Tim Cahill scored a stunner against the Netherlands, but was there a better goal during the World Cup? Photo: Reuters
RIO DE JANEIRO- The goals might have dried up as the World Cup entered its sudden death phase - there were several matches that needed extra time and penalties to determine a winner as defences tightened up.
There were, of course, honourable exceptions such as that amazing 7-1 demolition by Germany of the hosts in the semi-final, a match that will forever leave huge scars on the Brazilian football psyche.
But the group phase of this World Cup was characterised by an attacking joie de vivre that had not been seen for several years.
Teams set out not to frustrate, but to attack. Purists bemoaned the lack of standout defenders, while some were critical of some of the goalkeepers - although for every keeper who made a blunder there was another (step forward Guillermo Ochoa, Keylor Navas and Tim Howard) who were brilliant.
There were few goals that involved incisive passing moves of the kind that Argentina put together back in 2006 (when a 28-pass move ended with Esteban Cambiasso converting in the 6-0 rout against Serbia) but there were plenty of goals that will long remain in the memory.
It's hard to single out one. Do you choose a moment of individual brilliance, do you go for the spectacular, or do you rate goals more highly because of the context in which they come - say give more points to Gonzalo Higuain's instinctive finish in the quarter-final that gave Argentina a 1-0 victory than Xherdan Shaqiri's hat-trick for Switzerland because it was in the group stages against Honduras?
And what about Miroslav Klose's goal against Brazil? It might have been from close range - which is where the veteran frontman does his best work - but its historic significance made it a great'' goal: it was the goal that made him the leading marksman in World Cup history.
Tim Cahill's extraordinary volley against The Netherlands will undoubtedly hold pride of place in the hearts of many Australians. Cahill is a national hero, Australia's greatest ever Socceroo, and there could not have been any more fitting way for him to end his World Cup career than with a goal like that.
Here is my personal top ten, in reverse order:
10) Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland v Honduras: Any player who scores a hat-trick in a World Cup game deserves a mention. His first was an unstoppable thunderbolt from outside the area after he picked up the ball and held off the challenge of two defenders.
9) Gervinho, Ivory Coast v Colombia: The Elephants winger's skilful run from out wide brought him into the danger area. He continued to avoid challenges before smashing a shot past Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina. The goal put his side back in the game, but Colombia ran out the 2-1 winner.
8) Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands v Mexico: Louis Van Gaal's side looked to be dead and buried and on the next flight back to Amsterdam when, with just a few minutes remaining in their round of 16 tie against Mexico, they trailed 1-0. From a late attack the ball fell to Sneijder, who struck it so ferociously that Guillermo Ochoa, one of the tournament's top keepers, could only stand and watch as the Dutch levelled the scores.
7) David Luiz, Brazil v Colombia: It was a tense and tight affair in Fortaleza as Brazil, all hyped up on fear and emotion, battled with Colombia for a semi-final place. The Selecao were leading 1-0 midway through the second half when they got a free kick. Up stepped defender Luiz, who smashed a long shot past Ospina. It put the hosts in front and gave them the buffer they needed.
6) David Villa, Spain v Australia: We will be getting to see a fair bit more of Villa over the next few months during his guest stint with Melbourne City, and his display in this game proved once again what a wonderful finisher he is. He was Spain's most dangerous attacker against the Socceroos and he put the reigning champions 1-0 up with a cheeky back flick past Mat Ryan in the first half. It was his last international goal; he retired after this game.
5) Ahmed Musa, Nigeria v Argentina: In this match Musa became the first Nigerian to score twice in one World Cup match. He showed pace, power and great finishing skill to beat Sergio Romero on both occasions.
4) Lionel Messi, Argentina v Bosnia, Iran, Nigeria: Take your pick. Messi scored his second World Cup goal - his first was in 2006 - in Los Albicelestes' opening game, against Bosnia - a great strike. He then banged in a late winner from distance against Iran before netting twice against Nigeria. All are worth another look.
3) Robin Van Persie: Netherlands v Spain: It has become one of the iconic images of this World Cup - Van Persie flying through the air and heading home past a despairing Iker Casillas from long range. The goal was spectacular and beautiful, and came at a critical time as it brought the Dutch level.
2) Tim Cahill, Australia v Netherlands: In many other World Cups, Cahill's strike would have been a shoo-in for goal of the tournament. The way he struck the ball so perfectly with his left foot was extraordinary, and the fact that it went in off the bar only added to its majesty.
1) James Rodriguez, Colombia v Uruguay: Had Los Cafiteros, as the Colombians are known, made it further into the tournament, it's likely that Rodriguez may have become the man of the World Cup. As it was, he illuminated every game he played in, scoring six goals in his five games including, arguably, the one that just shaded Cahill's for drama. It was a sudden death match, not a group game. The ball fell to the 22-year-old outside the area; he quickly summed up the situation, trapped it on his chest and then, as it fell, volleyed from distance past the Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera to put Colombia 1-0 up. Again, this strike slammed home against the underside of the bar, making it look even more spectacular.
Honourable mentions go to players like Oscar Duarte, who got his head down low to knock home a crucial goal for Costa Rica against Uruguay; Gonzalo Higuain, for an instinctive first time finish for Argentina against Belgium; and for America's Jermaine Jones, whose thunderbolt got him on the scoresheet for the USA against Portugal in the group stages.
And it would be remiss not to include the collective of Germany, for all seven that they smashed home past Brazil in that extraordinary game in Belo Horizonte. With special kudos to Klose, for establishing a new record. Mind you, the way teammate Thomas Muller is going, he might not be far from eclipsing Klose's mark.