Learn more about the history and origin of each flag of the 16 countries who advanced to the knockout stage ofthe 2014 World Cup, listed in alphabetical order.
While its origins are disputed, Algeria's flag officially was raised in 1962. Despite claims it was first used by 19th-century Algerians revolting against the French, historians say the flag was originally designed in the 1930s, with symbolism representing North African unity. As it is now, the crescent and star, in addition to the color green, are Islamic symbols, while the white represents purity and the red represents liberty.
Revolutionaries fighting for independence against Spain first raised Argentina's flag in 1812. The blue and white colors were used to distinguish the Argentinians from the yellow and red insignia of the Spanish royalists, and represent the sky and snow of the Andes mountains. The Sun of May, which is also featured in the Uruguayan flag, is present in the center.
While early versions of the Belgian tricolor flag featured horizontal red, black and yellow stripes, the vertical-striped design was adopted as the national flag in 1831. The colors used are derived from the coat of arms of the Duchy of Brabant, which existed from the 12th to 14th centuries in modern day Belgium and Holland.
Brazil's flag was adopted in 1889 after a republic was formed to replace its monarchy. There are 27 stars inside the blue circle, with 26 representing each state and one representing the nation's federal district. The stars are arranged to depict the night sky in Rio de Janeiro on Nov. 15, 1889, the night the republic was established. The national motto, "Ordem e Progresso" meaning "order and progress" in Portuguese, is enclosed within the blue circle.
The yellow, blue and red Colombian flag derives from the flag of Gran Colombia, a nation in northern South America that dissolved in 1831. It was adopted in 1863 by the United States of Colombia, a precursor to the modern Republic of Colombia. The yellow represents the gold within the nation's borders, the blue stands for the ocean, and the red symbolizes the blood of those who died in the country's fight for independence.
Costa Rica first adopted a flag with red, white and blue horizontal stripes in 1848, roughly a year after its independence from the United Provinces of Central America. The use of these colors was inspired by the French flag, and they were adopted in response to mid-19th century European revolutions. From 1848-1906, the nation's coat of arms was displayed in the middle of the flag, while in 1906, the coat of arms was shrunk and moved toward the left. In 1964, a seventh star was added to represent the country's seven provinces.
The current Chilean flag was born during the nation's war of independence against Spain. While the original incarnation unveiled at the country's declaration of independence in 1917 also featured the national coat of arms, it soon was dropped, giving the flag its current design. The blue symbolizes the sky, the white star represents progress, the white stripe symbolizes the snow-covered Andes Mountains, and the red stands for the blood of those lost fighting in the revolution.
France's flag, also known as the "tricolour," has been in use since the 1790s and the French Revolution. The red is representative of Saint Dennis, the patron saint of Paris, while the blue is associated with Saint Martin, who represents caring for the poor. Members of the militia that stormed the Bastille to spark the rebellion wore both colors. White, the color of the Virgin Mary that was traditionally associated with France, was added to the revolutionary colors to give the flag a more national feel. It became the official flag of France in 1794, though it was used infrequently during the revolution and would not grow in status until Napoleon's reign.
Germany's current flag first entered use in 1848 upon the formation of the German Confederation, but by the time of the creation of a unified German Empire, the flag had given way to a black, white and red tricolor. The black, red and yellow flag design was restored after World War I as the flag of Weimar Germany, but in 1933, the Nazi regime restored the old imperial flag. In 1935, the Nazi party flag featuring the swastika was established as the sole national flag until Germany's defeat in World War II. From 1949-59, both East and West Germany used the Weimar flag, while East Germany would subsequently include its coat of arms in the center of its flag until its dissolution. When Germany re-unified in 1990, the West German flag became the national flag. The red, black and yellow colors used originate from the Holy Roman Emperor's medieval banner.
While Greece's current flag would not be official until 1978, its use dates back to 1822 when it served as the Greek naval ensign during its war of independence against the Ottoman Empire. The cross symbolizes the Greek orthodox religion. The nine alternating blue and white stripes are said to represent the number of syllables in the Greek phrase "Eleutheria H Thanatos", usually translated as "Freedom or Death!" That was a battle cry during the war against the Ottomans.
Mexico's flag, consisting of green, white and red stripes with the national coat of arms in the middle, recalls both the nation's struggle for independence from Spain and its Aztec legacy. While the flag has taken a number of different forms since Mexico's independence in 1821, with the current edition's adoption in 1968, all iterations feature those three colors and an eagle in the center. Red, green and white were the colors of the Mexican revolutionary armies of the 19th century, while the eagle with the snake in its grasp recalls an Aztec legend about the founding of their capital Tenochtitlan, which became Mexico City.
The flag of the Netherlands has its origins in the Dutch revolts against Spain during the 16th century, during which the revolting provinces used an orange, white and blue flag. The orange soon became red, and apart from temporary alterations made during French occupation in the late-18th and early 19th centuries, the flag with the red, white and blue stripes has been the nation's flag throughout its modern history.
Nigeria's flag is an alteration of a student-made design that won a national contest in 1959. The green in the flag symbolizes agriculture, and the white stands for peace and unity. It was officially adopted in 1960 when Nigeria gained formal independence from Great Britain.
The white cross in the Swiss flag dates to the 14th century when the armies of the Swiss Confederacy used it, though the decentralized confederacy had no formal iconography until the 19th century. In 1821, in an effort to foster unity between the independent armies of each Swiss canton, the white cross on a red background began to fly. The flag entered official use in 1848 when Switzerland became a unified nation. In 1889, a final change gave the cross its current dimensions.
?The American flag first appeared in 1777, in response to a resolution from the Continental Congress, with 13 stars and 13 stripes representing the original colonies. At the time, there was no official arrangement for the stars, but popular design had them aligned circularly. In 1795, after Vermont and Kentucky entered the Union, the flag was altered to include 15 stars and 15 stripes. In 1818, Congress passed a law that set the number of stars at 20 (the number of states at the time), and called for a new star to be added for every new state admitted. The 1818 act also reduced the stripes to 13, to pay homage to the 13 original colonies.
Uruguay's flag was adopted in 1828, three years after it declared independence from Spain. The nine alternating blue and white stripes represent the country's nine original departments (or administrative divisions). The sun in the upper left corner is the Sol de Mayo (the Sun of May), a national symbol of both Uruguay and Argentina representing the South American struggle for independence in the 19th century.