The 2014 FIFA World Cup was a tournament of contrasting halves but sustained intrigue.
When Mario Gotze fired Germany to extra-time glory in Sunday's final at Rio's iconic Maracana, Brazil 2014 equalled France 1998 as the highest-scoring World Cup of all time.
That statistic owed much to the vibrant, almost devil-may-care nature with which numerous teams launched their campaigns during the group stages.
The first of many spine-tingling moments arrived before a ball was even kicked, when Brazil's fans and team roared their national anthem in unison at a fervent Arena de Sao Paulo.
Two goals from poster boy Neymar secured a 3-1 opening win over Croatia and, although those strikes papered over obvious cracks in Luiz Felipe Scolari's team, it was impossible to foresee the respective physical and emotional pain the Barcelona forward and his team would end up in as yellow and green optimism flowed.
A day later, world football's established order over recent years was blown to pieces.
Holding a 1-0 lead against the Netherlands as half-time approached and settling into their familiarly seductive passing rhythm, holders and two-time reigning European champions Spain had little indication of the horrors they were about to endure.
But Robin van Persie contorted himself remarkably to head Netherlands level - a goal arguably only surpassed by near crossbar-destroying volleys from Australia's Tim Cahill and Colombia’s James Rodriguez during a tournament packed with dazzling strikes. After the break, the Manchester United striker and Arjen Robben wrought havoc and Spain collapsed, battered to a 5-1 loss.
That unforgettable night in Salvador had a key impact on the mood of Brazil 2014. Four years ago, teams packing their defences, holding on and praying against the technically excellent likes of Spain made for some insipid viewing.
The sight of the Dutch laying waste to the 'tiki-taka' generation seemed to have an emboldening effect on all-comers.
Traditional heavyweights were not to be feared - certainly not by Costa Rica, who came from behind to stun Uruguay before ensuring England and Italy perished in the 'Group of Death'.
Many of the great moments in those early stages belonged to the fearless breed of underdogs that the Central American nation embodied.
Algeria - arguably the most goal-shy and prosaic of the lot at South Africa 2010 - progressed from Group H behind Belgium, attacking with the type of unrelenting pace that brings fans to the edge of their seats and defenders out in a cold sweat.
There was even glory for teams who fell on their swords. Australia departed pointless but won many admirers in going blow-for-blow against the clearly superior opposition of Chile and Netherlands; Ghana took a break from debilitating in-fighting to puncture perceptions of German invincibility during a breathless 2-2 draw in Manaus. It proved to be their only point of the competition.
Only time will tell over whether the United States' love affair with 'soccer' is built to last, but Jurgen Klinsmann's tough and stylish team were the worthy catalyst of a whirlwind romance.
A World Cup feels incomplete without a South American superstar announcing his arrival and Colombia's Monaco playmaker Rodriguez swaggered irresistibly into view, with choreographed goal celebrations to boot.
As an Argentina leaning on Lionel Messi struggled to reach top gear during the group stages, it was left to Colombia and an irrepressible Chile side to capture the imagination amid the host continents' representatives. For Uruguay, Luis Suarez once again undermined his brilliance with garish controversy.
But history weighed on Chile and Colombia as they fell short against a limited Brazil during the knockout stages, when higher stakes tempered the creative freedom of the tournament's early days.
There was still time to fit in one more jaw-dropping moment for the ages. Germany's 7-1 dismantling of the hosts will for ever be a staple of World Cup retrospectives. That should help it finally become believable.
This is a Germany side without superstars but bursting with talent - a team in the truest sense as they perfectly realised coach Joachim Low's exquisite vision in Belo Horizonte before taking the ultimate prize at Brazil's football temple.
While the group stages belonged to mesmeric individuals such as Robben and Rodriguez, the knockout rounds demonstrated the power of the collective.
The Argentina squad that faced Germany on Sunday featured nine members of the group that won the 2008 Olympic Games. One year later, five of Germany’s starting line-up in Rio - six before Sami Khedira's late withdrawal - won the European Under-21 Championship.
It provides sobering reading for advocates of knee-jerk reactions and quick-fixes as Spain, Italy, England and Brazil lead the nations wondering where they go from here.
The evidence suggests that the next group of players destined for World Cup glory are a considerable way along their path to greatness already.
