6 World Cup highlights we love

Evidence of World Cup fever in New York City.

The first phase of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is complete! After today, some teams will be packing their bags and others will move on to Round 16, where competition will really heat up.

But before you jump ahead to the next stage of spectator frenzy, take a look at some of the most memorable moments from the last two weeks:

1. Ghana and Cameroon showed up with the coolest uniforms

The awards for coolest, and most culturally relevant uniforms definitely go to Ghana and Cameroon, who showed up in Brazil with sleek-looking jerseys that pay a colorful homage to the traditional African Kente Cloth. Kente Cloth is a type of fabric made from interwoven strips that incorporate geometric shapes in bold colors, each of which has a special meaning. For example, Cameroon’s green means growth and spiritual renewal, and Ghana’s red means political moods, bloodshed and sacrificial rites.

The official 2014 World Cup "away" jerseys for Cameroon (left) and Ghana (right).

Look closely at the players on Team Ghana and Team Cameroon and you can also pick out geometric shapes representing the teams’ identities - the “Blackstars” and the “Lions,” respectively.

2. Goal scoring reached a record-breaking high

Brazil 2014 is now the highest goal-scoring tournament in World Cup history. A total of 136 goals were registered in the opening phase of the tournament – six more than the previous record held by the 2002 Korea/Japan games. That’s GREAT news for AFS Fantasy Fútbol players!

3. Ronaldo’s assist upset the U.S. in the final minutes

We all thought Team USA had it in the bag this past Sunday… and then this happened:

Silvestre Varela's game-tying goal in the final minutes of Sunday's USA-Portugal game, with assist by Christiano Ronaldo.

4. But even so, the U.S. actually advanced!

To Americans’ great relief, Team USA has still managed to advance to Round 16. This mini miracle is the result of a complicated web of ties and losses on the part of those country teams who could have squeezed the U.S. out of the competition, had they performed better. For now, it seems luck is on Team USA’s side, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether that will remain the case… Don’t you just love the suspense??

USA's 2014 World Cup starting team.

5. Americans actually started caring about the World Cup…

And speaking of love… Americans suddenly LOVE soccer. For the first time, people across the U.S. have caught World Cup fever along with the rest of the world.

Fans watching the World Cup in Kansas City erupt after Team USA scores a goal.

It’s unclear what the precise tipping point for this phenomenon has been, but the recent letter from Team USA Coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, to U.S. politicians undoubtedly helped the cause. In his letter, Coach Klinsmann implored government officials to grant American workers an extra-long lunch break on Thursday, June 26, so they could cheer on Team USA in their crucial match against Germany.

Amazingly, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo wrote back saying he would formally grant New York State workers an extended lunch, beginning at kick-off and lasting through the end of the game!

6. Algeria made it farther than ever before

Big congrats to Team Algeria, who will be progressing to Round 16 for the first time ever! “Les Fennecs” (Desert Foxes) have been frustrated by decades of lackluster World Cup performances, but this time they look poised for a major breakthrough.

FUN FACT: Despite its tiny frame, the desert fox, which serves as Algeria’s national emblem, has comically large ears. And thanks to this oversized feature, the foxes have super sensitive hearing, allowing them to detect prey moving underground. The ears also win added points for cuteness.

An Algerian Desert Fox. Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/yvonne_n_1968/. Reuse authorized by creative commons license 2.0.