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This Could Still Be the Highest-Scoring World Cup In History

Five goals short of the record, with three more matches to go

Buda Mendes/Getty Images

With three games to go, this World Cup has already made history. When those who study the game look back someday, they’ll see a long list of records broken, milestones achieved: Miroslav Klose became the highest all-time scorer; Tim Howard recorded the most saves ever made in a single game; Costa Rica and Colombia appeared in their first-ever quarterfinals; Germany became the first nation to appear in four consecutive semifinals. But for pure entertainment purposes, the most important record set to fall this summer is this: We may well be witnessing the highest-scoring tournament ever.

Most Goals Ever

With three matches to go (including the third-place game), we’re only five goals away from topping the current highest tally: 171 from France 1998. (The tournament expanded that year to include 32 teams rather than 24.) While Brazil 2014 got off to a record-breaking start, averaging an incredible 3.06 goals per game in the first 16 matches, the goals seemed to dry up in the knockout stages, with all of those extra times and penalty shootouts. Suspense replaced spectacle as the driving force of the tournament. Germany vs. Brazil changed all that, and the four teams left in the tournament are more than capable of knocking in enough goals by the end of this week to secure the record.

Though the Germans are unlikely to score seven again in the final, they still averaged two goals a game before that, as did the Brazilians. The Dutch, the tournament’s highest scorers before the German feast, average 2.4 goals a game, while the Argentinians—for all of Messi’s brilliance—are the lowest scoring of the final four, with a respectable 1.6 goals per game. If their scoring records hold true, the record should be broken by some distance. 

Even if we only look at the four remaining teams’ stat lines in the cagey, uncharacteristically goal-shy knockout games, they’ve been winning by an average score of 1.25 to 0 (not including Brazil-Germany). If we add that game to the mix, this margin jumps up to 1.8 to 0. It's possible, of course, that we'll get a nil-nil draw this weekend, or that all three matches will finish as single goal victories. But this World Cup hasn't disappointed yet, and I’m willing to bet it won't do so now.