Brazil's World Cup campaign may have come crumbling down to a demoralizing finish, but the famous footballing nation has plenty to be proud of.
Near the top of that list: It just hosted one of the most thrilling, unforgettable World Cup tournaments in recent history.
Generally, it takes very little for the World Cup to engage fans. The infrequency of the tournament (just once every four years), the prestigious history and the popularity of the sport are enough to do that, regardless of the product on the pitch.
But this year's tournament was on another level. The matches were mostly even, the individual performances were scintillating, the moments were tense and the entire world was gripped by the World Cup over the last month.
The New York Times' Jere Longman put it simply:
The World Cup was well organized despite fears that it would be chaotic. The Brazilian people were hospitable. The soccer was largely attractive and attacking. Some have called this the best World Cup in recent memory.
Soccer became so absorbing that widespread protests — against perceived wasteful spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics — did not occur after undermining a warm-up tournament last year.
To appropriately conclude such a marvelous job as hosts, Brazil needed the perfect presenter of the World Cup trophy during Sunday's final.
And it found exactly that with Gisele Bundchen.
The 33-year-old model and producer has proven that she has just as much passion for futbol as she does for football, the latter being a sport that husband Tom Brady makes a pretty decent living playing. Over the last month, her Instagram and Twitter accounts have been centered around Brazil's performance at the World Cup, making clear her status as a diehard fan.
Of course, matching her love for the beautiful game is her popularity in her home country. Before the tournament started, she shared a cover of Vogue Brasil with fellow national hero Neymar, which speaks volumes about how she is viewed.
“I’m honored to have been chosen to represent my country, because I love Brazil," Bundchen told FIFA.com. "When it comes to football, the Brazilians really wear the shirt, don’t they?”
Put it all together, and the classy, respected Bundchen was the perfect choice as Brazil's representative during Sunday's pre-match ceremony, especially with president Dilma Rousseff seemingly becoming less popular by the day.
While Brazil's final results on the pitch were far from what was expected, the country got everything else right.