In the buildup to the World Cup, the Brazilian catchphrase of “Jogo Bonito” — The Beautiful Game — was drowned out by the bangs of frantic construction work and the shouts of angry protesters. Not now. The football — it’s been open, attacking and packed full of goals and great moments — is doing all the talking.
Neymar kicked Brazil into gear, Robin van Persie soared and scored with one of the most spectacular headers you’ll see, and Argentina wizard Lionel Messi conjured up a little left-footed magic at the Maracana. On Monday, it kept coming: Thomas Mueller scored a hat-trick for Germany in a shock 4-0 rout of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Clint Dempsey hit the net just half a minute into the United States’ World Cup in an end-to-end 2-1 win over Ghana. The first round of group games isn’t even done yet.
It’s not just the big-name teams either. There was Costa Rica’s pulsating comeback to sweep past a highly-rated Uruguay and Switzerland’s last-gasp winner over Ecuador. “All the games we’re watching, there’s a lot of open play, there’s a lot of beautiful goals. It’s just wonderful to be here, isn’t it?” Netherlands fan Paul Rolleman said as he walked — with a party-inspired hangover, he confessed — under perfect blue skies along Rio’s famed Copacabana beach.
Half-expecting patched up stadiums and large street demonstrations, many worried that the return of the World Cup to the spiritual home of football after 64 years could be the most troubled in recent memory. But with a bunch of goals — 44 in 14 games so far — and no major backlash from protesters, it could turn out to be the best in over half a century. “High-scoring games, this is what fans are waiting for,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “They want to see goals.”
And they have. From Sao Paulo to Salvador, from Cuiaba in the vast Brazilian interior to the golden sands of Rio de Janeiro, the goals have flown in. The World Cup is averaging over three a game. At that rate, it will be the highest-scoring since Brazil began its great love affair with the tournament and — with a 17-year-old Pele up front — won the first of its record five titles in Sweden in 1958.
There has been just one draw in those 14 games. Nigeria’s scoreless meeting with Iran drew boos from fans spoiled by the World Cup goal glut. Jogo Bonito, first made famous by Pele, is rubbing off on everyone, it seems. No one is “parking the bus,” as the Europeans say, or playing defensively here. “There’s none of that. No continued…