Stunning Facts and Moments from 2014 World Cup
You may have thought the 2014 FIFA World Cup was over after Germany vanquished Argentina to take its fourth cup (and global bragging rights), but coverage of the spectacle is merely in extra time.
And just like the white-knuckle theatrics of this year's extra-time finishes, you'll be blown away by some of the awesome—and sometimes downright bonkers—moments captured while the world watched.
What else can you expect when soccer fans (even if some are only "tourists" of the sport) from around the globe get together and share in the joy of victory...and the agony of defeat?
From crazy social media traffic to international geopolitical brouhahas, there was no shortage of World Cup stories and curiosities.
America vs. Portugal Beat Some Big Boys in the Ratings
According to Niclas Ericson, FIFA’s director of television, the match against Portugal was a major milestone for the sport of soccer in the U.S. The ratings on ESPN beat the average ratings for the five games in the NBA Finals and the six in the World Series last October.
According to ESPNFC.com, “Through 32 matches, World Cup games averaged 4.3 million viewers on ESPN. That’s up 50 percent from the nearly 2.9 million for the matches in the 2010 World Cup. [USA v Portugal] was the most-watched event ever on ESPN that did not involve American football.”
Germany’s Win Gave One Fan a Long Overdue Reason to Drink
According to the Hindustan Times, a Germany fan in India named Putul Borah bought a bottle of Passport Scotch whiskey back in 1994 in hopes of celebrating a German victory over Bulgaria. When it lost, 2-1, Borah was so devastated that he decided to bury the scotch in his courtyard.
That’s where it stayed for 20 years until Sunday, when Borah finally dug it up to toast Germany’s World Cup victory over Argentina. He said it was the happiest day of his life.
Argentina Victory Proves to Be a Stressful Cardiac Event
The semifinal match between Argentina and Netherlands was deadlocked 0-0 through the entire game until Argentina ultimately came out on top in a penalty-kick shootout. It was such an intense affair on the pitch that it led to two cardiac deaths off the pitch.
According to Lee Moran of the NY Daily News, “A 16-year-old boy in La Banda…went into cardiac arrest Wednesday night after Sergio Romero saved Holland’s first spot kick.” After the win, “Erick Tench collapsed in the town’s central square” after suffering a heart attack.
England Makes History for All the Wrong Reasons
England wasn’t predicted to do a whole lot in the World Cup this year, but even with tempered expectations they still managed to disappoint. This year’s tournament was the first time England had been bounced during the group stage since 1958.
Their play earned just one point, which was the country’s lowest-ever total in a World Cup group stage. As SkySports1 notes, “Germany scored two more goals vs. Brazil than England have in their past two World Cup campaigns combined.”
One Belgian Fan Received a Modeling Contract
After being spotted in a Viking helmet during Belgium’s match against Russia, 17-year-old Belgian beauty Axelle Despiegelaere became an international viral sensation after being offered a modeling contract from cosmetics giant L’Oreal.
One Belgian Fan Lost a Modeling Contract
Two days after landing the L’Oreal modeling contract, Axelle Despiegelaere was unceremoniously dumped by the company after a controversial hunting photo she had posted to Facebook came to light.
Amid the backlash, the company downplayed its involvement with Despiegelaere saying in a statement, “L’Oreal Professionnel Belgium collaborated with her on an ad hoc basis to produce a video for social media use in Belgium. The contract has now been completed.”
Alex Song Carried on Family Tradition
Although there were fewer red cards at the 2014 World Cup than any other since 1986, Cameroon’s Alex Song was among the 10 players to receive one. SkySports notes that “His relative Rigobert Song is one of only two players to be sent off twice at World Cups.”
That means the Song family alone is responsible for Cameroon’s eight total red cards in the tournament. The only other player to be sent off twice? France’s Zinedine Zidane, of the stunningly unexpected, and uncalled for, headbutting infamy.
English Fan Attacks Girlfriend After Loss
Throughout the World Cup, fans from all over the globe made international headlines for various reasons. Perhaps none were worse than David Barr, an Englishman who reacted…unfavorably…to England’s loss to Italy.
Per Richard Spillett of the Daily Mail, Barr drunkenly strangled his girlfriend, Gemma Dykins, following the loss and then bit off a chunk of her ear. Dykins was understandably in fear for her life during the attack and Barr, who is 38, is facing a “lengthy” jail term.
