The best matches of the 2014 World Cup

IES | Fernando Vergara/AP Photo
1 of 15 To full screen

The 14 most memorable matches of the tournament

Counting down the best fixtures of a fantastic World Cup See Gallery

The 2014 World Cup has been one of the most memorable football tournaments in history. Ahead of the final two matches, we review the best games so far. Click or swipe through the images above to see the 14 top matches of Brazil 2014.

Yang Lei/Rex Features
2 of 15 To full screen

Spain 1 - 5 Netherlands

Netherlands’ stunning demolition of reigning champions Spain provided one of the shocks of the group stages, and helped blow away any fears of a slow start to the tournament.

La Roja took a first-half lead through Xabi Alonso’s penalty, but were mauled by the Dutch after Robin van Persie equalised with a looping header (pictured). A second for Van Persie, a double for Arjen Robben and one for Stefan de Vrij completed the scoreline, instigated Spain’s downfall and set the bar for the rest of the teams at the World Cup.

Natacha Pisarenko/AP Photo
3 of 15 To full screen

Uruguay 1 - 3 Costa Rica

Another shock followed soon after when Costa Rica – supposedly the outsiders in a group containing three former champions – outplayed Uruguay to secure a 3-1 win in their first fixture.

Uruguay, missing an injured Luis Suárez, took the lead through Edinson Cavani’s penalty, only for goals from Joel Campbell, Oscar Duarte and Marco Ureña (pictured) to turn the score around and set Costa Rica on a path to the quarter-finals.

Paul Hanna/AP Photo
4 of 15 To full screen

Switzerland 2 - 1 Ecuador

Switzerland’s opening game against Ecuador seemed to be heading for a draw after headed goals from Enner Valencia and Admir Mehmedi either side of half-time had kept the teams level. However, it’s now remembered for concluding with one of the most dramatic pieces of play of the tournament.

In the third-minute of added time and with Ecuador pressing for a winning goal, defender Valon Behrami made a crucial tackle in his own penalty area to kick start an incisive breakaway, which ended in Haris Seferović (pictured) scoring from Ricardo Rodríguez’s low cross.

FIFA via Getty Images/Getty Images
5 of 15 To full screen

Australia 2 – 3 Netherlands

Netherlands secured their place in the last 16 with victory over a spirited Australia, in another typically open group stage match. Arjen Robben’s fine solo goal was cancelled out by Tim Cahill’s wonder volley (pictured), before Mile Jedinak put Australia ahead from the spot. Their lead lasted just four minutes however, as Robin van Persie equalised, before Memphis Depay’s swerving shot snatched the Dutch victory.

Wang Yuguo/Rex Features
6 of 15 To full screen

Spain 0 – 2 Chile

A game of symbolic significance, Spain’s eight-year dominance of international football was ended by a 2-0 defeat to Chile, a result that confirmed their group stage exit from the World Cup. It’s the fifth time a reigning champion had failed to progress from the group stages in the tournament’s history, though Chile’s victory was fully deserved, as Eduardo Vargas (pictured) and Charles Aránguiz scored goals that capped a performance full of attacking intensity.

Argenpress/Rex Features
7 of 15 To full screen

Argentina 1 - 0 Iran

Denied a strong claim for a penalty and kept out on numerous occasions by Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero, Iran came close to claiming one of the biggest shock victories in World Cup history. However, they were undone by a moment of magic from Lionel Messi, whose long-range curled effort in added time will go down as one of the greatest goals in World Cup history instead.

Natacha Pisarenko/AP Photo
8 of 15 To full screen

Greece 2 – 1 Ivory Coast

A result that underlined the fine line between joy and despair at the World Cup, Ivory Coast looked set to make the last 16 for the first time at the expense of Greece, thanks to Wilfried Bony’s equalising goal. However, Greece – who’d failed to score in the previous two group games – produced a dramatic twist in the third minute of stoppage time, as Giorgio Samaras (pictured) won and converted a last-gasp penalty to take the place of their heartbroken opponents in the Round of 16.

