The World Cup in Brazil has so far proven to be a huge success. The first round of matches produced nearly as many goals as there were in the whole of South Africa 2010.
This is due in no small part to the fact that many teams are throwing caution to the wind and playing to win as opposed to four years ago when most teams were playing with the mentality of not losing.
Such positivity has made for an open tournament that has still not thrown up a clear and dominating favourite to win. For many World Cups now, due mainly to the globalisation of football and the huge exposure it now enjoys via television, there has been the sentiment that there are no longer any surprise packages.
This World Cup has thankfully done away with that theory and there have been several surprises.
You need look no further than the quarter-final line up to spot the first of the surprise teams. Step forward Costa Rica.
Going into the World Cup, Costa Rica were written off by almost everybody. They were definitely going to finish bottom of Group D whilst England, Italy and Uruguay fought it out for the top two places and a spot in the last 16.
Costa Rica have no superstars but their manager, Jorge Luis Pinto, has got them well-drilled and playing together as a team which plays attractive, swift and hugely effective counter-attacking football.
Whilst the self-proclaimed heavyweights from England, Italy and Uruguay were preparing to fight each other for two qualifying places, it was Costa Rica who surprised everybody, winning two games and drawing their last when they were afforded the luxury of taking their foot off the pedal against an already eliminated England.
Costa Rica are not the only side that were able to qualify from their group against all odds. When the draw for the World Cup was made in December 2013, Group G was rightly billed as “The Group of Death”.
The general consensus was that Ghana and Portugal would battle it out for the runners-up spot behind the Germans. The USA, meanwhile, would merely be there to make up the numbers - except somebody forgot to tell them that.
Jurgen Klinsmann deserves huge praise for the way in which he has got the USA team organised. Their discipline and fitness saw them get through Group G in second place behind Germany, and those same two factors saw them play their part in an enthralling last 16 fixture with Belgium in which Tim Howard put in one of the greatest individual performances ever seen at a World Cup finals.
Switzerland have also surprised me at this World Cup. Generally expected to be solid in defence and blunt in attack, this 2014 vintage have been anything but on both fronts. Their defence has been rather shaky in parts, whilst their attacking play has at times been exhilarating, particularly when Xherdan Shaqiri is in possession.
If they can marry their defensive miserliness of 2010 with their attacking flair of 2014, then they could potentially be a real force by the next World Cup, if not sooner.
Algeria are another surprise package at this World Cup. They were probably the least fancied of all the African teams going into the tournament, but played a neat, quick-tempo passing game that saw them through the group stages and very nearly upset the apple cart.
So, Costa Rica, USA, Switzerland and Algeria have surprised me at this World Cup and can return home with their heads held high after their fine performances. My fifth and Final surprise team of World Cup 2014 is Spain.
Not many people were backing Spain to win the World Cup this year, but few could have expected them to fail quite so spectacularly. Every great side eventually gets knocked off their perch, but the way in which Spain performed not only surprised me, but saddened me too.
They had absolutely no pace at all in midfield and attack, defended like Sunday League players and played a forward who had barely any international experience to speak of, based on one prolific season, whilst established players like Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente and Jesus Navas were left at home. Shocking.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/1a2u3KU
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.