Could 2014 be the greatest?

It started out as the most problematic World Cup of all time, plagued by protests, strikes, record costs, construction delays and even fatal accidents. But four days and 11 matches into the Brazil World Cup, the 2014 edition is finally making the headlines for the right reasons. Going by the action on the pitch, it is promising to be the best World Cup in history.

Goals, goals, goals

Neymar and Co. set the tone in the opening match, guiding hosts Brazil to a 3-1 win over Croatia.

Since then, only one match (Mexico 1 Cameroon 0) has seen fewer than three goals. The highlight so far has been the 5-1 thrashing the Netherlands gave defending champions Spain.

A total of 37 goals have been scored in 11 matches. This works out to an average of 3.36 goals per match, which is the highest goals-per-game ratio since 1958.

At the 2010 World Cup, only 25 goals were scored in the first 16 matches. The average for the entire tournament was 2.27.

At this rate, World Cup 2014 is on track to hit 215 goals. That would surpass the 1998 edition's total-goals mark (171), and make it the highest-scoring tournament in World Cup history.

My colleague Rob Hughes' theory is that the warm and humid conditions in Brazil contribute to the high-scoring matches - players tire faster, concentration is lost momentarily and goals are conceded.

Add in the fact that attacking is in vogue, with most of Europe's top club sides breaking goal-scoring records this season, and you have the perfect recipe for a goal feast.

I reckon the fact that this is a South American World Cup also has something to do with the goal rush. The culture here has always been on flair, goals and playing with style. Brazil were booed when they went a goal down against Croatia. The crowd will also not hesitate to jeer negative teams who opt to sit back and keep possession.

At Brazil 2014, the pressure is on to score, score, score.

Win, lose, no draw

There has yet to be a draw after 11 matches, the first time since the inaugural World Cup in 1930 that this has happened. Remarkably, the 18-match 1930 World Cup ended without a single drawn match.

Credit must go to the teams for refusing to settle for one point in Brazil.

Costa Rica fell behind to Uruguay early but even when they equalised, pushed on to get a second and a third.

Ecuador also showed their attacking instincts against Switzerland - albeit to their own detriment. Tied 1-1 with just seconds remaining, Ecuador went on an all-out attack, exposing their defence. They lost the ball, were hit on the counter-attack, conceded a goal and lost the match.

Comeback kings

At the 2010 World Cup, only four matches from 64 were won by teams who conceded first.

In Brazil, five out of the first 11 matches have already seen sides reverse their fortunes - Brazil v Croatia, the Netherlands v Spain, Costa Rica v Uruguay, Switzerland v Ecuador and Ivory Coast v Japan.

Stars live up to their hype

Confidence is often everything in sport. Which is why it is important for footballers, especially the big-name players, to get off to a good start. In Brazil, the stars have been shining bright.

Four players - Brazil's Neymar, the deadly Dutch duo of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, and French hitman Karim Benzema - all recorded two goals each in their first game.

Others like Lionel Messi, Edinson Cavani and Alexis Sanchez have also found the back of the net.

It looks like the stars are on track for a great tournament - unless of course you are a certain Wayne Rooney. Then again, perhaps he was never really a star.

But still far from perfect

While the action on the field has been nothing short of fantastic, off-the-field incidents threaten to put a dampener on the great atmosphere in Brazil.

Street protests, albeit on a much smaller scale, still continue. Police were alleged to have fired live rounds at the mob in the latest protest in Rio on Sunday night. Perhaps more dialogue is needed with protesters before these clashes result in casualties.

Ensuring the streets and tourist spots are safe should also be a priority for authorities.

Over three million fans are expected to watch the 64 World Cup matches in Brazil. Close to a million will be foreigners. It is not uncommon to hear fan reports of thefts and attempted muggings.

One way to increase safety is for the organisers to look at maximising the Fifa Fan Fest experience. With only limited tickets to catch matches at stadiums, these Fan Fests allow supporters without tickets to watch the matches live in a carnival atmosphere

Unfortunately, not all matches are shown at the Fan Fests. Currently, a couple, like the one at the scenic Copacabana beach in Rio, has plans to show all 64 matches. This is a pity because such Fan Fest locations, with high security and beautiful settings, offer a safe venue for fans.

It is not even half-time yet at the World Cup but the signs are there that this will surely be one to remember.

This article was first published on June 17, 2014.
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