The 2014 FIFA World Cup became the stage for Germany to experience the maturation of a batch of young stars. A team that has been developed on the job at several major tournaments finally came good to outlast the competition in Brazil.
That Germany sits atop the final standings from the competition is a justified billing. They played the best, most expansive football of any team at the tournament.
Runners-up Argentina shared a worrying fragility with third-placed nation the Netherlands. That is an unhealthy dependency on a single star player.
Meanwhile, hosts Brazil will begin the process of recovering national pride after surrendering 10 goals in their final two games. The five-time winners must now re-evaluate their core football values at the international level.
Read on for a more detailed breakdown of the top teams at this World Cup, beginning first with a brief recap of the group stage.
Here are the standings from the group stage. They are ordered in the alphabetical succession of each group:
|Full Standings From 2014 World Cup Group Stage|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||F||3||3|
The teams that defined the group stages were surprise packages such as Costa Rica and Algeria. Of the two, the former rate as the biggest shock.
Costa Rica dominated Group D by brushing aside more illustrious opponents in the form of Uruguay and Italy. Sound and intelligent defensive resolve allied with tremendous pace in attack was the Costa Rica formula for success.
Arsenal forward Joel Campbell particularly stood out. He proved himself a true hidden gem, one club boss Arsene Wenger will find hard to ignore this season.
One other notable team from the groups was Chile. The South American nation earned the hearts of many neutrals with a brand of energetic running and audacious flair.
Among the disappointments at this stage were Japan and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both teams crashed out of their respective groups despite ample creative talent.
One memorable characteristic of the group stage was the number of spectacular goals. Netherlands striker Robin van Persie started things rolling with a fantastic leaping header in his country's 5-1 destruction of vanquished cup holders Spain.
But few fans will ever forget Tim Cahill's scarcely believable volley for Australia against the Dutch.
Once the group order was settled, matches became a little more cagey during the knockout phase. That was understandable when considering the increase in jeopardy and pressure.
Here are the full results from the sudden-death rounds:
|Full Results From 2014 World Cup Knockout Phase|
|Round of 16||Brazil vs. Chile||1-1 Brazil won 3-2 on Penalties|
|Round of 16||Colombia vs. Uruguay||2-0|
|Round of 16||Netherlands vs. Mexico||2-1|
|Round of 16||Costa Rica vs. Greece||1-1 Costa Rica won 5-3 on Penalties|
|Round of 16||France vs. Nigeria||2-0|
|Round of 16||Germany vs. Algeria||2-1 (ET)|
|Round of 16||Argentina vs. Switzerland||1-0 (ET)|
|Round of 16||Belgium vs. USA||2-1 (ET)|
|Quarter-final||France vs. Germany||0-1|
|Quarter-final||Brazil vs. Colombia||2-1|
|Quarter-final||Argentina vs. Belgium||1-0|
|Quarter-final||Netherlands vs. Costa Rica||0-0 Netherlands won 4-3 on Penalties|
|Semi-final||Brazil vs. Germany||1-7|
|Semi-final||Netherlands vs. Argentina||0-0 Argentina won 2-4 on Penalties|
|Third-Place Playoff||Brazil vs. Netherlands||0-3|
|Final||Germany vs. Argentina||1-0|
One of the highlights of the round of 16 was Colombia star James Rodriguez. He simply destroyed a functional Uruguay team.
Unfortunately, Rodriguez was not given the chance to produce the same magic in the quarter-final against Brazil. That game quickly deteriorated into an ugly exchange of fouls.
Still, Rodriguez ensured his place as one of the rising stars of football. His performances have already earned admiring glances from Real Madrid, per Sky Sports.
Rodriguez is a classic case of the World Cup determining a player's transfer status, future and value.
Genuine excitement was provided by the penalty shootout between Costa Rica and the Netherlands at the quarter-final stage. Dutch gaffer Louis van Gaal shocked many when he introduced substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul specifically for the shootout. It was a bold move that paid off.
The semi-finals provided a stark contrast. This time the Netherlands lost on penalties to Argentina. Sadly, the game itself was a dreadful bore:
This flat contest revealed the problem with both squads. They were each too reliant on one man. Argentina needed tricky skipper Lionel Messi to produce magic every game.
Meanwhile, the fortunes of the Netherlands were tied firmly to the performances of veteran winger Arjen Robben. When either failed to shine, his nation usually struggled to score.
Just a day earlier, Germany had revealed the value of fielding a team brimming with talented individuals. They destroyed Brazil 7-1 in an almighty shellacking.
The result was an ode to Germany's rich depth of midfield class. A group containing Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger made Germany the most dangerous attacking outfit at the tournament.
Brazil's humbling revealed the folly of all those who thought the host's squad was anything close to good enough to win the tournament. Dour selection and tactics from Luiz Felipe Scolari created a plodding team hopelessly outmatched by the Germans' quick and clever movement.
The tournament rightly belonged to Germany. Their high-energy rotation of positions, daring high defensive line and combination passing made them a joy to watch.
That style, along with an enviable production line of talent, positions Germany to dominate for several tournaments to come.