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World Cup 2014 : Brazil host a 'goal'den World Cup

Ipsit Mohapatra, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 21, 2014
First Published: 05:53 IST(21/6/2014) | Last Updated: 16:23 IST(21/6/2014)

The beautiful game has hit the high notes in its spiritual home Brazil. The back of the net is being found with unerring frequency since the opening day four-goal blockbuster between hosts Brazil and Croatia.

After 26 group stage matches, 77 goals have been scored. This makes for an average of almost 3 goals per match (the almost is for 1 goal short). After 26 matches in South Africa four years ago, the tally was 49 - and average of less than 1.9 goals per match.

In the group stage alone, 22 matches remain. If the tempo holds, football fans will strike goal.

In warm Brazil, purebred strikers and goal poachers have come to the party and how. If the home team's young gun Neymar set the tone with a double strike on June 12, the seasoned Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben of Netherlands matched him in the 5-1 rout of reigning champions Spain the next day.

Van Persie and Robben swelled their tally to three goals each against Australia.

Netherlands' Robin van Persie's headed goal is, until now, the highlight of the World Cup. His equaliser was the beginning of the 5-1 rout against defending champions Spain. (AP Photo)

The first hat-trick of the World Cup came from Germany's Thomas Muller in the 4-0 thrashing of Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. Muller picked up his goalscoring from where he left off in South Africa, where he won the Golden Boot with five goals.

Karim Benzema of France has also bagged three goals, two against Honduras and one against Switzerland, but can count himself unlucky not to have two hat-tricks against his name.

He has had goal-line technology crediting a goal to a goalkeeper (last known, the decision had not been reversed), missed a penalty and struck a goal that wasn't to be (apparently, came microseconds after the referee blew the whistle in the game against Switzerland).

With a winning 5-2 scoreline against Switzerland, France weren't complaining. Imagine what their and global reaction would have been were it a match-winning effort or a game-changer.

Germany's Thomas Mueller (left) scored the first hat-trick of the World Cup in the 4-0 thrashing of Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. (AP Photo)

Following Friday's last match, Ecuador's Enner Valencia too has notched up three goals against his name.

The glut of goals has also brought with it a shake-up of the football world order. While former champions Spain and England are already out of the reckoning, Italy and Ecuador - two more former champions - will have to scrap it out to escape the group stage.

Costa Rica and Chile have been the notable Davids to the Goliaths mentioned above.

It has been a remarkably free-flowing and easy on the eye World Cup so far. Teams have attacked more and even those leading have not shut shop to defend.

There have been fewer draws including goalless ones than in 2010 and even then, one of the draws has made Mexico custodian Guillermo Ochoa a household name.

With eight spectacular stops, Ochoa prevented five-time champions Brazil from scoring and his save off a Neymar header will go down in football lore as one of the best.

France's Karim Benzema (right) scores his side's fourth goal past Switzerland's goalkeeper Diego Benaglio during the Group E match between Switzerland and France on Friday. Benzema has also bagged three goals, two against Honduras and one against Switzerland. (AP Photo)

The teams are putting on a show and it is apt that Brazil is hosting the biggest quadrennial celebration of the world's most popular game.
This is a far cry from South Africa 2010, when a total of 145 goals were scored in 64 matches (average 2.3 per match).

This was the lowest tally since the participation of 32 teams and the 64-match format began in France 1998.

The goal tally in 1998 was 171. It dipped to 161 in Korea/Japan 2002 and slid to 147 in Germany 2006.


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