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Shattered records carpet World Cup field
WHATEVER happens in this weekend's final two games in Brazil, the 2014 World Cup will go down in history as a tournament that shattered records, both on and off the pitch.
Since the first few days when Brazil dazzled the crowds in Sao Paulo with three glorious strikes against Croatia and the Netherlands smashed five past Spain, dethroning the defending champion, the month-long football fiesta has witnessed a dizzying total of 167 goals.
This is just four short of the current high of 171 at the 1998 event in France, the first time the World Cup was expanded from 24 to 32 teams.
There are at least 180 more minutes of football left to break that goal-scoring mark, or as many as 240 if tonight's third-place playoff game involving Brazil and the Netherlands and tomorrow's grand final between Argentina and Germany both go into extra time.
The Germans are on an attacking rampage, with coach Joachim Loew's men racking up 17 goals so far, making them the highest-scoring of the 32 nations at the World Cup. Seven of those goals came in that jawdropping win over hosts Brazil in Belo Horizonte, a semi-final match that broke so many records that spectators and football historians were left scrambling for comparisons.
There were none in the end. That stunning result was Brazil's worst-ever defeat in their 100-year footballing history. It was also the Selecao's first loss in a competitive home match since 1975, a run stretching to 63 games. Take nothing away from the brilliance of the Germans, however. They became the fastest team to hold a 5-0 lead in World Cup history, needing just 29 minutes of that match to do so.
The second goal of the lopsided victory was a special one for Miroslav Klose. The 36-year-old striker took his all-time World Cup goals tally to 16, eclipsing the previous record of 15 set by - ironically - Ronaldo of Brazil in 2006.
Social media was abuzz with Germany's breathtaking achievement. There were some 35.6 million tweets sent during the roughly two-hour game, making it the most discussed single sports game ever on Twitter. This was more than double the previous football-related tweet record of 16.4 million set just a week earlier during Brazil's win over Chile; it far eclipses the previous record for any sporting event, which was 24.9 million tweets set by the Super Bowl earlier this year.
The United States may have bowed out of the World Cup at the Round of 16 stage, but the Americans were involved in no fewer than three tournament records
Striker Clint Dempsey's goal against Ghana on June 17 after just 30 seconds was this year's fastest, and the fifth-fastest in World Cup history. The Yanks also suffered at the other end, the 95th-minute goal scored by Portugal in the 2-2 draw with the US was the latest goal ever scored in normal time at a World Cup.
The Stars and Stripes' goalkeeper Tim Howard may have been powerless to stop the two Belgium goals in extra time that eventually knocked his country out, but the bearded 35-year-old has the proud honour of making a whopping 16 saves that match, also a record.
This World Cup in Brazil will also be known for creating one of the more quirkier records in the sport. Uruguay's resident bad boy Luis Suarez holds the unwanted distinction of becoming the first player to be expelled from the World Cup for biting an opponent.
The Barcelona-bound striker was banned from all football-related activities for four months and suspended for nine international games for sinking his chompers into the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
In all, three million tickets were sold for the 64 matches across the 12 cities, leading to an average gate of 52,762 people, the second-highest World Cup attendance of all time.
Whether the host nation will feel it got its money's worth is another story altogether. A large chunk of Brazil's 200 million population is still unhappy over the staggering US$11 billion spent to host the event - the largest budget in World Cup history - on the back of rising inflation and a stagnant economy.
The fact that Brazil will not realise their dream of winning that elusive record sixth World Cup on home soil has only fuelled the earlier complaints that the tournament was an unnecessary expense to begin with.
There were initial fears that protests and chaos would disrupt the competition, but these never materialised. Fans all over the world have been treated to some top-notch football in Brazil, with many games featuring non-stop action from the first minute to the last.
All this, and there are still two more mouthwatering matches, and possibly the chance of more records falling by the wayside, to savour.
The identity of the top scorer, known as the Golden Boot, will be revealed after tomorrow's final is over. Germany's five-goal hero Thomas Muller and Argentina's Lionel Messi, with four goals to his name, will duke it out in a bid to dethrone Colombia's James Rodriguez, who is still sitting pretty at the top of the charts with six strikes.
As the curtain comes down on Brazil 2014, this 20th edition of the Fifa World Cup has already conjured up more than its fair share of high points that football fans will rave about for years to come.