World Cup 2014: Goals, drama & that bite - is Brazil the best?

Pele, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Paul Gascoigne

Record goals, Suarez gnaws, that James Rodriguez strike, passion, drama, colourful fashion - what a World Cup this has been.

It was a tournament that started with a bang as the hosts came from behind to beat Croatia, and has since delivered fantastic entertainment almost game after game.

Here, BBC Sport's chief football writer Phil McNulty and the BBC's much-loved and most experienced commentator John Motson consider whether this has been the best ever World Cup.

You can also take part in the debate in Friday's Sportsday from 08:00 BST - where you can vote on a number of different categories to help determine if Brazil 2014 stands above all the others.

Great goals

Top three World Cup group stage goals

McNulty's review: "Robin van Persie set the goal standard for this World Cup with his spectacular equaliser in the Netherlands' 5-1 opening group game thrashing of Spain. Daley Blind's angled pass set the platform for Van Persie's brilliant header, a monument to athleticism and awareness.

"Tim Cahill's volley against the Dutch and James Rodriguez's masterpiece of a strike against Uruguay in the Maracana were other moments of individual brilliance that have illuminated the tournament."

Motty's review: "I think the best four or five goals from this World Cup bear well in comparison to others I've seen. I thought Cahill's would be goal of the tournament, but the Rodriguez volley will probably win. That strike compares well with anything I've seen in terms of great goals.

Watch Maradona score a sublime goal against Belgium in 1986

"If we look at past World Cup efforts, I guess they've played a lot of Diego Maradona's goals from 1986 during the BBC programmes. Then there was that goal Argentina scored against Serbia in 2006 that included 25 passes - there hasn't been one like that at this World Cup. And most of us have seen the iconic 'team goal' scored by Carlos Alberto for Brazil in 1970 final."

Motty's verdict: "It is hard to narrow it down to one 'great goal'. But if I was to pick my most memorable then I would say Maradona's solo strike against Belgium in the 1986 semi-final - because I commentated on it."

YearTeamsMatchesGoalsGoals per game
20143262 (after semis)167 (after semis)2.7


Watch Uruguay's Luis Suarez bite Chiellini

McNulty's review: "One moment stands out above everything - a scar on a World Cup that should be remembered for its commitment to attacking football.

"And that was when Uruguay's Luis Suarez delivered his notorious bite on Italy's Giorgio Chiellini that ended his World Cup and effectively his Liverpool career.

"Croatia felt robbed by a penalty conceded to Brazil in the opening game, while Costa Rica were angered by Dutch keeper Tim Krul's antics in the quarter-final penalty shoot-out."

Motty's view: "There were a lot of the fears about protests and the conditions of stadiums - many of those fears have been allayed. On the field, I think the referees and officials have avoided huge controversies. We haven't had anything like the Harald Schumacher boot in Patrick Battiston in 1982, Frank Rijkaard's spit in the hair of Rudi Voller 1990 and the infamous headbutt by Zinedine Zidane in 2006.

Zidane's headbutt was a stunning moment in the 2006 final

"The Suarez bite is a different category, I think. Although it's dreadful - that was based on the fact the Uruguayan had two previous cases of its kind. Had it been his first offence he wouldn't haven't got the same sort of headlines."

Motty's verdict: "There are two that stick out from the past - when the brother of the Kuwait Emir walked on to the pitch to remonstrate against the third goal scored by France against his country in 1982 and Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal against England in 1986. I have to say that Edin Dzeko's disallowed strike against Nigeria in this competition still rankles with me though."

Did you know? Argentine legend Diego Maradona played two games at the 1994 World Cup before being sent home in disgrace and banned for 15 months for testing positive for ephedrine.

The contenders

Watch James Rodriguez magical goal stun Uruguay

McNulty's review: "World Cup holders Spain, plus Italy and England, may have fallen at the first hurdle but so many of the usual suspects remained.

"Brazil, Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands made up a powerhouse last four, but there was also an element of surprise in the closing phase in the shape of Costa Rica and the emerging Colombians.

"It gave this World Cup perfect light and shade as the old guard showed strength but new forces demonstrated their quality."

Motty's view: "Spain will look back with great disappointment, as will Italy, who probably should have qualified out of that group. Then we have England, which has been well debated.

"I would say this for all the speculation, the four semi-final teams are probably in the top six World Cup countries of all time. By the time of the latter stages the natural order was restored."

