20 Best Matches of the 2014 World Cup

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistJuly 14, 2014

20 Best Matches of the 2014 World Cup

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    It's all over, and as Germany celebrate the victory in the Maracana that crowned them as world champions, we are left to look back at a tournament that provided a huge amount of thrills, spills and memorable moments.

    Everyone will have their favourite moments from the past four-and-a-half weeks, and some goals and incidents will mean more to some than others. But what about the best and most memorable matches?

    Here we take a look at the Top 20 games of the 2014 World Cup.

20. Japan 1-4 Colombia, June 24

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    Group C wasn't the most thrilling of sections at the tournament, but it was lit up by a brilliant Colombia showcasing all of their talents in the win over Japan on the final matchday.

    The excellent James Rodriguez came off the bench at half-time to twice set up Jackson Martinez before scoring late on himself with an superb chipped finish.

    This was the clash that effectively secured him the Golden Boot.

19. Brazil 3-1 Croatia, June 12

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    We started with a bang and a huge moment of controversy.

    The remarkable penalty awarded to Brazil after Fred was barely touched by Croatia's Dejan Lovren got the World Cup off to a start that many didn't agree with but was hugely watchable all the same.

    Neymar converted from the penalty spot for his second of the match, with Oscar adding Brazil's third late on as they won 3-1.

18. Uruguay 2-1 England, June 19

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    Luis Suarez's one positive contribution to the tournament was this ruthless display in Sao Paulo, where his double strike all but knocked England out.

    Foolishly challenged by English boss Roy Hodgson to prove his class before the match, Suarez responded with two clinical finishes either side of an ultimately meaningless Wayne Rooney goal.

    Suarez had made a mark in Brazil, and it wouldn't be the last... 

17. Italy 0-1 Costa Rica, June 20

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    After their victory over Uruguay, this was arguably an even better achievement for Costa Rica, as the much-fancied Italians were put in their place.

    Los Ticos captain Bryan Ruiz headed the winning goal to stun Italy, who had entered the match in high spirits having beaten England in their opening match in Manaus.

    They were no match for the nous of the Costa Ricans, though, as the underdogs remarkably made it through a Group D that many said they didn't have a chance in.

16. Germany 4-0 Portugal, June 16

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    Two commonly held footballing opinions were borne out in this game: Thomas Mueller can score goals and Pepe is crazy.

    The two clashed in the first half of their sides' opening match, and although Mueller was hugely responsible for the coming together, it was Pepe who was sent off.

    Mueller scored a hat-trick as the eventual champions strode to a 4-0 victory. They had started as they meant to go on.

15. USA 2-2 Portugal, June 22

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    In what was easily the most exciting of the World Cup groups, the USA were seconds away from qualifying for the last 16 after talisman Clint Dempsey had put them 2-1 up against the Portuguese, a strike that followed a stunning Jermaine Jones goal.

    Cristiano Ronaldo was never going to meekly bow out of the tournament, though, and his terrific cross was headed home by substitute Silvestre Varela in the dying moments of stoppage time to rescue Portugal's hopes.

    They weren't hopes that lasted long, though.

14. Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica, June 14

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    In what was probably the first case of a huge upset being seen at this World Cup, Costa Rica came from behind to stun Uruguay in Fortaleza.

    All looked to be going to plan for the South Americans when Edinson Cavani converted from the penalty spot in the first half, only for the Costa Ricans to remarkably fight back.

    Joel Campbell, Oscar Duarte and Marcos Urena all scored to turn the tables in the second half, as the Costa Ricans achieved their first remarkable victory of the tournament.

13. South Korea 2-4 Algeria, June 22

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    Algeria became the first African nation to score three goals in a World Cup match as they beat South Korea 4-2 in a Group H thriller in Porto Alegre.

    Islam Slimani, Rafick Halliche, Abdelmoumene Djabou and Yacine Brahimi all found the net in what was a key result for the Algerians in their eventually successful bid to reach the last 16, which they secured with a 1-1 draw against Russia in their final match.

    This win was undoubtedly their highlight, though, and a fully deserved one at that.

12. Ghana 1-2 USA, June 16

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    Sometimes you just need a moment to show you how magical and special a World Cup can be, and that was provided here by USA substitute John Brooks.

    An end-to-end clash looked to be finishing all square when defender Brooks popped up to head home a late corner, sparking wild celebrations and a look of disbelief on his face. 

    Brooks was here.

11. Switzerland 2-5 France, June 20

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    France turned in surely their best performance for many years as they completely overwhelmed Switzerland in their Group E clash.

    Such was the French dominance they even missed a penalty through Karim Benzema, who also saw a late goal chalked off after the referee had already blown the whistle for full time.

