Moment of madness: Luis Suarez. Photo: Getty Images
Belo Horizonte: The group phase of the World Cup is now done and dusted, and we know the last 16 who will contest the knockout stage.
There have been some surprises, some shocks, some stunning goals, some goalkeeping howlers and some massive disappointments.
There have been good players, ordinary players and players who could have done better.
There have been moments of madness, moments of inspiration.
So far, by common consensus, it's been one of the best World Cups of them all.
Goals have been flying in by the bucketload, and with a few honourable exceptions the big players have stood up and delivered on the biggest stage of all.
Coaches have been sacked, players have retired, and new stars have announced themselves on the scene.
I have been in Brazil now for 30 days, mainly covering the Socceroos.
I haven't been to every ground, nor have I seen every match - although few have escaped my attention. Here is a personal summary of the memorable moments of this first fortnight in the greatest sporting contest on the planet.
A few in contention here. Argentina's seesaw battle with Nigeria to decide top spot in their group - eventually taken out 3-2 by the Albiceleste courtesy of two Lionel Messi goals, has to come close, while the Germany v Ghana 2-2 draw was another humdinger as both sides went for it with the abandon of kids in a park. And what about Algeria's storming 4-2 win over South Korea; a fantastic attacking display in the first half by the North Africans set them up for their biggest ever World Cup score. But for sheer personal reasons I will give the gong to The Netherlands' 3-2 win over Australia. A cracking contest played at a high tempo in the cooler climes of Porto Alegre, it featured one of the football world's most storied teams against the upstart Socceroos who nobody gave a chance to. For four glorious minutes after Mile Jedinak's penalty it seemed Australia might pull of a shock win, but normal service was resumed when Robin van Persie levelled, and then Memphis Depay's long shot beat Mat Ryan - more on that later. But there will always be Tim Cahill's stunning volley to savour.
There haven't been that many to be honest. Even some of the scoreless draws, like Brazil v Mexico, were enthralling. Iran's parking of the bus to try and grab points was something of a snooze fest, while any game that featured Cameroon in this competition ended up being boring by virtue of it becoming a no contest as the Africans shipped goals galore to Brazil and Croatia. Russia also produced less than enthralling encounters, including their failure to beat Algeria in a game that would have seen them through.
In terms of results it has to be Costa Rica. Nobody outside of Sun Jose, surely, would have given the Ticos any chance of finishing anything but as whipping boys in their group which featured three previous World Cup winners in Italy, England and Uruguay. But their stunning 3-1 win over Uruguay preceded that tremendous 1-0 triumph over Italy, ensuring that they only needed a draw against England to top the group, which they got without too much trouble. Honourable mention must go to the Dutch, for their 5-1 demolition of Spain in the opening Group B fixture. Nobody saw that coming for sure. It wasn't a surprise that Germany beat Portugal, but the 4-0 scoreline certainly was. And also a mention for Algeria, who saw off Russia to come second in their group and make the knockout phase. One in the eye for Aussie bookies who had them at 300-1 or thereabouts to win the whole thing. They won't, but its not a bad effort, even if, with almost half their squad born and brought up in France, they really are Les Bleus B..
Most disappointing team:
Take your pick from England, Spain or Italy. All three came with big expectations, especially the defending champions. They were rolled by The Netherlands at the start, then beaten by Chile, so by the time they got into the groove against Australia it was all too late. England always expects, England always seems to exasperate, and this time it was no different. However, to only go home with one point was worse than anyone predicted. And Italy got off to a promising start with that win over England, but blew it against Costa Rica and then lost in that ill tempered and controversial game with Uruguay. Not quite the most disappointing, but rating a mention, are Fabio Capello's Russia. Huge money, ordinary football, poor results. Doesn't augur well for 2018, when they are hosts.
Most disappointing player:
Surely Cristiano Ronaldo has to be in the frame here. Regarded as one of the two best footballers on the planet, he was largely ineffective when Portugal crashed to Germany and then grabbed that desperate draw with the USA. By the time the Portugese won a game, against Ghana, it was all too late. Honourable mention to virtually the entire Spanish squad. So much talent, so little to show for it.
Having mainly covered the Socceroos games I suggest the Australians deserve a strong mention, coming to Brazil in numbers, but I would have to give it to the Chileans for the sheer volume of their cheeering and chanting and the way they sing their Vamos, Vamos Chilenos anthem incessantly. The Brazilians are something else, of course, but they would be, wouldn't they.
Dark horses award:
Several candidates in the frame for this one, the chief being Ivory Coast, Belgium and Colombia - although the latter two are so high up the FIFA rankings its hard to see how they could possibly be dark. More like luminous, really. Give it to Colombia, whose joi de vivre and attacking fervour lit up Group C.
Bad boys award:
No team has behaved disgracefully, but its a redundant category really after the Uruguay v Italy game. Step forward serial biter Luis Suarez, whose chomp on the shoulders of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellinionly enhanced his reputation as perhaps football's most talented nutter. Some might say a nine-game international ban and banishment from all football activity for four months was rather a light punishment.
Dutchman Robin van Persie's amazing flying header in the 5-1 rout of the Spanish set a standard that few could match. David Villa's cheeky backheel to put Spain 1-0 up against the Aussies was also a thing of delicacy, while Leo Messi's sumptuous free-kick against Nigeria and long range thunderbolt against Iran deserve special mention. But, from a completely home town perspective, Tim Cahill's extraordinary first-time volley that put Australia level with The Netherlands takes some beating. The fact that it crashed off the crossbar first makes it only more beautiful.
This is a tournament where the big players, Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney aside, have really stood up. Neymar has been Brazil's go to man, while Messi has carried a rather pedestrian Argentina to top spot in the group. Karim Benzema has looked lethal for France at times while Arjen Robben has defied age to set a standard few 30-year olds can match. James Rodriguez of Colombia has shown why so many have raved about his touch and technique.
None really. a lot of teams play 4-2-3-1 but they have been doing that for years. Few go back to the old 4-4-2, while the Dutch experimented with a 5-3-2 against Spain but then, when things were going badly against Australia, reverted to a 4-3-3, the structure that is in Dutch DNA along with an appreciation for Rembrandt and hash cakes. Chile have gone with a back three, as have a numer of teams, but they have also adapted the swarm, best utilised by South Korea in 2002. The pressing game is popular, despite the conditions. Only Greece play the classic old style World Cup routine - defend in depth, try nothing and then look to hit on the odd counter. Still, its worked for them this time. Surely it can't be a repeat of 2004. No.....
Aside from the performance against Spain, where the entire team looked tired and were outclassed, and 10 minutes of madness when they conceded two to Chile in the first half hour of their World Cup campaign it has, alas, to be goalkeeper Mat Ryan's late dive and fumble which allowed the Netherlands' Memphis Depay's long shot to beat him and give the Dutch a 3-2 win. Nobody could have argued if the Socceroos had grabbed a point from the Oranje in that game.
Tim Cahill's wonderful volley has already been discussed and will be when ever Australian fans are gathered together. Ad infinitum (or nauseam, if you prefer). But the other stunner has to be Mathew Leckie, emerging from the German second division to terrorise both Chilean and Dutch defenders with his hard running and direct approach. Just needs to sharpen his finishing and he will be a much sought after commodity.