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Fifa World Cup: Goal barrage challenges Robin Van Persie’s header

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-06-2014 Andrew Das

Rio de Janeiro: It will take some effort to top the goal everyone is still talking about, but Robin van Persie’s header does not lack for competition.

There were 18 goals in the first five games of the World Cup, twice the number scored in the same number of games of the 2010 tournament in South Africa. The Netherlands led the way early in this year’s tournament, with five of the 18 goals. Brazil scored three in the opener, and Chile added a hat trick on Friday. And all that was before three games combined to produce 10 more on Saturday.

“It looks like teams are here to score and to attack,” said Gerard Houllier, a former France and Liverpool coach.

Tactically, he said, teams clearly are taking more risks. Fullbacks are pressing forward, sometimes simultaneously, and fitter, faster players are looking to break out in transition as soon as their teams win the ball.

The Netherlands used both tactics to shred Spain on Friday, pushing forward relentlessly with its outside backs and feeding van Persie and Arjen Robben over and over with balls over the top of Spain’s high back line. That was how van Persie scored, dashing to catch up to a long ball from near the midfield stripe and then taking it in stride—at full sprint—with a diving header that looped over goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Houllier said such skill made all the difference.

“And now you’re seeing teams play with two strikers again: the Netherlands played van Persie and Arjen Robben together. Croatia played with two. Brazil, of course, plays with three,” Houllier said.

©2014/THE NEW YORK TIMES

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