The World Cup so far, how are things going?

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, June 21 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is embraced by Mauricio Isla after the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Defending champion Spain was eliminated from the World Cup after losing to Chile 2-0.

Bernat Armangue, Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO — In the weeks leading up to the World Cup, reports of strikes, demonstrations, unfinished stadiums and inevitable traffic problems dominated the news. But since the first match kicked off on June 12, goal-filled games, superstar performances and upsets have delighted fans — particularly those from Latin America.

By Sunday night, 32 of the 64 matches will have been played. Nearly halfway through this World Cup, The Associated Press takes a look at how things have stacked up so far.

SAFETY — Tourists have complained about muggings and pickpockets, but overall the safety for fans so far has been solid. Brazil's reputation for violence — a United Nations report says the country has more annual murders than any other — has many fans on high alert and taking special care of where they travel. There have been incidents of gunfire near areas where fans are watching matches or staying, but none targeting World Cup tourists. The clashes between drug gangs and police that often result in shootouts have been muted in Rio — as has often been the case during big events. Skirmishes between rival fans have been rare, with hooligans from any country not yet making an impact. The mass demonstrations that sent millions into the streets during last year's Confederations Cup tournament have not reappeared, and the scattered protests have mostly been dispersed quickly by police.

TRANSPORTATION — Despite transportation strikes leading up to the World Cup, subways in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have efficiently carried fans to matches. The other host cities rely on roadways, and they've been congested. That's normal for Brazil's metropolitan areas. Pele himself complained that he missed the first half of the Brazil vs. Mexico match because his car was stuck in traffic on his way to a viewing party in Sao Paulo. Brazil's airports have handled the load of tourists traveling around the continent-sized nation although there have been complaints of delays and cancelations. Terminal expansions weren't completed in time for the Cup, but there have been no major problems for flying fans around — just fewer of the creature comforts found in airports elsewhere.

STADIUMS — The state of the stadiums was a major concern before the tournament started. Workers died in construction, organizers gave up on some finishing touches and temporary seats were brought in just days before the games began. The stadiums have performed better than expected, but not without some problems. A rickety staircase at the Maracana was repaired after video showed it swaying under thousands of fans. The grass at the Manaus stadium looked a little dry before the games, but wasn't a huge problem. Some stadiums have had long queues to get through security. Most alarmingly, more than 100 Chilean fans in Rio broke into the Maracana, getting past security and damaging a media center before being corralled, arrested and told to leave the country.

TECHNOLOGY— Goal-line technology was introduced at the World Cup for the first time and was an instant hit, being used at least twice in the opening rounds of competition to rule if the ball had crossed the line for a goal or not. The technology was introduced after the World Cup four years ago, when an England goal against Germany was not allowed even though the whole world saw that the ball had crossed the line by almost a yard. FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, until then an implacable foe of using technology, changed his mind suddenly and tests began. In Brazil, seven video cameras are trained on each goal, able to tell with a margin of error of 1.5 mm if the ball has crossed the five-inch wide goal line. The first goal to be given using the new technology made the score 2-0 to France against Honduras. The word "GOAL" flashed up on the referee's wristwatch and the goal was given. Teething problems annoyed the Honduras players and FIFA promised to have a look at some details of what the public got to see, but there was widespread belief that the technology had removed one of the most controversial elements of the game and made referees' task much simpler.

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