OPINION: Germany are the champions but football was the winner.
The agonising 7-1 humiliation of the host country by the eventual champions notwithstanding, the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil was a terrific showcase for the beautiful game.
It had ample drama and intrigue to excite even the most jaded sports fan, and plenty to attract a new generation of young disciples to the global game.
We saw goals in record numbers, dazzling skills, upset results, new heroes emerging, controversy, despair, valour, villainy and, thankfully, only fleeting moments of shameless overacting. Here before us was a month of compelling sporting theatre.
It didn't feed the world or create peace on the planet, but it did bring us closer for a while. They don't write 'em like that any more.
The internet is awash with highlights packages of the many moments of breathtaking brilliance displayed at the 20th FIFA World Cup.
Dutch striker Robin van Persie's sublime diving header against Spain will linger long in the memory, with the balletic Dutchman seemingly defying the laws of physics and gravity as he flew in to meet a pinpoint long ball flush on his forehead.
The most important strike, though, came from a volley, executed with German precision by Mario Goetze.
He achieved virtual immortality with his split-second reflexes in the 113th minute of the final at Marcana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, sinking Argentina's hearts and hopes and giving his team its fourth World Cup trophy and first since 1990.
This was not a dour, defensive tournament. For the most part teams played with flair and positive intent, diving for penalties was frowned upon (Arjen Robben, proceed directly to the naughty corner) and there was only one biting brain explosion (Luis Suarez, proceed directly to Barcelona).
It was a thrilling sporting spectacle, highlighting the best in personal and nationalistic endeavour, cheered on by hundreds of millions around the globe.
New Zealand was not there this time, but World Cup 2014 had something for everybody, and our budding football heroes will be desperate to make it onto the big stage in Russia in 2018. The dream starts today.
- The Southland Times
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