    He did manage a legitimate effort though, as did Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena and Moussa Sissoko in a dominant victory in Salvador.

10. Nigeria 2-3 Argentina, June 25

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    Lionel Messi scored twice in the first half as Argentina secured Group F qualification in Belo Horizonte, where they were watched by thousands of their fans.

    An entertaining Nigeria side gave as good as they got, with Ahmed Musa equalising twice as the Africans refused to lie down to the eventual finalists, whose winner came from left-back Marcos Rojo.

    Both sides qualified for the the last 16, where Nigeria lost 2-0 to France.

9. Germany 2-2 Ghana, June 21

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    The only team to stop Germany from eventually beating them were Ghana, who turned in a spirited display to draw 2-2 in a thrilling group game.

    Substitute Miroslav Klose climbed off the bench to equal the record for World Cup goals and drag the Germans level in the contest.

    They never fell behind again.

8. Germany 1-0 Argentina AET, July 13

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    Despite the lack of goals, this was a very watchable World Cup final, and one settled by a fine strike late in extra time from Mario Goetze.

    Germany were fortunate that Argentina seemed to be committed to missing the many good chances that they created during the match, with Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Rodrigo Palacio all proving wasteful.

    When Goetze's chance came, though, he accepted it gleefully, firing home past Sergio Romero and ensuring that an exciting game produced a winner without the need for a penalty shootout.

7. Belgium 2-1 USA AET, July 1

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    In a match remembered for the heroics of goalkeeper Tim Howard, the USA pushed Belgium all the way in Salvador in a clash that ended goalless after 90 minutes.

    Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku struck for the Belgians in the first half of extra time, only for Julian Green to pull one back for a USA side that refused accept defeat.

    They ended up exiting the tournament, but they did so after winning plenty of new friends.

6. Australia 2-3 Netherlands, June 18

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    A thrilling Group B clash ended with the Netherlands taking the three points, despite Australia coming from a goal down to lead.

    Tim Cahill scored one of the goals of the tournament to level for the Aussies after Arjen Robben had put the Dutch ahead, before a Mile Jedinak penalty gave the Socceroos an unlikely lead.

    Back came the Dutch, though, with Robin van Persie and substitute Memphis Depay striking to secure qualification for the knockout stages.

5. Spain 0-2 Chile, June 18

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    If the Dutch had killed off Spain, then this match against Chile was the funeral.

    The vibrant Chileans ensured that the Spanish were going to exit at the group stage as two first-half goals earned victory in the Maracana and ended Spain's era of dominance.

    Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz did the damage with the goals, as the Spanish had no answer to Chile's impressive attacking.

4. Brazil 1-1 Chile AET (Brazil Win 3-2 on Pens), June 28

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    This was the first real sense we got of just how nervous the Brazilian nation was about their team's chances in their own World Cup, as they scraped through on penalties against an unfortunate Chilean team.

    David Luiz helped divert in the home side's opener before Alexis Sanchez equalised for a Chile side who didn't look overawed.

    However, after Mauricio Pinilla had hit the bar for the Chileans late on on extra time, both he and Sanchez saw Julio Cesar save their penalties as Brazil marched on.

3. Brazil 2-1 Colombia, July 4

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    The first half of this quarter-final was probably the best Brazil played all tournament, as they hassled the previously impressive Colombians and took the lead through Thiago Silva.

    In a remarkably breathless moment, David Luiz doubled that advantage with a stunning free-kick, and although James Rodriguez pulled one back with a penalty late on, Brazil were able to cling on to victory and a place in the last four.

    It came at a cost, though, as the back injury suffered by Neymar would end his tournament.

2. Spain 1-5 Netherlands, June 13

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    The moment and the match that brought Spain's world crashing down, as they astonishingly collapsed against a vibrant Dutch team in Salvador.

    It's easy to forget that the Spanish actually took the lead through a Xabi Alonso penalty before Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben took over to inflict an embarrassing defeat on the holders.

    Van Persie scored with an unforgettable diving header, which was the catalyst for four more Dutch goals that shattered Iker Casillas and company.

1. Brazil 1-7 Germany, July 8

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    Sometimes football transcends a mere game and becomes much, much more than that, and that is what we saw in the most remarkable fashion in the semi-final in Belo Horizonte, as Germany inflicted Brazil's greatest ever shame upon them.

    An astonishingly ruthless display saw the future world champions win 7-1 as goals from Thomas Mueller, Miroslav Klose (breaking the tournament record), Toni Kroos (twice), Sami Khedira and Andre Schurrle (twice) stunned the football world.

    This is the match that this tournament will be remembered for, and so it quite rightly takes its place as our No. 1.