After eight matches, involving half of the field, it’s way too early to say whether this World Cup will live up to the hype. But it’s certainly off to a good start.
The eight matches have produced 28 goals, more than twice as many as at the corresponding point in 2010. Not only have there been no goalless draws, there have been no draws at all. And the only 1-0 result (Mexico over Cameroon) would have been 3-0 had the officials not disallowed two good Mexican goals.
As always, not every team has played up to the level one has the right to expect at a World Cup. But so far that cohort represents only about a quarter of the field, not half as we sometimes see.
Here are some early awards:
Best match: Italy 2, England 1.
But for the fact that England didn’t lose on penalty kicks, it could have been a proper Quarterfinal. I hate to say it, but England probably would have been better served at left back by Ashley Cole than by Leighton Baines.
Biggest surprise: Holland 5, Spain 1.
Holland rocked the defending champions with four unanswered goals in the second half. Louis Van Gaal, who will take the reins at Manchester United, came up with a great game plan to cope with Spain’s passing game and isolate his two star attackers — Robben and Van Persie — against Spain’s center backs.
If Ramos and Pique couldn’t handle these two, how will Chile’s pairing of Medel (a midfielder at relegated Cardiff City) and Jara (a right back/center back for second tier Nottingham Forest) fare?
Runner up for biggest surprise: Costa Rica 3, Uruguay 1.
Superstars who are living up to their reputation:
Van Persie (Holland)
Superstars who are not:
Five or six members of Spain’s starting eleven
Players who have already enhanced their reputation significantly:
Gio Dos Santos (Mexico)
James Rodriguez (Colombia)
Campbell (Costa Rica)
Aurier (Ivory Coast)