Mick Jagger Proves a Harbinger of Doom, Yet Again
Over the last two World Cups, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger has been on hand for four matches in which the team he was supporting ultimately lost, earning him the reputation as the ultimate jinx.
Most recently, Jagger personally witnessed Brazil’s epic 7-1 beatdown at the hands of Germany. He attended the game with his 15-year-old son, whose mother is a Brazilian model. Jagger’s son wore a Brazil jersey, but he played it cool with an England cap.
Although he wasn’t dressed the part, Jagger was reportedly supporting Brazil, something fans tried to combat with cardboard cutouts of the singer dressed in opposing team jerseys. It worked against Chile and Colombia but obviously failed against Germany.
Fans in Brazil are seriously convinced that the Jagger curse played a role in their demise. In fact, according to The Telegraph, “The Brazilian news network R7 described him as ‘the biggest jinx in history.’” That’s pretty legit.
American Soccer Earns Fans Abroad
After a pretty good run in the 20th century—delivering big-time saves in WWI and WWII—the United States' reputation abroad has suffered for various reasons that are too numerous to go into detail here. And it’s safe to say our soccer team didn’t help matters much…until this year!
According to a report by Martin Rogers of Yahoo! Sports, “The United States is growing in popularity within soccer.” Brazilian businessman Mario Ribiero told Rogers, “Brazil is falling in love with the U.S. It is seen as something new and exciting and surprising. We love the team because it is an underdog. And we love the fans.”
America as an underdog? It’s not a role we’ve been cast in very often—at least not since 1776—but it has a nice ring to it.
Argentina Fans Get Rowdy on an Airplane
These days, passengers acting up on airplanes rarely ends well, with airline employees and fellow passengers having little patience for shenanigans. One notable exception is a recent flight taken by a young Argentine named Facundo de la Cruz.
In a video that was posted on YouTube and picked up by various media outlets, the pilot announces to the passengers that Argentina defeated the Netherlands, meaning it would advance to play Germany in the World Cup final.
The reaction on the aircraft is nothing short of hysterical, with Cruz and the rest of the passengers cheering and shouting. It’s definitely a sight to be seen.
Twitter and Facebook Were Cranked into Overdrive
Twitter always gets a workout during live sporting events, but no event has tested its tweeting capacity more than the 2014 World Cup. The final between Germany and Argentina broke social media records on both Twitter and Facebook.
With the whole world watching, Facebook said that 88 million users worldwide engaged in activity (be it “likes,” status updates or comments) during the match. On Twitter, there was 618,725 tweets per minute at its peak, besting the previous record of 580,166 set just days prior during the Brazil-Germany semifinal.
With most of the teams already weeded out, the viewing audience wasn’t nearly as fractured as it was prior to the knockout round. Even so, the USA vs. Ghana game, which was the first match of the tournament for the Americans, still inspired 4.9 million tweets on its own. That’s an average of 54,444 tweets per minute.
Germany’s Dominance Cannot Be Overstated
Obviously Germany won the World Cup, but that’s not all there is to this story. SkySports ran down a list of their overall dominance, and it was a very compelling case:
- Germany have reached the world Cup final for the eighth time, more often than any other side in the history of the competition.
- Germany have scored 18 goals in these finals—the last team to score as many in a World Cup tournament was Brazil (also 18) in 2002.
- Miroslav Klose became the top-scoring player in World Cup history with his strike against Brazil in the semi-finals (16 goals).
- Germany are the first European team to win the World Cup in the Americas.
- Germany’s 7-1 win was the biggest margin of victory ever seen in a World Cup semi-final, and they were the first team to score this many goals in the semi-finals.
- With their destruction of Brazil, Germany became the top-scoring nation in World Cup history (223), overtaking Brazil in the process. Germany ended the tournament with 224 goals, three ahead of Brazil.
And that’s not even the whole list. Whatever though…we get it…Germany rules and the rest of us drool.
World Cup Loss Was Deadly Serious for at Least One Fan
Earlier this month The Kathmandu Post and Sportskeeda, an Asian sports website, reported the tragic tale of a Brazil fan living with her family in Nepal. Pragya Thapa—who was either 15 or 17, depending on which article you read—reportedly became so despondent over being teased by friends about Brazil’s epic loss to Germany that she committed suicide.
