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At a party 24 years in the making, hundreds of thousands of Germans showed their admiration and adoration for their World Cup winners at a victory parade to the Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday.German soccer players from left:  Lukas Podolski, Jerome Boateng and Mesut Ozil celebrate on stage. An estimated 400,000 people packed the “fan mile” in front of the Berlin landmark to welcome home coach Joachim Loew’s team and the trophy. (Photo: Alex Grimm/The Associated Press)

At a party 24 years in the making, hundreds of thousands of Germans showed their admiration and adoration for their World Cup winners at a victory parade to the Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday.

German soccer players from left:  Lukas Podolski, Jerome Boateng and Mesut Ozil celebrate on stage. An estimated 400,000 people packed the “fan mile” in front of the Berlin landmark to welcome home coach Joachim Loew’s team and the trophy. (Photo: Alex Grimm/The Associated Press)

The golden gates of football’s Olympus may yet swing open Sunday to admit Lionel Messi.

On a cool, wet, night long on discipline and distressingly short on artistry — an anti-Messi evening if there ever was one — the planet’s greatest player reached his first World Cup final, and Argentina’s first in 24 long years, 4-2 on penalties following a dire, defensive 0-0 draw through 120 bob-and-weave minutes against the Netherlands.

While this could still wind up being Messi’s tournament (although it’s doubtful German boss Joachim Low lost any sleep watching the dire goings-on at Arena Sao Paulo) Wednesday night belonged to others, to mere mortals. (Photos: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images; Victor R. Caivano/The Associated Press)

A Brazilian fan holds a mask depicting Brazil’s Neymar before the semi-final football match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on July 8, 2014. Neymar masks were featured on the front pages of at least two Brazilian newspapers on Tuesday. (Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

A Brazilian fan holds a mask depicting Brazil’s Neymar before the semi-final football match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on July 8, 2014. Neymar masks were featured on the front pages of at least two Brazilian newspapers on Tuesday. (Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazil fans were decked out in their finest World Cup attire for Friday’s quarter-final against Colombia. Find updates, photos and analysis in Postmedia’s live blog. (Photos: Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images, Hassan Ammar/The Associated Press, Natacha Pisarenko/The Associated Press)

Lionel Messi’s birthday suit includes shoes: Argentina’s Lionel Messi wears a special edition boot made to celebrate his 27th birthday during a training session at the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre on June 24, 2014, on the eve of their 2014 FIFA World Cup Group F football match against Nigeria. (Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi’s birthday suit includes shoes: Argentina’s Lionel Messi wears a special edition boot made to celebrate his 27th birthday during a training session at the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre on June 24, 2014, on the eve of their 2014 FIFA World Cup Group F football match against Nigeria. (Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Uruguay striker Luis Suarez could once again be in trouble after appearing to bite an Italian opponent Tuesday in a key World Cup qualifying game.

The incident, visible on television replays, showed Suarez apparently bite the shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini as the pair clashed in the Italian penalty area. It happened about a minute before Uruguay scored in the 81st.

Suarez was chasing the ball and was blocked by the Italy defender. He buried his mouth briefly in Chiellini’s shoulder and the Italian player fell over, apparently in pain and clutching the shoulder. Suarez reeled away holding his mouth.

Uruguay held on to beat 10-man Italy 1-0 and qualified for the knockout stages. Italy, a four-time champion, was eliminated. (Photos: Julian Finney/Getty Images; Clive Rose/Getty Images; Andrew Medichini/The Associated Press)

A Palestinian boy kicks a ball in front of graffiti wall murals depicting (L to R) Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Netherlands’ Arjen Robben and Italy’s Andrea Pirlo on June 23, 2014 at the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian boy kicks a ball in front of graffiti wall murals depicting (L to R) Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Netherlands’ Arjen Robben and Italy’s Andrea Pirlo on June 23, 2014 at the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Costa Rica followed up its surprise win over Uruguay with another World Cup stunner on Friday, beating four-time champion Italy 1-0 to secure a spot in the next round and eliminate England in the process.Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz gave his side the lead in the 44th minute, heading in off the underside of the crossbar following a cross from Junior Diaz. Goal-line technology was used to show that the ball bounced down and in after hitting the bar. (Photo: Ricardo Mazalan/The Associated Press)

Costa Rica followed up its surprise win over Uruguay with another World Cup stunner on Friday, beating four-time champion Italy 1-0 to secure a spot in the next round and eliminate England in the process.

Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz gave his side the lead in the 44th minute, heading in off the underside of the crossbar following a cross from Junior Diaz. Goal-line technology was used to show that the ball bounced down and in after hitting the bar. (Photo: Ricardo Mazalan/The Associated Press)

Football fans are seen during a Group A football match between Brazil and Mexico in the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 17, 2014.  He was called a hero and a saviour by his Mexican teammates. His Brazilian opponents said he produced miracles.There is no doubt that Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was the one responsible for spoiling Brazil’s hopes of another World Cup victory at its home tournament.Ochoa made a series of outstanding saves to help his side hold Brazil to a thrilling 0-0 draw on Tuesday. (Photo by Xavier Marit/AFP/Getty Images)

Football fans are seen during a Group A football match between Brazil and Mexico in the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 17, 2014.  

He was called a hero and a saviour by his Mexican teammates. His Brazilian opponents said he produced miracles.

There is no doubt that Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was the one responsible for spoiling Brazil’s hopes of another World Cup victory at its home tournament.

Ochoa made a series of outstanding saves to help his side hold Brazil to a thrilling 0-0 draw on Tuesday. (Photo by Xavier Marit/AFP/Getty Images)

Signs of Brazil’s readiness (or lack thereof) for the World Cup are obvious to most foreigners once they land. Forget the stadiums: major airports remain unfinished, whole terminals still shut down.And there are the actual distances. Some teams will make journeys lasting more than three hours on their chartered planes. Brazil is big enough to be its own continent, and games will be played on all ends.As the World Cup kicks off, the host country strives to overcome geography, climate and social unrest — all for the beautiful game. Here are the three biggest challenges Brazil faces to successfully staging the World Cup.

Signs of Brazil’s readiness (or lack thereof) for the World Cup are obvious to most foreigners once they land. Forget the stadiums: major airports remain unfinished, whole terminals still shut down.

And there are the actual distances. Some teams will make journeys lasting more than three hours on their chartered planes. Brazil is big enough to be its own continent, and games will be played on all ends.

As the World Cup kicks off, the host country strives to overcome geography, climate and social unrest — all for the beautiful game. Here are the three biggest challenges Brazil faces to successfully staging the World Cup.