Motty's verdict: "There were more contenders for the crown this time around."

World Cup team records
Brazil have won the World Cup a record five times: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.
Germany have reached eight World Cup finals, including securing their appearance in the 2014 showpiece against Argentina on Sunday.
Brazil's 5-2 win over Sweden saw them score the most goals in a World Cup final.
Hungary's 27 goals during the 1954 World Cup is the most goals scored by a country at a tournament.

The underdogs

Highlights: Italy 0-1 Costa Rica

McNulty's review: "Every World Cup loves an underdog - those of us present in 2002 recall how South Korea were swept to the semi-final on a red wave of national fervour.

"Costa Rica, dismissed when drawn with England, Uruguay and Italy, played the part here. They topped their group and only lost to the Netherlands on penalties in the quarter-final.

"The United States also progressed to such an extent that even the White House felt obliged to get in on the act.

"In the case of Colombia, they had a very good player in James Rodriguez, who most teams would have known what to expect from - he did cost Monaco just shy of £40m last season. His performances at the World Cup just brought him into wider prominence."

Watch Cameroon surprise Argentina in 1990

Motty's view: "If these teams have another four years' improvement then I think some of these countries will get further. The coaching has improved, but the biggest improvement we've seen is in the goalkeeping department. It is unrecognisable from past tournaments.

"We have to take our hats off to those teams that weren't expected to do well. Costa Rica are top of the list, then you have Algeria, Nigeria, Mexico.

"If I look back to 1990 and Cameroon's run to the last eight, it was expected that African teams and even Asian teams would kick on after that tournament - but it never happened. I think we are now seeing signs that they have closed the gap."

Motty's verdict: "I think this was the best World Cup when it came to underdogs - more proved they were better than a lot of us originally thought."

Underdog feats
The Fifa rankings started in 1993 and Bulgaria went into the 1994 World Cup as the fifth lowest ranked team at 29. They became the surprise package by beating Germany in the last eight and reaching the semi-finals, where they lost to Italy.
South Korea were the co-hosts for the 2002 competition and, ranked 40th, reached the semi-finals, beating Italy and Spain before losing to Germany.

The late drama

Watch England win the 1966 World cup in dramatic fashion

McNulty's review: "Brazil has been marked out by key matches going to the wire, exemplified by the last 16 when the Netherlands scored two late goals to beat Mexico and Argentina's Angel Di Maria struck with moments left to beat stubborn Switzerland.

"The penalty shoot-outs have produced moments to treasure, such as the tears of Brazil keeper Julio Cesar after victory against Chile and Dutch coach Louis van Gaal's decisive introduction of Tim Krul against Costa Rica.

"But, I guess, even those matches could not come close to the late drama of the 1966 final between England and Germany at Wembley - Germany's late goal in normal time, then Sir Geoff Hurst's wonderful strike at the end."

Netherlands strike late - twice

Motty's view: "Looking back on World Cups I've been to, I have to say we have seen more late goals in the 2014 tournament - 30 out of 62 games had goals scored after 75 minutes during normal time.

"A lot of games have been settled in the last few minutes. These have been breathtaking and caught the public imagination because they have been in the balance until the final whistle. They all thought the heat would be a major factor - but the Dutch were playing at full pelt in the second period of extra time against Costa Rica.

"The science of the game has moved on - better preparation, dieticians, nutritionists, etc."

Motty's verdict: "Yes - definitely this one."

From 1986 onwards when format changed to knockout from last 16 stage
WORLD CUPExtra-timePenalty shoot-outs

Great players at their best

Watch Dennis Bergkamp score a fabulous goal against Argentina in 1998

McNulty review: "The South American 'Perfect 10s' have decorated Brazil's World Cup.

"Lionel Messi has finally shone at a major tournament here in Brazil. He inspired Argentina throughout, while Brazil's Neymar lived up to a nation's expectations before departing through injury.

"A new young star burst on the scene in Colombia's James Rodriguez, while Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer proved he is the best in the world.

"Cristiano Ronaldo? He suffered for being part of an ordinary Portugal."

Motty's view: "Great players will shine at every World Cup. We asked: 'Has Messi really ever done it?' Well, he has so far. I think this World Cup has produced as many star performances as any others. Rodriguez has caught the eye, then there's Robben, who, had you stopped the World Cup before the semi-final stage, would be player of the tournament.

