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20 reasons we loved the 2014 World Cup

There were many things to love about this year's World Cup.

1. Joel Campbell waltzing around pregnant with a ball. Scoring against Uruguay gave Costa Rica's Joel Campbell the opportunity to flaunt biology's rules, and as a man impregnate himself with a soccer baby via scoring. Congratulations, Joel: it was a Brazuca.

2. LUIS SUAREZ BIT A DUDE. Please understand the joy of watching Luis Suarez comes not just as a football player. Understand him as a force so uncontrolled and raw that he would, in the midst of a grandiosely despicable performance as the grand villain of the game, step up his game by performing the hits and only the hits of his oeuvre. Joss Whedon understood that you don't let the Hulk loose in Act One. No, you wait until he's up against the invaders from Italy. You wait until there's a clear camera angle at a crucial moment, and then you bite another man in front of a gagging and awestruck planet. You wait until Suarez can do what the Hulk is meant to do: destroy Italy, Uruguay, and everything around him with one furious outburst. You don't have to respect what he does, but do respect the completion of the role, and how he was punished by the sport with a ban and a lucrative transfer to a lowly, troubled, and obscure Catalonian soccer team.

3. Chiellini then re-enacted the bite with a Brazilian hotel worker.


They are now happily married, and are expecting their first child. All Luis Suarez does is create new life from the ashes of destruction.

4. Chile's mad run through group play. Maybe their 1-1 draw with Brazil was an early tremor indicating that something was structurally rotten with Brazil. That would be making the story too much about a disastrous Brazilian team, though, and not as much about how fun Chile was to watch. They were too brave and reckless a thing to survive for long, but consider how much more entertaining the final stage of play could have been if they'd somehow beaten the Netherlands, and ended up on the other side of the bracket. That would have meant way more Chile for us! Next time your tiny shorts will save us all, Alexis Sanchez.

5. Ohhhhhhwayyyyyyyahhhhhh. Ohhhhh wayyyyy ahhhhhhh. Ohhhhhh wayyyy ahhhhh? Ohhhh wayyy ahhhhh.

Univision, the network where you don't understand every word with your brain, but feel every syllable with your heart.

6.  Tim Cahill's goal against the Netherlands. Australia played their role well: they lost and lost valiantly, and allowed Tim Cahill to salvage something by scoring a terrifying strike GIF'd so many times a young copyright attorney could waste their entire lives attempting to serve takedown notices on it. Don't think Sepp Blatter won't hesitate to do this exact thing, and smile about it at night while falling asleep on his pillow stuffed with cash and rare cassowary feathers.

7. Univision. Siempre Univision, the network where you don't understand every word with your brain, but feel every syllable with your heart.  To praise Univision is not to discredit ESPN. The WWL did an astonishing job, and spent truckloads of cash to make sure they did. They did not and cannot, however, show you a man on a greenscreened beach in sunglasses and call it "Live from Rio" on a cloudy day without flinching. They cannot interview Green Spiderman. Ian Darke cannot hold a goal call so long you can't Vine it without looping back to the beginning, Michael Ballack can't call David Beckham SPICEBOY when he's spied on the sidelines before the final, and no one besides Alexi Lalas is allowed to openly root for their national side, much less roll up a whole hour of coverage that makes no attempt whatsoever to balance out pro-Mexico coverage.

They cannot put this man on television, and then allow his chicken to pick the winner of a match.

Watching Univision for the World Cup didn't just make me a better citizen of the world. It made me a better American in the larger sense, since everything I saw from our neighbors to the south was utterly lovable, and insightful as hell when I understood the Spanish. (Which was 40% of the time, but understanding comes in part, and then in whole, and there's no way I'm watching the next World Cup without a prize chicken by my side at all times.)

8. Miguel Herrera. The best stepdad in the world came in and just told you how much he loved you, and it should have been weird but wasn't. He is crying uncontrollably at this Little League end-of-the-season banquet and will get through this even if he has to use this entire box of tissues, and possibly his dinner napkin, to wipe his tears. Miguel Herrera is so proud of you that it makes him want to eat this entire box of fried chicken. He's gonna eat this box of fried chicken, but he will buy you your own because he is just that proud of you.


As an American I am supposed to by creed despise El Tri. Herrera made that an impossibility, resurrecting Mexico after they slid into the World Cup bassackwards and on the United States' tab and then somehow recovering to play some of the more entertaining matches of the tournament. (If there is a best draw of the tourney, they played it in the 0-0 game against Brazil.) In the 87th minute of their knockout match against Holland they were up 1-0, and let's leave them there: dogpiled with Herrera-love and a long song away from advancing.

