From Suarez to Messi to Ronaldo to the USMNT, it's been a wild World Cup
The 2014 World Cup has narrowed its field from 32 nations in the Group Stage down to the 16 teams that advanced to the single-elimination Knockout Stage, which kicks off Saturday, June 28. But before we move on with the tournament, let's take a quick look back at the insanity that took place in Brazil over the past couple of weeks. These are a few of the highlights and lowlights from the 2014 World Cup Group Stage:
First goal of 2014 World Cup is Marcelo own goal
Oops. The host nation scored its first-ever World Cup own goal in the opener against Croatia, as Brazil's talented left back Marcelo accidentally scored on his own side for the first goal of the 2014 World Cup.
Clint Dempsey’s first-minute goal vs. Ghana
A good omen to start the party for the USMNT. America's best and brightest player sent shockwaves back home with an electric goal to start what has been a fun, albeit unexpected, run through the Group of Death and the Group Stage on to the Knockout Stage.
Lionel Messi’s 90th-minute goal to beat Iran
The beautiful game's most beautiful player was able to bend a beautiful ball for a last-minute match-winning goal. Messi has four goals, tied with Brazil's Neymar and Germany's Thomas Muller for most in the Group Stage.
Robin van Persie’s diving rainbow header vs. Spain
It would have taken devine intervention for "Saint Iker" Casillas to stop this incredible first-touch diving rainbow header from van Persie in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup finals between Spain and the Netherlands.
Guillermo Ochoa’s clean sheet in draw vs. Brazil
Mexico beat a Neymar-led Brazil squad in the Olympic gold medal match in London two years ago. But a 0-0 draw in the Group Stage of the World Cup may have been even sweeter. Ochoa had six ridiculous saves in easily the best display of goaltending thus far.
Luis Suarez biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini
Third time is a charm — unless you're biting opponents on the pitch, Suarez-style. After battling back from injury and scoring two goals, Suarez really left his mark on the World Cup with another ugly incident for the Uraguay villain.
Teddy Goalsevelt and Will Ferrell firing up fans
If a pair of former U.S. President impressionists can't get you fired up, then you're not a red-white-and-blue-blooded 'Merican.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s “please excuse” form letter
Coach Klinsmann had a plan. It didn't include Landon Donovan, but it did include advancing to the Round of 16 in style — with an excused absense from work, thanks to the boss of the USMNT.
Cristiano Ronaldo both villain and hero for USA
The world's richest, prettiest and floppiest striker may not have been in tip-top shape but he made the most of what gas he had in the tank — ripping the collective hearts out of the USA with an assist on a stopage-time equalizer one game before scoring the winning goal against Ghana, which resulted in the USA advancing to the Knockout Stage.
Spain, Italy, England, Portugal failing to advance
Europe's traditional powers couldn't take the sweltering Amazonian heat of the World Cup in Brazil. The quartet comprised of a billion dollars worth of club talent was unable to produce for country on the sport's biggest stage.
ESPN camera crews’ ability to find hot fans in crowd
Uncanny. The Worldwide Leader had a sixth sense for finding a diamond in the rough, no matter how rough-looking the crowd might appear to be from the untrained eye. Expect more knockouts in the Knockout Stage. It is Brazil, after all.