The 2014 FIFA World Cup has just come to the end of its first match week, and it's been nothing short of exceptional.
Even with two 0-0 draws coming in the past two days, the tournament as a whole is still averaging 2.9 goals per match—just one shy of 50 in total. We've seen just three draws, a clutch of games won by big margins and no shortage of upsets, either.
One of the biggest and most impressive statistics, though, is the sheer volume of comeback victories that teams have pulled off already.
On Tuesday, Belgium became the sixth side to manage the feat. They fell behind Algeria due to a penalty in the first half before notching second-half goals from Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens en route to a 2-1 victory.
5 - There have been five comeback wins at #WorldCup2014 so far, already more than in the whole of the 2010 tournament (4). Rollercoaster.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 15, 2014
Belgium winning will be the 6th comeback in the 2014 World Cup, the all time record is 9 comebacks.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) June 17, 2014
While Belgium could be accused of playing very poorly at the start of their match, that's not the case for every side who have come from behind in Brazil.
Instead, many nations are trusting their attack in the hopes of not only snatching a draw, but then utilising the in-game momentum and roar of what have been a phenomenal crowds to push on and continue their ascendancy. Many of the groups look extremely tight this time around, and wins against sides of equal standing are of paramount importance.
Not every side can simply go hell-for-leather, of course, but we have increasingly seen teams with a game plan that they are happy to execute. To do this, the players must not panic and go all-out for a quick turnaround. Instead they must trust that the manager's tactics are right and will find them a way back.
Look at the Costa Rica match. They could easily have been expected to implode after Uruguay took the lead via a penalty, but they instead sought to gradually assert themselves on the game, utilised their greatest assets and grew in confidence from the moment they found an equaliser. A 3-1 win did not flatter the CONCACAF team in the slightest on that occasion.
The belief they had in their methods and—clearly—in their manager were key factors in the comeback.
So too it proved for Brazil on the opening day, for Switzerland against Ecuador and, most spectacularly, for Netherlands against Spain.
There was no panic, no finger-pointing, no great turn of tactics after they went a goal down. Subtle changes and substitutions, yes, but those sides kept playing their own game, attacked when they could and made the most of their chances.
Managers earn their keep by turning negative situations into positive ones, and we've seen a host of inspired (or lucky) substitutions have a big impact too.
4 - Each of the last 4 #WorldCup goals have been scored by substitutes. Changes.— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) June 18, 2014
Both Belgian scorers were subs, as were both scores in the Russia-Korea Republic match. Does it show that sides are unable to adapt defensively to changes in the opposition? Probably not—more likely that players coming off the bench are desperate to make their mark on the World Cup and give everything to play well in the hope of starting next time around.
Football is a 14-man game during major tournaments, especially given the hot conditions some games in Brazil are taking place in. Managers need to not only get their starting XI as spot on as possible, but they also need to judge in training which players look mentally ready to step up when called on. They must manage matches during the 90 minutes and beyond.
If the first week of the World Cup has taught the 32 nations and their fans anything, it must be that hope is never lost, even late on when faced with a damaging defeat or draw. And that can only bring further excitement and drama as the tournament moves into its second week of group stage action.
Just ask Haris Seferovic or John Brooks.
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