Robin van Persie's flying header vs. Spain (June 13)
Spain scored the first goal of their Group B clash with the Netherlands and were keeping easy possession. But just before halftime, a moment of pure inspiration from Robin van Persie completely changed the game. Dutch fullback Daley Blind lofted a great ball over the heart of the Spanish defense, the ball found van Persie, who adjusted his body perfectly to loop a header over Iker Casillas. Netherlands never looked back, running out the 2010 World Cup winners, 5-1.
Getty ImagesJeff Gross
Costa Rica stun Uruguay (June 13)
It was Costa Rica’s first World Cup win since 2006, and their fourth ever, against an Uruguay side that were missing star man Luis Suarez to injury. This was just the start for Los Ticos, who went on to reach the quarterfinals, only knocked out on penalties by the Netherlands. The minnows produced a heroic second-half comeback, scoring two goals in three minutes to down Oscar Washington Tabarez’s men.
Getty ImagesLaurence Griffiths
Team USA exorcise demons against Ghana June 16)
Finally, after Ghana booted the United States men's national team out of the last two World Cups, the Stars and Stripes had their revenge in Brazil. Clint Dempsey put team USA ahead just 29 seconds into the game with the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history. However, it was Ghana who came on stronger in the second half and deservedly equalized eight minutes from time. With the USA tiring, it looked like there would only be one winner. It was time for someone to make themselves a hero: Step up centerback John Brooks, who duly obliged. Brooks nodded in from short range to hand USA the spoils and make the Yanks celebrate in utter disbelief.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
Heroic Guillermo Ochoa thwarts Brazil (June 17)
The World Cup is all about unsung and unlikely heroes. They don't come much more unlikely than Francisco Guillermo Ochoa -- a free agent goalkeeper whose exploits for Mexico this summer have almost certainly earned him a move. He nearly dragged his men past Netherlands and into the quarterfinals, but his most memorable performance came against Brazil. As many as six saves -- each more impressive than the next -- secured the necessary point to help El Tri qualify to the knockout stage.
AFP/Getty ImagesFABRICE COFFRINI
James Rodriguez scores golazo against Uruguay (June 28)
The wonderkid was arguably the superstar of the World Cup, with six goals in Colombia’s five games. He was also responsible for one of the best goals at the 2014 tournament. It came in Colombia’s crunch Round of 16 clash with Uruguay and turned the game. Rodriguez cushioned the ball on his chest, turned and smashed an exquisite dipping volley in off the crossbar. Sublime.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
Tim Howard steals show as USA bows out of World Cup (July 1)
USA performed incredibly well to make it out of a group containing Portugal, Germany and Ghana. Its Round of 16 round opponents Belgium proved too much for The Stars and Stripes, but only after 120 minutes of extra-time heroics from Tim Howard. The keeper made an astonishing 16 saves and in turn helped USA take the game past the standard 90 minutes. Howard was worshipped by Americans after his stunning performance. So much so, that an official White House Petition was started online to rename Ronald Reagan Washington Airport after Howard.
Getty ImagesMichael Steele
Super-sub Tim Krul comes on for penalty shootout (July 5)
Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen had played every minute of every World Cup game in Brazil until the quarterfinal triumph over Costa Rica. In the dying seconds of the quarterfinal match with Los Ticos, Louis van Gaal made the decision to swap Cillessen for backup keeper Krul just for the penalty shootout. It worked, as Krul guided the Netherlands through to the semifinals with two saves. Cillessen -- who has never saved a penalty in his career -- had no idea that he would be taken off if the game went to penalty kicks, according to the Dutch boss. “We said nothing to Jasper because we didn't want him to know before the game,” van Gaal said. “But as I've explained, every keeper has specific qualities.” And it showed.
Getty ImagesJamie McDonald
Miroslav Klose breaks Ronaldo's goal record (July 8)
Germany have never lost a game in which Klose has scored. An impressive record in itself, but the ageless striker went one better in Brazil by becoming the record goal-scorer in World Cup history. He has now scored 16 goals in 24 World Cup games -- edging out previous holder Ronaldo. Not only did he knock a Brazilian legend off his perch, his record-breaking strike -- in the 7-1 victory over hosts Brazil -- also destroyed the hopes of a whole nation.
AFP/Getty ImagesADRIAN DENNIS
Germany put on masterclass to oust Brazil (July 8)
The hosts have put on one hell of a party for the month-long tournament, but the carnival abruptly ended at the hands of the ruthless Germans. Going into the game without the injured Neymar, and suspended Thiago Silva, the Selecao were beaten before they belted out their national anthem. Germany, however, showed no sentiment for the hosts and before the half-hour mark they had already put five past their lackluster opposition. Tears and discontent were obvious at halftime and the atmosphere in the Estadio Mineirao had the potential to boil over as Brazilian players shown on the big screen felt the full force of the fans discontent. The Germans added two more goals before Oscar got a miserly consolation, but after the tournament started with so much hope, the manner of the defeat will leave a lasting legacy.
AFP/Getty ImagesADRIAN DENNIS
Germany capture fourth World Cup title (July 13)
Germany made history after defeating Argentina 1-0 in extra-time, becoming the first European team to win a World Cup in South America, ending a hex that had stood for 84 years. Ironically enough, it was also the third time that the Germans had ended Argentina's World Cup hopes thanks to a stunning strike by German starlet Mario Goetze.