And there you have it. On Sunday, Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time to win its fourth World Cup and its first since 1990. The month-long tournament in Brazil brimmed with storylines and all sorts of excitement. Here's WorldViews retelling of the event through maps.
The countries that qualified for the 2014 World Cup
The 32 countries that qualified are marked in blue: UEFA, the body that represents Europe, sent 13 nations; Concacaf, which accounts for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, sent four; Conmebol--South America--had six; there were four Asian teams (including Australia) and five from Africa.
The 12 World Cup host cities
An estimated (and staggering) $11.3 billion was spent by the government on public works surrounding the World Cup, including the building or renovation of 12 gleaming stadiums across the country. Some, though, in cities like Manaus, Cuiaba and Brasilia that don't have a significant soccer culture or team, may turn into white elephants and a reminder of the wasteful spending that sparked mass protests last year.
The wildly differing climate and temperatures throughout Brazil
Brazil is a vast country and temperatures during the World Cup ranged from chilly and wintry in the south to blazing hot and humid in the country's northeast and Amazon regions. Teams that had to play in the heart of the jungle in Manaus or under the scorching Salvador sun in the early afternoon endured very different conditions than those assigned to fixtures in cities like Porto Alegre.
The cosmopolitanism of the national teams
As the map above shows, a considerable number of players participating in the tournament were born in Europe -- a sign, yes, of the preponderance of European national teams in the tournament but also the diverse make-up of the sides. Many of the African teams counted French-born players in their ranks; the U.S. has quite a few players who were born and raised in Germany. But many of the top teams from western Europe drew on immigrants from elsewhere--see the presence of Surinamese in the Dutch side, ethnic Albanians in the Swiss team and Congolese in heavily-fancied Belgium.
Francafrique and the success of Algeria
This map is just one snapshot of the multiculturalism of the World Cup and was originally published alongside a smart piece by Max Rosenthal at PRI. The exciting Algerian team, one of the great stories of the tournament, had more than half its squad born in France, its former colonial ruler. The Algerians blitzed South Korea en route to a heart-breaking second round game where they pushed the eventual champions, Germany, to the brink. Had Algeria pulled off the upset, we would have had the epic prospect of a France-Algeria quarterfinal.
Bosnia-Herzegovina qualified for the first time in its history
The success of Bosnia's young, talented team presented a tantalizing moment for reconciliation and unity in a country that's still riven by volatile ethnic and political divisions (to this day, the country copes with an administrative split between ethnic Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats). The Bosnian team suffered two unlucky defeats against Argentina and Nigeria in the first round that put an end to their tournament.
The Dutch shock the Spanish
In October 1573, Spanish forces laid siege to the Dutch city of Alkmaar. The city, alongside a host of other Dutch provinces, was in open revolt against Spain, which, due to the complexities of Europe's dynastic lineages, ruled what's now the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The city's residents repulsed some 16,000 Spanish troops with burning branches and pots of boiling tar. The United Provinces of the Dutch Republic declared independence in 1581.
On June 13, 2014, the Dutch pulled off a stunning upset over Spain, the World Cup's defending champions, with an emphatic 5-1 victory. That defeat struck a hammer blow to Spanish resolve, which led to another collapse against Chile in their next match. The cowed Spanish left Brazil early; the overachieving Dutch wound up finishing the tournament in third place.
The route of the Ghanaian national team's cash
Before the World Cup, Ghana's national team was arguably Africa's greatest chance for success in the tournament. But the team unraveled in embarrassing fashion after a disappointing loss to the U.S. and an unlucky draw against Germany. A dispute over unpaid bonuses to the Ghanaian players saw the country's president dispatch a chartered plane laden with some $3 million in cash to Brasilia, where Ghana played what was its final match. (The flight likely took less long than the 19 and a half hours projected by Google, which is calculating based on passenger airlines.) The players did not trust Ghana's sporting authorities to dispense the funds fairly, a dispute that echoed sadly among the Nigerian and Cameroonian squads as well.
Lionel Messi's greatest moment
In stoppage time during Argentina's second group match against Iran, Lionel Messi, the greatest player on the planet, curled an unstoppable shot past a despairing Iranian goalkeeper. (The Daily Mail diagram shows the movement of #10, Messi, ahead of the goal.) The goal averted one of the upsets of the tournament, as a dogged Iranian side looked likely to hang on for a draw. Argentina would make it all the way to the final, but Messi -- who bore such great expectations on his slight shoulders -- rarely sparkled, much like the rest of the Argentine team.
Luis Suarez bites Italy's Giorgio's Chiellini
This is a mock "heat map" of the impact of Uruguay's star striker Suarez bite on the shoulder of the Italian defender. Suarez went unpunished during the match, but was suspended for four months by FIFA after it was reviewed. For more hard-hitting analysis of the incident, see the 13 maps that explained it.
Tim Howard's record-breaking day of saves
The U.S. had a decent run in the World Cup, reaching the second round against a talented Belgian side. There, the Americans were overwhelmed but reached extra time thanks to an outstanding performance by goalkeeper Tim Howard, who made a record-breaking 16 saves in the losing effort.
The magic feet of Colombia's James Rodriguez
The real star of the World Cup was not an Argentine or a German, but a Colombian -- the young, 22-year-old James (pronounced Ha-mez) Rodriguez who, with six goals, was the tournament's top scorer. The Colombians lost in the quarterfinals to Brazil -- some would argue unluckily -- but will be remembered for their positive, attacking verve and irrepressible enthusiasm. Just see their goal celebrations. Rodriguez scored a dazzling goal during Colombia's comfortable 2-0 second round victory over Uruguay, which, without the suspended Luis Suarez, lacked real bite.
The miracle of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the few nations in the world that has no standing army (the others are mostly tiny island nations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean or princely states in Europe). And most people thought "los Ticos" would be defenseless and overpowered in their opening group, comprising Italy, England and Uruguay--all elite nations in the tournament. But emphatic victories against the first two spurred the Costa Rican on a march to the quarterfinals against the Netherlands, where they were just a few penalty kicks away from reaching the semis. Despite the defeat, they were treated like conquering heroes on their return home.
The world reacts to Germany's demolition of Brazil
What to say: Brazil went into the World Cup with a sense of predestination. The hosts imagined themselves playing the final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium long before they were close to actually participating. The semi-final against Germany in Belo Horizonte was perhaps the most shocking result of any World Cup in history. The map above charts how global Twitter reacted to Germany's 7-1 mauling of the hosts. Brazil's collapse has led to a moment of national reckoning and introspection.
Mario Goetze, World Cup hero, was born in a unified Germany
Germany's winning goal-scorer, 22-year-old attacking midfielder Mario Goetze, was born in the Bavarian town of Memmingen in 1992. This was the first World Cup victory for a reunified Germany and Goetze, who was born after unification, is a symbol of a new generation of stars. WorldViews expects this German squad to remain at the top of the global game for the rest of the decade.