Blame it on Rio, but teams in World Cup 2014 have shown more of a commitment to attack.
Over the last couple of decades, World Cups have been cautious and drab affairs of defensive football. At the end of long seasons, club stars hold back a bit when playing for their country, it was alleged. Blame it on Rio, but 2014 has been pleasantly different so far.
Checking into the nation known for its footballing grace and inventiveness, teams have shown a commitment to attack. In the showpiece match of the early part of the tournament, defending champions Spain were thrashed 1-5, the result being in stark contrast to the 1-0 scoreline in the final between the sides four years back. Just two of Holland’s outfielders weren’t yellow carded in Johannesburg and the only goal came deep in extra time.
One is tempted to think the setting also played a part. The Corinthians Arena looked like a worthy cathedral for the beautiful game, Brazil’s opener, rather than the incomplete construction site one feared it would be. Chile and Colombia have lived up to their billing as dark-horses and Italy’s Andrea Pirlo inflicted damage without even touching the ball, his dummy allowing Claudio Marchisio the time and space to score Italy’s opener against England.
Twenty-eight goals have already been scored in the eight matches played so far, with the average way above the 2010 South Africa World Cup (2.27 goals per match). As of Saturday, this World Cup has seen the longest stretch without a drawn game. As the stakes get higher, teams will grow more cautious, but nonetheless the start has been encouraging.
In the run-up to the tournament, Pele, Ronaldo and Cafu had all insisted this would be the greatest World Cup ever. It was tough to share their optimism back then. But if the first three days are any indication, we could be in for a treat.