For all the drama, pageantry, and excitement that surrounds the build-up to the World Cup, we had no right to expect such fun. The dirty secret of international soccer is that it’s generally disjointed, slower and less entertaining than the club game. The theory goes that attacking tactics require a bit more time together than international teams have, and that the format and massive stage of these tournaments leads to cautious managers. And so in 2010 Spain was coronated following a series of 1-0 victories. Despite complaints from goalkeepers about the dip and swerve of the Jabulani, the tournament averaged fewer than 2.3 goals per game.
2014 seems determined to throw that all out the window. Perhaps the setting of Brazil has been reflected in open, attacking play. Maybe this represents something of a paradigm shift that will continue on into the future. Whatever the cause, in the first 11 games of this World Cup, 36 goals have been scored. That’s more than a goal per game better than the 2010 pace. There have been no draws. In the match closest to finishing level, Switzerland and Ecuador both made attempts at getting all three points in stoppage time, and the Swiss were successful.
22 halves of soccer have been played so far in this tournament. Goals have been scored in 21 of them. The lone exception, the first half of Mexico-Cameroon, saw two goals wrongly disallowed. That match finished 1-0, and so far it is the only match with fewer than three goals to its name.
And its not just the minnows whose nets are being filled with goals. The third game of the tournament was an earthquake, with the Netherlands scoring five times against Spain. Uruguay, semifinalists in 2010, allowed three second-half goals against Costa Rica.
It is early still, but this tournament has the feel of one where anything can happen. This is the game at its best. This is why we watch. Long may it continue.