the Dutch laying waste to the 'tiki-taka' generation seemed to have an emboldening effect on all-comers.

Traditional heavyweights were not to be feared - certainly not by Costa Rica, who came from behind to stun Uruguay before ensuring England and Italy perished in the 'Group of Death'.

Many of the great moments in those early stages belonged to the fearless breed of underdogs that the Central American nation embodied.

Algeria - arguably the most goal-shy and prosaic of the lot at South Africa 2010 - progressed from Group H behind Belgium, attacking with the type of unrelenting pace that brings fans to the edge of their seats and defenders out in a cold sweat.

There was even glory for teams who fell on their swords. Australia departed pointless but won many admirers in going blow-for-blow against the clearly superior opposition of Chile and Netherlands; Ghana took a break from debilitating in-fighting to puncture perceptions of German invincibility during a breathless 2-2 draw in Manaus. It proved to be their only point of the competition.

Only time will tell over whether the United States' love affair with 'soccer' is built to last, but Jurgen Klinsmann's tough and stylish team were the worthy catalyst of a whirlwind romance.

A World Cup feels incomplete without a South American superstar announcing his arrival and Colombia's Monaco playmaker Rodriguez swaggered irresistibly into view, with choreographed goal celebrations to boot.

As an Argentina leaning on Lionel Messi struggled to reach top gear during the group stages, it was left to Colombia and an irrepressible Chile side to capture the imagination amid the host continents' representatives. For Uruguay, Luis Suarez once again undermined his brilliance with garish controversy.

But history weighed on Chile and Colombia as they fell short against a limited Brazil during the knockout stages, when higher stakes tempered the creative freedom of the tournament's early days.

There was still time to fit in one more jaw-dropping moment for the ages. Germany's 7-1 dismantling of the hosts will for ever be a staple of World Cup retrospectives. That should help it finally become believable.

This is a Germany side without superstars but bursting with talent - a team in the truest sense as they perfectly realised coach Joachim Low's exquisite vision in Belo Horizonte before taking the ultimate prize at Brazil's football temple.

While the group stages belonged to mesmeric individuals such as Robben and Rodriguez, the knockout rounds demonstrated the power of the collective.

The Argentina squad that faced Germany on Sunday featured nine members of the group that won the 2008 Olympic Games. One year later, five of Germany’s starting line-up in Rio - six before Sami Khedira's late withdrawal - won the European Under-21 Championship.

It provides sobering reading for advocates of knee-jerk reactions and quick-fixes as Spain, Italy, England and Brazil lead the nations wondering where they go from here.

The evidence suggests that the next group of players destined for World Cup glory are a considerable way along their path to greatness already.
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