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World Cup 2014: Goals galore so far in Brazil games

World Cup 2014: Goals galore so far in Brazil games
England goalkeeper Joe Hart can't stop a shot by Italy forward Mario Balotelli in the second half of a World Cup Group D game on Saturday at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil. Italy won the contest, 2-1. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

As viewers come up for air after the World Cup four-pack on Saturday, let's appreciate the eye candy that this tournament has been. So far: goals galore.

The play-by-play chap known for his trademark call of "gooooal" soon will become hoarse if the high-volume trend continues. Eight games have generated 28 scores. If the average of 3.5 goals a game sticks, the 2014 Cup would become the first since 1958 to exceed three goals per match.

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Only one winning side has been limited to a single goal, and it requires an asterisk. Mexico was robbed of a couple of goals by improper offside calls. Just one team has been shut out.

A mere 11 goals had been registered at this stage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Seven of the 16 teams had been blanked.

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Maybe some credit goes to a supposedly more aerodynamic ball. A more likely explanation is an emphasis on attacking by lesser regarded teams who once were inclined to strategize toward scoreless ties, along with more refined ball skills across the board. The number of goals aside, play has been free-flowing enough to keep TV watchers' bathroom breaks confined to halftime.

There might be some downshifting Sunday, when the schedule returns to a triple-header for the next eight days.

Switzerland has risen to a No. 6 FIFA ranking largely with a stout defense, while opponent Ecuador takes its sweet time offensively, in part because Christian Benitez, then the national team's foremost threat, died last summer at 27 of heart failure.

In the middle match, France must cope without injured forward Franck Ribery, and Honduras was shut out entirely at the Cup four years ago.

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Argentina, by any measure, should be able to score against Bosnia even though the underdogs' projected 4-2-3-1 formation appears designed to prevent goals more than produce them. But the marvelous Argentine striker Messi has been too often mortal in the Cup.

Those factors might be trumped by a growing willingness among teams to entertain as they execute. Now that is a goal worth applauding.

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