Watch Lionel Messi score a stunning goal v Iran in stoppage time

"I remember other Dutch stars such as Johan Cruyff, who was magical in 1974. Then there was Johan Neeskens in '74 and 1978, and Dennis Bergkamp in 1998. Robben is one of the greatest Dutchmen we've seen, which means you can compare him directly to the likes of Maradona and Pele. Alongside him, another star has shone in Germany's Thomas Muller - what a great two World Cups he has had."

Motty's verdict: "This is a tricky one to judge, but Muller scoring five goals in 2010 and five already at this World Cup is exceptional - and he's only 24."

World Cup player records
Pele is the player with the most World Cup wins to his name having won the competition three times - 1958, 1962 and 1970 - with Brazil.
Germany striker Miroslav Klose is the World Cup's record goalscorer with 16 goals in 23 games.
France forward Just Fontaine has the most goals in a single tournament, having scored 13 times during the 1958 tournament.
England striker Geoff Hurst has the record for most goals in a World Cup final with his hat-trick in the win over West Germany in 1966.

The most unforgettable game

World Cup moments: Germany destroy Brazil

McNulty's review: "The World Cup semi-final between Brazil and Germany was meant to be "the sixth step" towards the hosts winning the trophy on home turf.

"Instead it became a living nightmare for the entire nation - a dark day in their World Cup history that will never be forgotten as Germany inflicted Brazil's worst defeat, a 7-1 thrashing.

"Many Brazil fans were in tears as Germany went five up in 29 minutes. More World Cup drama but anguish for a country with its heart set on victory."

Watch France shock Brazil 3-0 to win in 1998

Motty's view: "I have been to 10 World Cups and seen a lot of memorable games.

"There was England v Argentina in 1986, the 1998 final between France and Brazil, which involved the mystery over striker Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane's two goals.

"But Germany's 7-1 win at this tournament eclipses all of those, primarily because of the shock value and the way Brazil capitulated."

Motty's verdict: "It would have to be Brazil 1-7 Germany."

The event

Meet some of the 3,000 Chile fans who drove in caravans to Brazil

McNulty's review: "The mass protests feared in Brazil failed to fully materialise as their team progressed. The World Cup has been everything this country wanted it to be.

"From the heat of the Amazonian rainforest in Manaus to the cold climate of Sao Paulo's concrete jungle, magnificent stadiums have played to full houses and superb games.

"And to be present at Brazil playing on home turf was to witness a spectacular cascade of colour and a deafening wall of sound."

Motty's view: "The crowds have been fabulous and the stadiums near full for many matches. The supporters have made the event - their enthusiasm, dress sense and their response to what has been put in front of them.

Watch: The story of the 1994 World Cup

"I think USA '94 comes back to us in that department because they surprised us by how they adopted the game. It now seems for the first time it is actually taking hold in that country, and that's partly thanks to Brazil."

Motty's verdict: "Most certainly the very colourful Brazil 2014."

Did you know? The highest average attendance figure for a World Cup is 68,991 and came when the tournament was held in the United States in 1994.


Brazil fan
Brazil 2014 was colourful on and off the pitch

McNulty's review: "Of the four World Cups I have covered, this Brazilian tournament is run close by Germany in 2006 for sheer joy and the support of a nation for its showpiece.

"Japan-South Korea had its moments, while South Africa was a unique experience - but for excitement produced and the attacking football witnessed, this Brazil World Cup just shades it as the best."

Motty's view: "The excitement didn't slip, but the games got tighter once it went to straight knockout - bar, of course, Brazil 1-7 Germany.

Was the 2002 World Cup the best?

"One of the big differences I noticed is that the teams went for it a lot more in their group games. I remember former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson saying during the 2010 World Cup the group matches were like pulling teeth - watching them I mean.

"The referees have restrained themselves at this World Cup - you usually get a glut of cards because they are determined to clamp down right from the start.

"People have responded in a warm way, certainly off the pitch and to some extent on the pitch. It's thrown up new names, new coaches, while the underdogs deserve a special mention."

Motty's verdict: "Brazil 2014 would come out ahead of South Africa 2010, Germany 2006 and South Korea-Japan 2002. France 1998 was my favourite up until now, but this one has pipped it."

John Motson was speaking to BBC Sport's Saj Chowdhury

You can vote on each of the nine categories in the BBC Sport website's rolling news service, Sportsday Live, from 08:00 BST on Friday.

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