World Cup Enjoying ‘Best’ Soccer Ever, FIFA Boss Says

Upsets and attacking play have made the opening stages of soccer’s 2014 World Cup the best ever, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said.

“The quality of the football has been the best there has ever been in the group stage,” Blatter told reporters in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. “All the teams are attacking and there have been lots of goals.”

The average goals per match in the first 26 games of the monthlong tournament is the highest in 44 years, while Spain became the first champion in the 84-year history of the competition to exit before playing its final group game. The last edition in South Africa four years ago had the lowest goal average in 20 years.

Costa Rica beat four-time world champion Italy 1-0 yesterday, a result that eliminated 1966 winner England and sent Los Ticos into the round of 16. Costa Rica, which beat South American champion Uruguay 3-1 in its opening game, leads Group D, even though it’s the only one of the four countries in the group not to have won the World Cup.

Also yesterday, France defeated Switzerland 5-2 in the northeastern city of Salvador in the match with the highest number of goals so far in the competition, and Ecuador won 2-1 against Honduras.

There have been 77 goals in the first 26 games, for an average of 2.96 goals per match, putting the 2014 event on course for the highest average since the Mexico tourney in 1970.

“I am very happy man, very happy,” said Blatter, the head of soccer’s governing body since 1998.