After a largely sterile first round of group games - in which the drone of the vuvuzela, the flight of the Jabulani and a severe lack of goals dominated the agenda - the search for five World Cup high points threatened to be a thankless task.
But as the goals started to flow, heroes started to emerge in South Africa, stories were embellished. Whether animal, human or conceptual, the highlights began to come thick and fast. Here are Soccernet's favourites.
1. Paul the psychic octopus
Boasting the prolificacy of David Villa, the accuracy of a Gio van Bronckhorst 40-yarder and the sheer star quality of Diego Maradona, there is no doubt that Sea Life Oberhausen's Paul has captured the imagination over the past four weeks with his spookily accurate World Cup predictions. Born in Weymouth, Paul rivals Howard Webb as England's most successful (and undoubtedly most popular) participant at the finals having correctly predicted the result of all of Germany's games including the third-place play-off - a probability of 1 in 128.
But what is the key to his success in deciding which Perspex box to delve into for a tasty mussel? Stefan Porwoll, the Sea Life Aquarium manager, explains: "Paul is such a professional oracle he doesn't even care that hundreds of journalists are watching and commenting on every move he makes." With that kind of coolness under pressure and his highly-perceptive mind, it is no surprise that Paul is already being labelled the most famous water-dwelling being since Jaws.
2. The rise of the underdogs
France's dramatic implosion, Italy's ineffectual performances and England's rank ineptitude ensured this was not a World Cup for the historic European powers. In their stead we saw Ghana's romantic ride to the quarter-finals, Uruguay reaching the last four - through means foul or fair - and Slovakia sneaking out of the group stage. Even the South American royalty of Brazil and Argentina failed to reach the semi-finals, helping ensure that a new name will be etched onto the World Cup trophy on Sunday.
North Korea's 7-0 rout at the hands of Portugal aside, the less fancied countries also acquitted themselves creditably, perhaps most notably when the aforementioned Chollima performed valiantly in a 2-1 defeat to Brazil - a display that should have required no censorship on the part of state TV in Pyongyang. Japan and South Korea both reached the second round for the first time on foreign soil and special mention should go to New Zealand who, if Netherlands are defeated on Sunday, will be the only team to end the tournament unbeaten. The kings are dead, long live the kings?
3. Diego Maradona
El Diego came into the World Cup having incurred a FIFA ban for instructing journalists to, erm, pleasure him, and with a reputation for being a train wreck of a coach, ready to explode at any minute. But the Argentinean nation's faith was, for four glorious games, vindicated. The Albiceleste performed with real panache and hopes were raised that the man, the deity, who almost died in 2007 due to problems related to obesity and a lifestyle of excess would instead follow in the footsteps of Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer in becoming the third man to win the World Cup as both player and coach.
Those dreams would disintegrate the first time Maradona was pitched against a decent team with a tactically-proficient coach, Joachim Low's Germany side winning 4-0 in the quarter-finals, but with his emotional outbursts on the touchlines, his unconventional training methods and oversubscribed press conferences, Maradona was the story of the tournament while Argentina remained in South Africa. Telling Pele to "go back to the museum" and warning opponents that to beat his "23 wild cats" they would have to "put all their beef on the grill" certainly helped.
4. Siphiwe Tshabalala's goal
In the build-up to the first World Cup to be held on African soil, it was feared that a poor South Africa side would embarrass the nation with some mediocre performances in Group A. But although Bafana Bafana did eventually become the first host nation to fail to reach the second round, a thunderbolt of a strike from Siphiwe Tshabalala in the opening game against Mexico set their supporters, and the tournament, alight.
Just like Philipp Lahm four years before him, and following an opening ceremony that featured a particularly memorable dung beetle, Tshabalala galvanised the home country with a wonderful effort as he struck the Jabulani firmly across goal and into the far corner. South Africa went on to draw 1-1 and then beat France, so although their tournament ended prematurely, Bafana Bafana still had fond memories to draw upon. Chief amongst them was the searing effort from the midfielder. "It was my first World Cup, the first in Africa (and) I scored the first goal," Tshabalala said. "This is the highlight of my career so far."
5. Unfounded fears
Reading some reports prior to the start of the tournament, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Sepp Blatter and FIFA had gifted the World Cup to a country in collapse, an active war zone. Such fear mongering was misguided. Though there have of course been isolated incidents of crime and disorganisation, despite Paris Hilton's best efforts the World Cup has largely steered clear of controversy and demonstrated that a country like South Africa does have the ability to host such a sporting spectacle.
Months and months of relentless cynicism from certain sections of the European press led FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke to exclaim in March: "Don't kill the World Cup before it starts. It's unfair and it's really sad." Four months on, and it is clear that the tournament has breathed life into Africa's standing on the global stage. FIFA must consider this a real success.