P.S. Miguel Herrera has always been a champion and this picture is proof.

9. Gervinho's goal against Colombia. If Cahill's is divine thunderbolt, then Gervinho's is muscular counterpunch with fuck youuuuur couuuuuuuch stamped all over it.  I love beautiful goals. I also love goals that run on spite, anger, and irrefutable skill. This is one of those, and I will think of it when doing something I hate to make life more bearable.

10. The 2:53 mark in ESPN's postgame broadcast of the Germany/Brazil slaughter.

I was on a plane when the game happened. When I got off I saw 7-1 as the score and said "NOOOOOOOO" out loud, and then had to rewatch it twice before I believed it. Werner Herzog, German, listened to the footage of Timothy Treadwell being eaten by grizzly bears and said "You must never listen to this. And you must never look at the photos I have seen at the coroner's office." This is correct, Brazil. No one should ever watch this game again. You should not keep it. You should destroy it. It will be the white elephant in your room all your life.

11. How Gilberto de Silva spoke live on television after 7-1 without weeping once.

12. Tim Howard. Tim, we're not prepared to talk about this yet. It's too close, and you're not into public displays of affection. And no one should buy the idea that you're carrying anything that wasn't there to begin with, i.e. the idea that this country continually needs a face to hang its hopes on, and that soccer doesn't have its own momentum and requires a resuscitation via a month of binge-watching every four years. It doesn't, and that's too much to ask of you, or anyone. You've been asked to do much already, like make fifteen saves in a single match and serve as your own central defender at times, something you did for two World Cups for the United States. You were going to lose. That's the job you volunteered for, and you did it without complaint and with the belief that you might win.  We won't hug you, but you can't stop these tears we are definitely not crying over here in the airport Cinnabon where we will grief eat this whole monstrosity like a true grief-eating American in your honor.

13. Colombian goal calls. The joy of the best sustained stretch of team play since the buildup to the 1994 World Cup gives them power. The reverb makes them sublime, and the background music cued for the moment elevates them into the stratosphere of joy. James Rodriguez's Golden Boot goal run is best viewed on in-stadium cellphone video, since the best compliment you can give to an unearthly performance is saying how good it looked on the worst possible video standard. Colombia and Chile not getting to play against each other is one of the few complaints you can make about the Cup, both for the on-field play and for the ear-shattering volume generated by Chilean fans and Colombian supporters placed in the same building.

14. Michael Ballack's accent. Pure Bond villain in the best sense of the phrase, and often more lucid in his second language than Alexi Lalas is in his first. (Shush. Alexi would probably agree.)

15. Men In Blazers. Balding. British. Broadcasting from what appeared to be a crawlspace in the ESPN studio complex. Suddenly necessary after every match, cheerfully transitioning to the American bandwagon after England bombed out of group stage, and decidedly comfortable with their open crushes on Michael Ballack, Roger and Michael bailed out the entire network when lightning knocked out the lights everywhere but the MIB closet-studio in a hilarious bit of improv television. (They probably had no choice in this, but do not let facts destroy a good story.)

16. A proper and complete French performance. Outstanding build, gifted play through the group stage, and then a total deflation against the eventual champion and bitter rival. None more frustrating in the end; none more totally French.

17. The United States beat Ghana. And made it out of the Group of Death that contained the eventual country-destroying champion! Look at that relentless American positivity, pointing out things like past champions Italy and Spain not making it out of easier groups! Someday American fans will be spoiled enough to take these things for granted, and this is not that day. Yay to one more rung up the ladder; yay to our new Tiny Country Foe, Belgium. You're doomed, most likely after you knock us out of the 2018 Cup, too. It's an eventual kind of doom, pending delivery in four to eight years.

18. Miroslav Klose's leisurely reign of terror comes to an end. All of his record-setting 16 goals came from within eight yards of goal. Miroslav Klose wants you to work smarter, not harder, and that is so very, very efficient and German of him.

19. Congratulations to Mario Götze. Congratulations, that is, on becoming famous for winning Germany's fourth World Cup title for a goal, thus erasing his previous title as That Dude On A Yacht With A Boner.

20. That:

Just that jaw-dropping image, over and over again. This is why FIFA can sucker you into this over and over again, and suck up a month of your life spent leaping off couches and throwing beers into the air at bars. There will be one or two moments that almost blot out the corruption,  and one or two goals that almost obliterate the memory of the Nigeria-Iran match. (Almost.) There is still shit in the water in Rio, and Christ the Redeemer burned into your eyeballs standing above it. The World Cup happens between those two extremes; that you are asked to hold both in your brain at the same time only once every four years seems accurate, and right at the limit of the fragile human conscience.