Rex Features
9 of 15 To full screen

Nigeria 2 - 3 Argentina

With both sides almost assured of qualification to the Round of 16, Nigeria and Argentina could have been forgiven for playing out a listless final group game when they met in Porto Alegre. However, what followed was a pulsating matchup, with goals from Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa cancelling out strikes from Lionel Messi, before Marcos Rojo (pictured) headed the winning goal.

IBL/Rex Features
10 of 15 To full screen

Brazil 0 - 0 Chile

In a breathtaking start to the Round of 16, Brazil came centimetres from crashing out of the World Cup against Chile, when Chilean striker Mauricio Pinilla struck the crossbar in the dying moments of extra-time with the score level at 1-1.

Still in the game, the hosts recovered to win 3-2 on penalties to conclude one of the most open and exciting games of the tournament.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo
11 of 15 To full screen

Colombia 2 - 0 Uruguay

The journey of Colombia and their stand-out player James Rodríguez to the quarter-finals was one of the most enjoyable spectacles in Brazil, and Rodríguez and Los Cafeteros were at their best against Uruguay in the Round of 16. The attacking midfielder opening the scoring with an outstanding volley from the edge of the area, before sealing victory by turning in an excellent team goal.

Natacha Pisarenko/AP Photo
12 of 15 To full screen

Netherlands 2 - 1 Mexico

Netherlands completed one of the tournament’s most sensational comebacks with a 2-1 victory over Mexico, albeit in controversial circumstances. Giovanni dos Santos’s volley gave Mexico a deserved lead, which they protected – with the help of the post and outstanding goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa – until Wesley Sneijder’s equalising volley in the 88th minute. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (pictured) completed the turnaround for the Dutch in the 94th minute, converting a penalty won following Arjen Robben’s dramatic fall under Rafael Márquez’s tackle.

Julian Finney/Getty Images
13 of 15 To full screen

Germany 2 - 1 Algeria

Pundits had predicted Germany to sweep to the latter stages of the tournament, but they were given a huge fright by an unlikely source in Algeria at the Round of 16 stage.

Algeria goalkeeper Raïs M'Bohli proved equal to everything Germany could throw at him inside 90 minutes, while the Desert Foxes created a string of their own chances – including a disallowed goal.

However, as their opponents began to tire in extra-time, Germany snatched the victory that had been predicted through goals from André Schürrle (pictured) and Mesut Özil – though not with the ease that many had assumed.

Themba Hadebe/AP Photo
14 of 15 To full screen

Belgium 2 - 1 United States

The performances of the United States team at the 2014 World Cup have been credited with finally converting the U.S. population to football, the best of which was their heroic defeat to Belgium in the Round of 16.

Inspired by Tim Howard’s performance in goal (pictured) – who made the most saves in a World Cup game in history – the U.S. team took the game beyond 90 minutes, only to fall two goals behind inside the first period of extra-time. Jürgen Klinsmann’s team did not give up however, and Julian Green’s superb volley set up a tense, enthralling, but ultimately disappointing finish.

Natacha Pisarenko/AP Photo
15 of 15 To full screen

Germany 7 - 1 Brazil

Just Germany stood between Brazil and a final at the Maracanã, with the hosts – without injured talisman Neymar – hoping a wave of home support could carry them past a more fancied Germany team. Few could have expected the capitulation which played out however, as Germany punished terrible defending to stroll to a 5-0 lead at half time – thanks mainly to a spell of four goals in six minutes – before finishing the game as 7-1 winners. Two goals each for Andre Schürrle and Toni Kroos, plus efforts from Thomas Müller, Sami Khedira and Miroslav Klose – who became the competition’s top scorer ever – sealed Germany’s place in the final in front of thousands of disbelieving Brazilians.