RIO DE JANEIRO – At midway point, the World Cup went from bad to worse for Asia and the tournament's next host, Russia. But it went from great to even better for spectators hankering for goals.
South Korea teeters on the verge of elimination after losing 4-2 to Algeria on Sunday. Asia is now at real risk of having no team in the next knockout round of football's showcase.
One of the four Asian nations — Australia — is already sure to be going home, regardless of whether it wins its last match against dethroned champion Spain.
Iran, Japan and Korea could follow Australia out the door, even if they win their last matches. Korea's loss worsened Asian teams' already dismal record to: played eight games, won none, after 11 days of competition,
Russia's hopes of moving to the knockout stages were also diminished by its 1-0 loss Sunday to Belgium in Rio de Janeiro. Belgium became the sixth country to qualify for the next stage. The others so far are the Netherlands, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica and Argentina. Cameroon, Bosnia, Australia, Spain and England are definitely out.
Russia will host the 2018 World Cup.
The late game on Sunday, USA vs. Portugal in the steamy Amazon city of Manaus, will be the 32nd of 64 matches to be held at this World Cup.
Midway through, the statistics are proving what spectators are fathoming out for themselves: this tournament in the spiritual home of football is far more watchable than the last one in South Africa, with many more goals and half as many draws than at the same stage in 2010.
The 4-2 Algeria-Korea score-fest in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil was the tenth game — nearly one third of the total so far — to see four goals or more. The goal total for the tournament ahead USA-Portugal later Sunday has now climbed to 90.
In South Africa, the first 32 matches produced 67 goals, seven of them scored by Portugal in just one match against North Korea, and 10 draws. In Brazil, there have been just five draws so far.