|Coach: J. Löw|
for C. Kramer 32'
for M. Klose 88'
for M. Özil 120'
|Ligue 1 Review: Marseille come from behind, Nantes extend unbeaten run|
|La Liga Review: Valencia suffer derby defeat, Rayo Vallecano beat Celta Vigo|
|Serie A Review: Mancini´s Inter rescue derby draw|
|Milan 1 Inter 1: Draw for Mancini on return|
|Pochettino wants home comforts|
|Bundesliga Review: Hamburg secure derby win, Stuttgart beaten again|
|Bruce disappointed with Vertonghen reaction|
|Eriksen backing Tottenham to kick on|
|Hull City 1 Tottenham 2: Eriksen snatches late winner after Ramirez sees red|
|Eredivisie Review: De Leeuw denies leaders PSV, Heracles secure timely win|
|Rodgers takes responsibility for Liverpool slump|
|Falcao ready for United return|
|Warnock basks in Palace display|
|Fabregas calls for ruthlessness|
|Crystal Palace 3 Liverpool 1: Rodgers´ men stumble at Palace again|
|Partick Thistle 0 Aberdeen 1: Rooney spot on for visitors|
|Reus blow for Dortmund|
|Mulvey leaves Roar post|
|Shakhtar Donetsk v Athletic Bilbao: Bernard eyes fast start|
|Forster urges Southampton to build|
|Sporting v Maribor: Montero out to continue hot streak|
|Schalke v Chelsea: Chance of revenge for Di Matteo|
|Manchester City v Bayern Munich: Pellegrini putting pressure on himself|
|Mourinho guards against Chelsea complacency|
|Rodriguez urges Real focus|
|Paris Saint-Germain v Ajax: Dutch outfit quietly confident|
|APOEL v Barcelona: Xavi seeks further improvement|
|Gotze basks in Bayern form|
|Tevez wants domestic form replicated in Europe|
|Mixed news on Naismith for Everton|
|Central Coast Mariners 0 Adelaide United 2: Sanchez nets brace for visitors|
|Can full of praise for Gerrard|
|BATE v Porto: Visitors eye top spot|
|CSKA Moscow v Roma: Italians eye qualification|
|Simeone lauds Atletico display|
|Messi the best ever - Luis Enrique|
|Eredivisie Review: Feyenoord make Peersman pay, Ajax beat Heerenveen|
|La Liga Review: Real Madrid, Barcelona win big|
|Allegri lauds Pogba performance|
|Messi pays homage after record-breaking day|
|Messi the record breaker|
|Serie A Review: Top two both victorious|
|Taylor hints that knee injury not as bad as first feared|
|Ligue 1 Review: Lyon stumble against Bastia|
|Van Gaal critical of United despite win|
|Lazio 0 Juventus 3: Pogba and Tevez star as champions dominate|
|Wenger frustrated by wasteful Arsenal defeat|
|Barcelona 5 Sevilla 1: Messi breaks La Liga record as Barca cruise|
|Garcia delighted with Ljajic display|
|League One Review: Swindon close the gap at the top, Yeovil off the bottom|
|Messi breaks La Liga goal record|
|Ancelotti: Isco a ´perfect´ Modric replacement|
|Bundesliga Review: Wolfsburg slip helps move Bayern well clear|
|Rooney revels in success of counter-attack ploy|
|Tiago: Malaga scalp proves we´re great|
|Arsenal 1 Manchester United 2: Rooney seals Van Gaal´s maiden away win|
|Reus injury angers Klopp|
|Schweinsteiger pays tribute to Bayern fans|
|Pellegrini salutes Toure´s attitude|
|Hughes laments Stoke´s slow start|
|Allardyce frustrated after Everton defeat|
|We deserved more - Redknapp|
|Irvine: Yacob can have no complaints|
|League Two Review: Luton run ended by Burton, Wycombe go top|
|Eibar 0 Real Madrid 4: Relentless Real win again|
|Poyet defends Cattermole over Cambiasso tackle|
|Dyche hails Burnley resolve|
|Martinez hails ´satisfying´ Everton triumph|
|Pearson sure of Leicester survival|
|Gomis earns Monk forgiveness for late miss|
|Pardew full of praise for Sissoko|
|Mourinho lauds ´beautiful´ Chelsea display|
|Scottish Premiership Review: Guidetti strikes again for Celtic, top four all win|
|Championship Review: Bamford denies Mackay´s Wigan, Derby extend lead|
|Aston Villa v Southampton: Koeman eyes international swagger|
|Newcastle United 1 QPR 0: Skipper Sissoko seals fifth straight win|
|Leicester City 0 Sunderland 0: Hosts´ goal drought continues|
|Stoke City 1 Burnley 2: Ings at the double as visitors hold on|
|Atletico Madrid 3 Malaga 1: Unconvincing champions halt in-form visitors|
|Everton 2 West Ham 1: Osman celebrates landmark with winner|
|Manchester City 2 Swansea 1: Toure seals comeback win for champions|
|Chelsea 2 West Brom 0: Yacob sees red as leaders march on|
|Paderborn 2 Borussia Dortmund 2: Reus injury leads to Dortmund capitulation|
|Bayern Munich 4 Hoffenheim 0: Champions move seven clear|
|Bielsa not concerned by Marseille investigation|
|Mancini buoyed by Inter preparations|
|Benitez rules out Liverpool return|
|Hertha prepared for Kalou absence|
|Montella confident despite Fiorentina pressures|
|Injured Alex out of Milan derby|
|Pochettino wants versatility from Dier|
|Van Gaal will not take risks with Falcao fitness|
|A-League Review: Sydney keep pressure on at top|
|K. League Review: Sangju Sangmu all but down, Gyeongnam remain in danger|
|J.League Review: Gamba deny title-chasing Urawa, Ventforet ensure safety|
|Rabiot thrilled with PSG return|
|Sterling wants long Liverpool stay|
|Poyet: I thought Cattermole would ´shoot´ me|
|Simeone: Cerci interest compliments Atletico|
|Blanc: ´I was confident´ of PSG win|
|Silva sidelined for crucial City-Bayern clash|
|Lambert would ´love´ to keep Vlaar, slams agent|