1. Argentina don’t care what you think

Plenty of sides tried free-flowing, pacey Latin football this summer – even England had their moments. A moment. But Argentina stayed functional. They haven’t conceded once in the knockouts, they’ve not been behind in any game, and they don’t mind a lack of respect. Coach Alejandro “The Sloth” Sabella says his side are “sore, beaten and tired after the war [with Holland]. But with work, humility and seriousness, we’ll get there”; Pablo Zabaleta says their strengths are spoiling, staying “compact and tight”, “closing down” and feeding on negativity. “Sometimes, if you have all the people against you, you feel even stronger.”

2. Passion will only take you so far

A series of heroic performances were undone by moments of cold quality – Switzerland, Mexico and Nigeria among those losing to cruel late strikes; and the USA stopped in extra time. But raw passion was at the heart of all the summer’s enduring images: Brazil’s maelstrom; Ivory Coast’s Serey Die in tears during his anthem; Suárez against England; Suárez against Chiellini; and the best squad meltdown for years – Ghana’s trip featuring a fist fight, suspensions, a plane load of cash and an inquiry. FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi: “We will unravel this farce.”

3. Louis van Gaal is a gambler

Van Gaal’s goalkeeper subbing move went down well: widely taken as evidence of brave, unsentimental, original thinking (even if Martin O’Neill did it first, in Leicester City’s 1996 play-off final) – and not as evidence of daft, look-at-me risk-taking, which it could have been if Tim Krul had gaffed. But the wider signs for Manchester United were good: a readiness to be flexible on tactics, to switch his back-line formation mid-game, to make space for flair, and to treat the press in a no-nonsense “je lot zijn idioten” way that’ll bring back warm pre-Moyes memories. He had no interest in the third-place play-off, and wasn’t shy to say so.

4. German reform blueprints are better than English ones

It’s a biennial revelation. The fundamentals of Germany’s 2002 football reboot are well-known - new academies with German quotas, leading to more German Bundesliga first-teamers at clubs where “50+1” ownership rules stop single entities from taking over. Joachim Löw was installed with a long-term brief, and will lead his team out in the final. England, in the same period, tried four different managers, giving each a smaller talent pool to pick from as the Premier League filled out with foreign owners and foreign players, gorged on its £5.5bn income, and grassroots facilities festered. Still, a Premier B League should fix it.

5. Premier League flops have legs

Bryan Ruiz, not good enough for Fulham’s relegation campaign and shipped out to make way for Kostas Mitroglou, captained Costa Rica into the knockout stage, scoring twice. He starred alongside Joel Campbell, who faces another season on loan from Arsenal. Also making points: Swiss Arsenal reject Johan Djourou; Colombia’s Pablo Armero, a loan flop at West Ham; Algeria pair Rafik Halliche (ex-Fulham) and Carl Medjani (ex-Liverpool); Mexico’s Spurs reject Giovani dos Santos; Germany’s Shkodran Mustafi, given a free by Everton in 2012; and former West Brom and Forest defender Gonzalo Jara, a star for Chile, despite a brutal own-goal/penalty miss double. Even Gervinho looked good.

6. Goalkeepers have new status

The surprise on 2014’s top player lists so far: the number of keepers. There’s Tim Howard, whose old high school yearbook photo motto, “It will take a nation of millions to hold me back”, went viral; Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, now in talks with Bayern Munich; Mexico’s free agent Guillermo Ochoa, whose Gordon Banks moment against Brazil put him in a good bargaining position; Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama; Germany’s Manuel Neuer; Argentina’s Sergio Romero; and potentially Van Gaal’s strutting mind-gamer Tim Krul, who revelled in his cameo chance. Being a keeper is cool again. Even the ones who play for backwater minnows have their own Head & Shoulders ads.

7. 90 minutes can be life-changing

Pre-tournament, DeAndre Yedlin was a Seattle Sounders homegrown full-back – low on European scouting lists, a known unknown. He’s now the answer to everyone’s full-back needs – his USMNTMVP game against Belgium drawing Roma, Liverpool, Inter, Genoa, Anderlecht and others. Club owner Adrian Hanauer says he doesn’t fancy selling Yedlin, but, on the other hand, “there’s always a number”. Among other talents who weren’t so well-known: PSV’s winger Memphis Depay, Lille’s Divock Origi, about to join Liverpool, and Atlético Madrid’s José Giménez, whose buyout clause is on the rise.

8. There’s science in penalty-taking

Holland’s kicks were clinical against Costa Rica. Then, four days later, two players refused to take one and they lost 4-2. But science says it’s not a lottery. Among the historical World Cup data from analyst Robert O’Connor: the side kicking first win 60% of the time; players aged under 22 score 85% of their kicks, over-22s score 78%; keepers dive low and away from the centre of their net 94% of the time. Overall the ideal taker is young, left-footed, with a “well-established pre-shot routine” and wearing a red shirt. Today’s tailored facts: Argentina have won four out of five of their shootouts, Germany four out of four. One was against Argentina, in 2006.

9. Fifa do have teeth

For all the bad press, when something really bad happened – something disgusting – Fifa didn’t hold back. They fined Argentina £200,000 for breaching press conference regulations – failing to provide a player to give quotes “on three consecutive occasions”. Luis Suárez, meanwhile, was fined £96,000. But Suárez’s four-month ban did represent an unexpectedly heavy hit - a bit “fascist”, reckoned the Uruguay president José Mujica, who called it “an assault on the poor” driven by “Fifa’s bunch of old sons of bitches”. Meanwhile, Pepe was fined £10,000 for a headbutt, Alex Song £13,000 for an elbow chop, and Algeria £32,000 for fans using lasers. None of the 12 complaints made about racist, homophobic or far-right chants or banners led to any Fifa action.

10. Hiring a psychologist is no magic bullet

England’s 72-man entourage left for Brazil with a chef, a grass specialist and an in-house psychiatrist, and lasted five days. Brazil, meanwhile, called in a psychologist for an “urgent session” before their game against Colombia to calm players criticised by Carlos Alberto for being in tears too often, and it worked. Then they played Germany. The tournament overall did little to encourage big spending on staff, with the top three highest-paid coaches - Fabio Capello, Roy Hodgson and Cesare Prandelli – all failing to reach the knockout stage. The lowest-paid, Miguel “The Louse” Herrera, on a reported £125,000, took Mexico through and says he’ll be back in 2018. “For me, there’s nothing better.”

11. Diving is a good thing

For all the free-flowing play, diving provided the summer’s essential edge. Foreigners “flopping” was a debate in the US, whose national side, led by anti-diving campaigner Jürgen Klinsmann, don’t stoop that low: USA Today called it “unbecoming”; The Washington Post ran a guide: “So you think you can flop?”; The Wall Street Journal called it “soccer’s oldest and most despised tactic” and listed “average writhing times”. Elsewhere, Arjen Robben apologised for diving, then did it again; Mexico fans made Robben pinatas; and a Fifa vice-president said diving had tainted the pure image of the Fifa™ World Cup. Football would be less fun without it.