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Opening cycle a World Cup letdown
By Pat Martin, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Aside from Switzerland's thrilling 1-0 victory vs. Spain to close out the first cycle of games in the FIFA World Cup Group Stage on Wednesday, there has been a severe letdown given the lack of action, let alone goals, to this point in the 2010 tournament.

Even the most exciting match of the first 16 was a one-goal contest, although there were numerous scoring chances to add to the entertainment value, as the Swiss knocked off the European Champions in both teams' openers.

The same sense of excitement failed to hold for the majority of the other group matches.

Since the modern format of 32 teams started in 1998, the 25 goals scored has been the lowest total by far through the first 16 games. In comparison, after 16 games in 2006 there were 39 goals scored, while the 2002 tournament saw 46 goals scored in the opening cycle. The 1998 tournament in France is the next-lowest to the current one, with 37 goals scored through 16 games.

The 25 goals have also been scored by 25 different goal scorers - a World Cup record - meaning no player has stood out offensively to this point.

Germany is the only team to stand out, scoring four goals vs. Australia, with only South Korea, Brazil and Netherlands scoring more than once, although the Dutch were aided by an own goal to enter the select group.

Nine of the first 16 games also had scoreless first halves, with both teams getting on the scoreboard in just five those games. Brazil's 2-1 win over North Korea on Tuesday was the only game in which the losing team has scored a goal, meaning there hasn't been a lot of back-and-forth action.

Defenders have scored seven goals, which matches the amount scored by the forwards, while midfielders have added the other 11. That means a large portion of the goals scored have come off set pieces instead of being the culmination of buildups and tic-tac-toe passing plays.

Of those goals, at least two have come on horrendous goalkeeping blunders, with England's Robert Green and Algeria's Fawzi Chaouchi handing the opposition goals.

All in all a pretty disappointing opening 16 games. But if the opening cycle came in like a lamb, it went out like a lion with the Spain/Switzerland match, which hopefully bodes well for the other 32 group matches to come.

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