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.

World Cup referees miss yet another physical penalty in box

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Let’s get this out of the way first: VAR (Video-Assistant Refereeing) has been a fabulous addition to the game of soccer. In the 2018 World Cup, the availability of replay has done nothing but improve the ability of referees to correctly officiate the game, providing an outlet for mistakes to be corrected. Earlier on Friday, a referee gave a penalty to Brazil for a foul on Neymar, but with VAR applied correctly, the penalty was wiped off after it was determined Neymar went down easily. The game continued as it should, and a clear and obvious error was erased.

Unfortunately, despite the clear improvement to the game VAR provides, there’s still some work to be done in one very specific area of the game.

[ MORE: Recap of Serbia 1-2 Switzerland ]

On multiple occasions this World Cup, referees have missed wrestling matches in the penalty area, allowing defenders to essentially get away with murder instead of awarding attackers a deserved penalty. The worst example of this yet took place in the 66th minute of the 1-1 draw between Serbia and Switzerland in Kaliningrad.

Aleksandar Mitrovic, already with a goal to his name early in the match, went up to meet a set-piece delivery with his head. He was fully bear-hugged by Switzerland captain Steven Lichtsteiner, and while being wrapped up, was then rugby tackled by Swiss central defender Fabian Schar.

Yet somehow, Mitrovic was called for the foul, as the referee whistled him for ending up over the back of his defender on a genuine attempt to play the ball.

With every replay shown, it became more and more evident that not only should a penalty have been awarded, but the referee missed a clear and obvious call. Yet the match referee, German Felix Brych, was given no assistance from the VAR booth, left on an island after blowing the call.

There have been so many instances of this throughout the tournament, despite a public directive reportedly given by FIFA to referees asking them to crack down on physical play in the box, according to Fox rules analyst Dr. Joe Machnik. England striker Harry Kane was wrestled to the ground numerous times against Tunisia with no call, while many Egypt fans felt hard done by after Mohamed Salah was bullied in the box repeatedly against Russia.

The more defenders can get away with while defending set pieces in front of net, the more the game will be muddied by controversy, clouding an otherwise glittering debut for VAR on the international stage. That’s frustrating.

Serbia 1-2 Switzerland: Late Shaqiri break shatters Serbian hearts

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One of the most exciting games of the 2018 World Cup proved entertaining from start to finish, ended by a stunning breakaway goal by Xherdan Shaqiri that capped a 2-1 Switzerland comeback victory over Serbia.

The start of the game was all Serbia, with Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic the most dangerous option up front, and he delivered on that promise just five minutes in. After a pair of chances just kept out by Yann Sommer, Mitrovic powered in a header off a Dusan Tadic cross to put Serbia in front early on.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The goal confirmed yet another game without a 0-0 draw, 26 in a row to start the tournament, marking the World Cup record set back in 1954 when every single game in the Switzerland event featured a goal.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

After the goal, the game exploded, with Serbia looking to double its lead and Switzerland hoping to gain a grip on the match. Without a second coming, Switzlerland began to build promisingly, and had its first chance right on the half-hour mark as Steven Zuber through-ball sprung Blerim Dzemaili, but his sliding effort was saved brilliantly by Vladimir Stojkovic at the last second. They had a second chance minutes later, but for some reason Xherdan Shaqiri decided for one too many crosses rather than taking the open shot himself.

Serbia didn’t just look to see out the first half, though, as the star of the first half Dusan Tadic nearly gave his team another lift. First, he delivered a fabulous corner that stunningly skipped through the box untouched. Then, just before the break, Tadic came agonizingly close to what would have been a fabulous half-volley strike that flew viciously wide.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

After the break, the back-and-forth action continued, and Granit Xhaka struck an absolute stunner on the counter to level the match seven minutes into the second half. Shaquiri’s initial attempt from the right edge of the box was blocked and the rebound fell to the Arsenal midfielder outside the penalty area. His follow-up was a laser, curling through the defense and past a wrong-footed Stojkovic.

The chaos continued, with Serbia swinging back into the initiative. Mitrovic had a penalty shout turned down after being bear-hugged and wrestled to the ground by a pair of defenders, and minutes later Aleksandr Kolarov delivered a luscious cross into the box but nobody was there to tap it home.

Serbia began to tire as the game inched towards the final minutes, and Switzerland had most of the late pressure. One moment of brilliance caught the Serbians sleeping, and it proved the difference. Mario Gavranovic fed Shaqiri on the break from his own half, and free on goal the Stoke City winger made no mistake as the last ticks of regulation came off.

The win for Switzerland moves them to four points through the first two matches, leaving them level atop Group E with Brazil on points but in second thanks to an inferior goal differential. Serbia, meanwhile, sits third with three points. Switzerland would advance to the knockout stage with a win or draw in their final match against Costa Rica, while the winner of Brazil vs. Serbia will advance as well, with Brazil advancing in the event of a draw.

Southgate asks media to “help the team” after lineup leak

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England management is unhappy with the media after a coach was snapped with the proposed lineup for Saturday’s match against Panama.

Assistant manager Steve Holland was photographed holding a teamsheet that appeared to show a pair of changes in the England attack, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek replacing Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford partnering with Harry Kane up front. While Southgate attempted to play down the leak, stating the piece of paper was “just a squad list” and “the next sheet has different players in different positions,” he was also clearly frustrated with the media’s decision to run the photos.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“Obviously any time, if we were to give the opposition the opportunity of having our team it’s a disadvantage to us,” Southgate said in his pre-match press conference. “So of course our media has to decide whether they want to help the team or not.

The teamsheet showed no changes to the defense, with the team playing a three-center-back system as Kyle Walker continues his role along that back line. Kieran Trippier stays in at wing-back opposite Ashley Young, with Jordan Henderson sitting in the midfield between them. Jesse Lingard retains his place in the attack centrally with help from the addition of Loftus-Cheek, and the pair of strikers ahead of them.

Walker was also asked about the leak, and he said Holland apologized to the team, even if they felt it was unnecessary. “He’s apologised to us all in training, which we had a bit of banter with him about, and that was it.”

“I think if you guys try to keep it to yourself and don’t bring it out to the world,” Walker added, “because it’s not going to help us come the later stages of the tournament, please God we get there. All the rest of the world’s seen our team now, if that is the team or if not. As I say, you guys have to do your little bit, so if you could just please help us with that it would be polite.”

Liverpool to lose $82m Alisson to Real; Klopp turns to Lazio GK?

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Brazilian national team starter and Liverpool transfer target Alisson looks increasingly likely to only see Anfield as a visitor.

Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport says Real Madrid is going to tempt Roma with an $82 million bid that could rise with add-ons.

[ MORE: Lozano to Barcelona? ]

And Real would also offer a near $6 million annual salary to the Brazilian backstop.

It’s coincidence that this news comes on the day that both Alisson and current Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas were at opposite ends of the pitch.

Alisson had little to do, while Costa Rican backstop Navas was outstanding until Philippe Coutinho and Neymar scored during stoppage time.

Meanwhile, TalkSport says the Reds are in on a different Serie A goalkeeper: Lazio’s Albanian backstop Thomas Strakosha.

The 23-year-old old played all 38 league games for the Roman club this season.