Top 10 most memorable moments of the 2014 World Cup

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10. Luis Suarez bite

Why not start here? It can only go up from this embarrassing moment. He tried to deny it, but ultimately the video doesn’t lie. Luis Suarez bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, earning him a 4-month ban from all competition.

It was memorable only in the sense that it rocked the soccer world (along with the internet), as it’s inconceivable he would do this a third time in his career, after the first two caused such a splash.

Suarez has since transferred to Barcelona, but will not be eligible to play until around November. The ban is full and total, meaning he cannot even be unvelied at the Camp Nou to Barcelona fans. Nonetheless, the Catalans decided to make him around the fourth-most expensive transfer in history.

9. The death of Spain

I said it could only go up from the Suarez bite, right? Well, it’s a slow climb.  Spain was a serious contender to win the entire World Cup…or so we thought. Instead, they bowed out of the World Cup almost immediately, with a pair of losses to open their campaign enough to send them packing.

The capitulation marked a moment of transition for Spain, a team that was not only the defending World Cup champion but also had put together a string of impressive title runs across multiple recent competitions.  For such a decorated coach as Vicente del Bosque and players like Xavi, Iker Casillas, and Andres Iniesta, it was a humbling moment compared to other career highs.

The team should be fine moving forward, and this will be just a bump in the road, but it still shocked the world to see such big names fail so miserably. Especially Casillas. Yikes.

source: AP8. Chile…and their fans

Chilean fans were praised for their passion during matches, and their team was praised for positive performances.  They took down Spain, battled the Netherlands, and stretched Brazil to penalty kicks. Players like Alexis Sanchez and Gary Medel were standouts in the tournament and earned widespread praise for their electricity on the pitch.

Their fans were also memorable for something else…toppling over a barrier and storming the Maracana press room in an attempt to gain access without tickets.  The stampede stunned much of the media and gave us quite a laugh, but Chile’s performance on the field was just as memorable.

7. Louis van Gaal subs in Tim Krul for penalty shootout and he comes up big

Call it genius, call it lucky, or call it stupidity that came through, but Louis van Gaal produced a memorable moment when he switched goalkeepers just before the Netherlands penalty shootout against Costa Rica.

Then, after watching the Costa Ricans look so clinical in their penalty shootout the previous round, Krul made two beastly saves and made his manager look really, really good.  The Netherlands had one more amazingly memorable moment in their semifinal run, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

source: AP6. Speaking of Costa Rica, they were pretty awesome

May I present to you the jewels of CONCACAF, Costa Rica! Wait, what? Yep, Costa Rica not only made it out of a group with three previous World Cup champions, they won it. With room to spare.

The Costa Ricans, led by the stellar Bryan Ruiz (Wait…WHAT?!), took down both Italy and Uruguay before playing to a draw with England in a mostly meaningless game.  They then passed by the Greeks on penalties and took the Netherlands that far as well to complete an entertaining World Cup that gave CONCACAF a bit more clout.

5. Miroslav Klose breaks the all-time World Cup scoring record

It was slightly (ok, heavily) overshadowed by the drubbing that Brazil took in the match, but it’s hard to forget that Miroslav Klose passed Ronaldo as the all-time leading goalscorer in the World Cup.

The 36-year-old has had a stellar international career, scoring 71 goals for Die Mannschaft, but one of the biggest came with the game already at 1-0 against Brazil, the 16th in his World Cup career.  Germany eventually won 7-1, shoving Klose’s goal to the back shelf, but it didn’t diminish what he’d done.  Oh, and he went on to win the World Cup, so that’s pretty cool too.

4. Mario Götze wins Germany the World Cup in extra time

Yea, if you remember, Germany won the World Cup some time ago. And it’s hard to imagine a moment bigger than winning the World Cup on a goal in extra time. That’s what Mario Götze did in the 113th minute of a 0-0 game.  It was an absolutely brilliant goal, with a wondrous setup from Andre Schurrle and an even better finish from the 22-year-old that saw him chest down the ball coming hard at him and blast a precise and powerful volley past Sergio Romero.

The goal will no doubt write the young star into German history, and there’s not much more to be said for this one. His goal won the freakin World Cup. That’s about as good as it gets.

3. Germany annihilates Brazil 7-1

source: APA game that reverberated around not only the soccer world but an entire nation, Brazil had hoped to win the World Cup on their home soil, but they were sent packing with a disastrous performance that crushed the entire country.

Germany, with four goals in a 27-minute span and five in the first half, torched the hosts and threw the country into sudden soccer turmoil. The effects of the match could be seen in the third-place game, when Brazil had absolutely nothing to give their fans against a dangerous Netherlands team who made it look all too easy.

For a team who hadn’t lost a competitive home match in a really, really long time, this was a disaster of epic proportions. For a team that would go on to win the World Cup, it would give us a taste of how dangerous Germany really is.

2. Robin van Persie’s spearhead diving header

A moment that jumpstarted the World Cup, it remains one of the most memorable. It cemented the 2014 World Cup (especially the group stage) as one of the most unpredictable in history, and alerted the world what it was in for.

With the Netherlands down 1-0 to Spain on just the second day of the event, Robin van Persie flew through the air gracefully and deposited the ball into the back of the net past Iker Casillas. The goal signaled the demise of Spain in the tournament (see earlier) and would announce the Netherlands as a force. Also, it was just a really awesome goal.

1. James Rodriguez is amazing

The world fell in love with James Rodriguez in the 2014 World Cup, and for good reason. He ended up winning the Golden Boot, and because every moment was just as fun as the last, and for that, we’re just going to lump them all into one.

The Colombian international scored six goals, including at least one in every single match he played in the tournament. He braved the host country and massive bugs, and passed every test he faced.

He gave us a ridiculous volley against Uruguay, insane footwork against Japan, and tears after losing to Brazil, all which made us fall that much more in love with him.  With a move to Real Madrid likely in his future, Rodriguez won the hearts of the world.

Other moments we can’t forget: Tim Howard’s record 16 saves, Miguel Herrera’s sideline antics, German national team’s pants ridiculousness during training.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

AP Photo/Felipe Dana
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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.