It’s a stunning story of sports passion taken to the extreme, assuming we’re getting the whole story. The varying bits of information in the different articles definitely raise questions, but that’s a long way for news to travel, and mistakes can easily be made in translation. If it’s true, it’s definitely one of the most stunning moments from the tournament.
Argentine President Makes a Shocking Confession
Riots broke out on the streets of Buenos Aires as devastated Argentina fans reacted to their World Cup loss to Germany. Given the mood of the country, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez picked an interesting time to declare: “I’m no soccer fan.”
But declare that she did, in a move that Reuters called a “blunder that shows some observers said exposed her as out of touch with the national mood.” Fernandez admitted she didn’t watch a single match during the tournament and turned down an invitation from Brazil’s president to attend the final.
Billions Were Lost in Worker Productivity
The idea that there are two sides to every story is an absolute fallacy, but there are plenty of instances where it holds true, and this is certainly one of them. There were a number of articles published throughout the World Cup which estimated production loss from workers in various countries.
Yahoo!’s Jeff Macke estimated the U.S. lost $682 million in productivity during the match against Belgium alone. A survey conducted by Chartered Management Institute put the U.K. losses throughout the tournament at around $1.45 billion—that per The Wall Street Journal.
There are countless articles from any number of publications making the same exact claims, but with wildly varying numbers. An interesting piece in U.S. News & World Report recently countered them, stating “research that predicts economic loss due to the tournament is misguided and dangerous.”
One Fired-Up American Fan Fell out a Window
From sea to shining sea, Americans were fired up for the U.S. match against Portugal, a team led by global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. It was the highest-rated match of the World Cup within the United States, but there was one fan who stands out among that massive crowd.
A soccer fan named Eric Corey was watching the game at Miami bar when the U.S. gave up that last-second goal to Silvestre Varela after a cross from Ronaldo. We don’t know if Corey slipped on bar debris or just lost his marbles, but we do know that he went tumbling out a second-story window and landed on an awning below.
Believe it or not, Corey wasn’t seriously injured. He was taken away from the scene by paramedics, but ultimately refused additional medical treatment at a hospital and just went home to rest.
Brazil's Loss to Germany Was One for the Ages
Fans tuning in for the World Cup semi-final match between Germany and Brazil were expecting quite a show from the two most dominant teams in the tournament’s history. And a show they did receive, although it wasn’t the show anyone expected to see.
It was kind of like showing up for Grease on Broadway and instead a Pig Destroyer concert is happening, but you stay because it’s impossible to look away.
Germany defeated Brazil in Brazil by a score of 7-1—it was the worst loss by a host country in World Cup history, doubling the previous record margin. The seven goals were the most ever scored in a semi-final, and the loss ended Brazil’s 39-year unbeaten streak at home.
It was so bad that, per Dominic Fifield of The Guardian, Brazilian striker Fred said, “It is a scar which will remain with us for the rest of our lives.”
The Nation’s Capital Is Also Its Soccer Capital
Though ratings across the board—and across the country—were impressive throughout the 2014 World Cup, one city stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of viewership. For the Germany-Argentina final San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco all pulled in a 13.0 share or better for ESPN, but Washington, D.C., easily topped them with a 15.4.
And that’s only the number that can be measured by ESPN. Fans in D.C. gathered together by the thousands throughout the World Cup—crowds in Dupont Circle were particularly massive and rowdy before the U.S. was eventually knocked out by Belgium.
Costa Rica Made Their Mark
Costa Rica was ultimately eliminated via points after a 0-0 draw against the Netherlands, but not before doing some serious damage along the way. They knocked out Italy, England, Greece and beat Uruguay.
Those four teams all were among the 12 teams as ranked by FIFA—Uruguay seventh, Italy ninth, England 10th, Greece 12th. Overall, a very impressive showing from the Cinderella story of the tournament.
Tim Howard's Legendary Losing Effort
Has any player ever walked away from a loss a bigger hero than American goalkeeper Tim Howard did against Belgium? The U.S. lost 2-1 and were eliminated from the tournament, but it was not for lack of effort in net.
Howard made 16 saves in defeat, which was more saves than any goalkeeper in history had ever made during a single World Cup game. He was so stunningly good he was momentarily named the Secretary of Defense…on Wikipedia.