What’s Behind the World Cup’s Second-Round Slowdown?

“It feels like something has gone missing from Brazil in the past week. After an opening group stage that had been almost universally praised as the best-played and most entertaining World Cup in decades, the recent round of sixteen was a little more ordinary. Fouls are up and offense has slowed down, with the celebrated statistic of 2.83 scores per game in the group stage dropping by more than half a goal in the second round. Yes, it’s still the knockout stage of the World Cup, but it has sometimes felt uninspired—prosaic play clothed by the tension of high-stakes games with close final scores, extra-time finishes, and penalty shots.” New Yorker

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