Five stunning World Cup moments
After 40 days here at this World Cup, summarizing this monthlong tournament in five moments is similar to calling upon what I consider to be my best skill set. I'll shove what should be 20 loads of wash into five. So here goes ... my five most stunning moments at this World Cup:
5. Costa Rica: Fellow CONCACAF'er Costa Rica, with a population about the size of South Carolina (crazy, yes), making it through to the quarterfinals. Let's just review their tournament. They get OUT of the group of champions (all past former World Cup champions England, Italy and Uruguay), beat Greece in the round of 16 and take the Netherlands all the way to penalty kicks in the quarterfinals -- almost getting into the semifinal match. For a country just about the size of West Virginia, pretty dang impressive. Plus I loved seeing a fellow CONCACAF team do so well.
4. Luis Suarez biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini ... really? And with the world watching. Not sure if I should laugh or cry at the fact that someone actually bet before the World Cup that Suarez would indeed bite again (and made money on it). And then the fact that Barcelona paid $128 million to bring him to their team. I know Suarez has an endearing side off the field, and we know what he can do on the field, but I thought other teams would take that risk, not Barcelona. Once again, I found myself thinking ... really? As someone appropriately tweeted me: Barcelona has a veritable feast of talent. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
3. Spain losing its first two games and crashing out of this World Cup: I felt the same pit in my stomach as I had while watching Zinedine Zidane head-butt Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final. France would go on to lose that final, and for the world, that was the last vision we had of the great Zidane: a head-butt and red card. For Spain and this truly golden generation, I just wish they could have exited more gracefully, in a manner more fitting of their three consecutive major titles. This team is still one for the ages. Winning the Euros in 2008, then the World Cup in 2010, then the Euros again in 2012. Spectacular. A long, slow clap for ESPANA, please.
2. The reaction at home to this World Cup and the U.S. men's team: It is always hard to gauge U.S. reaction at home while at an event, but this one felt appropriately rabid. Big congrats to the U.S. men's team on their fantastic run here in Brazil (and to Jurgen Klinsmann for his pre-tournament posture). The U.S. team won fans over with their fight, their tenacity and their good ol' fashioned American #Ibelieve spirit. Maybe they didn't have their best game vs. Belgium, and maybe Tim Howard heroically kept it close, but I would argue their game against Portugal was the best World Cup game I have ever seen a U.S. men's team play (minus the final 10 seconds, of course).
1. The six minutes that will be the lasting image for Brazil at this World Cup: Those six minutes saw the Brazilian team collapse as Germany scored four goals as if they were playing a junior varsity team. That game, and that first half in particular, was the most stunning thing I have ever seen at any World Cup. And of all things, to have it happen at home with 200 million Brazilians pinning their hopes and dreams on this team. Perhaps the pressure was just too much to bear for these 23 players.
I lied. I have 6.
I cannot leave without mentioning how much I enjoyed Colombia. Not just for their celebrations (although truthfully, that would have been enough), but for the freedom with which they played and attacked. This Falcao-less squad was so much fun to watch and Ha-mes Rodriguez (ol' J-Rod), is seared into my heart forever with his goals (and tears). Can't wait to tell my dad his nickname has now gone from Slim Jim to Slim Him. Thank you, Colombia, for your Shakira-esque entertainment.