Three draws (two of them on Tuesday). Two matches without any goals. That's it. Suffice to say, the World Cup thus far has been thrilling, enthralling, magical or any other adjective you might prefer.
That didn't change on Tuesday, as the goals and memorable moments kept coming. Can the World Cup just last forever, please? Pretty please?
No, it can't, but while it's here, we'll be recapping the results, goals and Golden Boot watch each and every day. With plenty of superstars in action on Tuesday, the goals just kept on coming. Let's review all of the day's action.
|Group||Team 1||Score||Team 2|
Golden Boot Watch
|Robin van Persie||Netherlands||2|
|Lee Keun-Ho||South Korea||1|
|Joel Campbell||Costa Rica||1|
|Oscar Duarte||Costa Rica||1|
|Marcos Urena||Costa Rica||1|
|Stefan de Vrij||Netherlands||1|
|Wilfried Bony||Ivory Coast||1|
|Clint Dempsey||United States||1|
|John Anthony Brooks||United States||1|
Tuesday's scorers highlighted
For Belgium, it was all about the substitutes.
Trailing Algeria 1-0 after the first half and looking pretty listless along the way, Belgium made all three of their substitutions by the 65th minute, hoping for a spark. And boy, did they get it.
Marouane Fellaini was the last of those substitutes, and five minutes later, he equalised for Belgium off of a beautiful, hair-assisted header that probably caused David Moyes to stand up wherever he was watching from and exclaim, "See? See what he can do?"
And then it was Dries Mertens' turn. Substituted on to start the second half, he notched the winner in the 80th minute, sending an absolute rocket past Algerian keeper Rais M'Bolhi after Belgium had sauntered forward on the counter.
ESPN FC passed along that goal:
After Fellaini and Mertens made such a difference in the second half, it would be surprising if both weren't starting against Russia on Sunday. Mertens' recent form in particular is worth noting, as WhoScored did on Twitter:
Dries Mertens: Has now scored 7 goals in his last 11 matches for club and country after scoring just 2 in the previous 17 #bel— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 17, 2014
But Algeria had reason to celebrate in the first half. After Jan Vertonghen pulled down Sofiane Feghouli in the box, the Valencia man stepped up to the spot and calmly converted the penalty. ESPN FC has the video:
After that exciting finish, Brazil and Mexico played to a brilliant, breathless and tense scoreless draw. When Nigeria and Iran finished in a scoreless draw, it was snooze inducing. Brazil and Mexico's version was absolutely captivating.
Footy is funny that way.
And then there was Russia versus South Korea, a match that was almost defined by Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev doing his best Robert Green impression and letting a routine shot from distance from Lee Keun-Ho hit him in the hands and inexplicably bounced behind him into the goal.
Watch for yourself via ESPN FC:
Luckily for him, another substitute came up big on the day, as six minutes later Alexander Kerzhakov would put home the equaliser after a scramble in front of the net, as the South Korean players begged for a handball, or offsides, or whatever would erase the goal and rescue them from their poor defending.
But it wasn't to be, and the game finished in a 1-1 draw, leaving Belgium alone atop Group H with three points.
So with the results in, where do we stand in the Golden Boot race?
It's hard to see Fellaini, Mertens or any of the other scorers from Tuesday keeping pace in the Golden Boot chase. In fact, it's pretty hard to imagine too many players staying close to Thomas Muller, who won the award in 2010 and opened his tournament with a hat-trick. Only Neymar, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Karim Benzema opened with braces, and obviously, all four are prime contenders for the Golden Boot as well.
But Muller, as he so often seems to do in the World Cup, stole the show from the first leg of games. Raphael Honigstein of ESPN FC took a closer look at those goals:
After Germany's win Monday, Muller beamed that 'every goal was more beautiful than the next'—but beauty is strictly relative here. Perhaps his two other strikes are better described as Muller-esque, gems with rather unconventional appeal. For the third German goal, he blocked a clearance from Bruno Alves and pounced on the half-volley with his left foot.
The goal that made it 4-0: a classic abstauber (German for close-range goal) executed with his right foot while falling backward. 'Muller is a man of small goals,' former Germany player and coach Helmut Schon once said. He meant Gerd, not Thomas, but the same could just as easily be claimed about the 24-year-old. He doesn't so much as score goals; he steals them, and with the infallible instincts of a veteran pickpocket. 'He is one of those guys with a nose,' Joachim Loew said about his hat trick hero after the final whistle in Salvador, Brazil.
And what a nose he has.
Of course, the Golden Boot race is far from over. One suspects players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, among others, could yet have a say in how that competition plays out. Neymar will factor in, surely, as will the Dutch attacking pair. Heck, maybe John Brooks will put his hat in the running.
Well, let's not get crazy. One dream goal was more than the U.S. could have expected—anything beyond that would be even beyond Hollywood's most unrealistic scripts.