World Cup 2014 raises hopes of an attacking era

Robin van Persie heads towards goal in the Netherlands clash with Spain. Picture: REUTERS
Robin van Persie heads towards goal in the Netherlands clash with Spain. Picture: REUTERS


Some say it's the heat. Others reckon it's the ball. Most hope it's the dawn of an attacking age.

Aside from a scoreless draw between the hosts and Mexico, this World Cup is raining goals.

After each nation's opening game, there have been 49 goals in 16 matches.

That's an average of 3.06 a match - a figure unsurpassed for more than half a century at a World Cup.

And of the 32 competing nations, all but six found the net in their first game.

So why have the scoring floodgates opened?

Australian coach Ange Postecoglou believes Brazil's sapping heat is the reason.

"It contributed to the openness of the competition and the amount of goals because games get pretty spread early, particularly in the warmer climates," he said on Tuesday.

"It's just very hard for the players to play with really high intensity and I think that is why you have seen some pretty open games."

Given most nations are also flying for hours over a vast country to play games in 12 host cities, Postecoglou believed a travel factor was also at work.

He said it would increase the drain on players as the tournament continued.

"We have had to travel for both games, a couple of hours in a flight," he said.

"It's certainly, for all teams, part of the challenge. The amount of work you can do at training is kind of minimised by the travel factor and the conditions. I think every team is juggling that a little bit."

No World Cup has averaged more than three goals a game since 1958.

The all-time World Cup scoring feast remains 1954 in Switzerland, which returned an average of 5.38 goals a game in a tournament featuring 16 nations.

In every World Cup [excluding the current event in Brazil] the average is 2.86 goals per match.

In South Africa in 2010, there was an average of 2.27 goals a game.

Four years ago there were just 25 goals in the 16 initial group games in a tournament using a ball, the Jabulani, which was roundly criticised as unresponsive from the boot.

The ball in use in Brazil, the Brazuca, has a more welcoming feel and is touted as a factor in the high scoring.

Another is the quality of marksmen in Brazil - German Thomas Mueller has banked a hat-trick, Dutch duo Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben each scored twice the 5-1 demolition of Spain.

Other attacking maestros, including Brazil's Neymar and Argentine ace Lionel Messi, have pulled the strings of the Brazuca to scoring effect.

And the elite strikers are facing goalkeepers of declining stature.

Spain's shot-stopper Iker Casillas and Italy's Gianluigi Buffon are considered the world's best.

Yet Casillas made blunders in Spain's 5-1 opening game loss to the Netherlands.

An attacking mantra has also been notable in Brazil, with spectators hoping it long continues.

"Many goals are being scored from fast, quick attacks," said former Liverpool coach Gerard Houllier, who is on a FIFA technical study group for the tournament.

"The teams are taking more risks ... and also the transition play is quicker."

The risk-taking correlates with some slack defence - Ralf Rangnick, a long-time club coach in Germany, thinks so.

"Many teams seem to have forgotten the basic rules of defending. The goals show how badly teams are defending." AAP


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