This World Cup Final's group stage was one for the record books and gave us plenty of things to talk about. With 136 (2.8 goals per game) goals scored in all group stage games, this is the most ever for a group stage, six more than 2002. Asian teams fell flat, and for the first time since 1990, no team from AFC registered a win. While CONCACAF teams accomplished something they have never done — qualify three teams for the knockout rounds. Four teams from the FIFA rankings top 10 failed to make the knockout stages and they are Spain, Portugal, England, and Italy.
Knockout Round: Brazil, Mexico
Going Home: Croatia, Cameroon
Brazil and Mexico each earned seven points to earn their place in the knockout stages. Mexico only gave up one goal while Brazil scored seven against teams not named Mexico. Cameroon once again fell flat with a -8 goal differential and zero points.
Knockout Round: Netherlands, Chile
Going Home: Spain, Australia
The shock of the tournament might be the thrashing Spain took in their first two games of the tournament, and their early elimination. Even with their defeat of a disheartened Australia by a three goal margin, Spain still goes home with a -3 goal differential. Australia goes home with moral victories only, and possibly with the goal of the tournament for Tim Cahill's strike against The Netherlands.
Knockout Round: Colombia, Greece
Going Home: Ivory Coast, Japan
Colombia was one of three teams to earn the full nine points during the group stage, and did so in convincing fashion. Ivory Coast and Greece played a win-or-go-home game in the final group stage, and despite a -2 goal differential, Greece won the game and continued Ivory Coast's group stage woes. Ivory Coast, despite fielding some strong teams, have never made it out of the group stages.
Knockout Round: Costa Rica, Uruguay
Going Home: Italy, England
After making history by being the first group to ever contain three previous champions, this group was memorable for two different reasons. Costa Rica made history by beating two previous champions in the group stage, and they earned their first ever group win. Luis Suarez continued his cannibalistic ways, biting an opponent for the third time. This earned him a nine-game international ban and a four-month ban from all soccer-related activities. Costa Rica now has a chance to get to the quarterfinals for the first time ever if they defeat Greece, who also has never made the quarterfinals.
Knockout Rounds: France, Switzerland
Going Home: Ecuador, Honduras
Honduras was the lone CONCACAF member to struggle at this tournament, and they were the Group E punching bag. The good news for Honduras was that they broke the longest goal-scoring drought in World Cup Finals history. Group E was also the only group to have both UEFA team members qualify for the round of 16.
Knockout Rounds: Argentina, Nigeria
Going Home: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran
Argentina benefited from a weaker group and earned a full nine points from all three games. Of course it took some Lionel Messi Magic against Iran for that to happen. Debutantes Bosnia and Herzegovina played well but could not secure three points by beating Iran on the last day.
Knockout Rounds: Germany, USA
Going Home: Ghana, Portugal
This was a group of implosions that ended up costing two teams a chance at the knockout rounds. Portugal imploded against Germany and apparently forgot that goal differential would matter, allowing the game get out of control. Their 4-0 thrashing ended up costing them a spot in the Round of 16. Ghana, on the other hand, imploded right before the last game and then gifted Portugal two goals, when all they needed was a two-goal win to once again knock the USA out of the World Cup.
Knockout Rounds: Belgium, Algeria
Going Home: Russia, South Korea
Belgium won all three of their group stage games, with all of their game-winning goals coming after the 75th minute. Algeria and Russia's last game was the deciding factor for second place. In the end, Algeria made history by qualifying for the Round of 16 for the first time in their history.