The World Cup so far, how are things going?

Associated Press

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

INNOVATIONS — Soccer has well and truly entered the age of technology. It's not just 22 players running around after a ball any more. At this World Cup, most of the teams are using all sorts of high-tech devices to manage their players. The players can be wirelessly monitored during games and practice. A widget in the jerseys transmits heartbeat and other medical data to the coaches who monitor on iPads and can tell when a player is peaking or tiring. A chip in players' boots transmits distance run and speeds to the benches as well. One shoe manufacturer has introduced a boot weighing just 99 grams and millions have been spent developing what FIFA calls the perfect ball. The Brazuca ball made by Adidas, unlike its predecessors made by the same German company, has been hailed at the World Cup. It doesn't deviate in the air too much. The ball itself has even attracted almost 2 million Twitter followers. High-tech jerseys are made to combat the heat of Brazil. One of the biggest success stories of the Cup has been introduction of Vanishing Spray applied by the referee to a line 10 yards from where a free kick is due to be taken. In the past, a wall of players intended to block the kick would often sneak forward toward the ball, but the referee now marks out 10 yards and uses an aerosol to apply a white line that vanishes after 30 minutes or so. Defenders are banned from crossing the white line and players have obeyed the ruling.

FAN EXPERIENCE — Fans from all over the world have come to the homeland of "jogo bonito" and the overwhelming reaction in the stands, in the streets and on social media has been positive. Fans have enjoyed the hospitality, the weather, the food and drink and the sites of Brazil. Latin American neighbors have particularly enjoyed the tournament, in part because their teams are doing very well. Fans from Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Ecuador and Mexico have packed stadiums and belted out their national anthems proudly. Even the United States — which has had a tiny fan base at some recent World Cups — has sent a large and vocal crew of supporters, taking over Natal when the U.S. played in that coastal city. The biggest complaint from fans has been about the price of scalped tickets. With most big games sold out, prices to high-demand games have been well over $1,000 per ticket.

MATCHES — The games have been excellent, with some saying the early group games have been among the best in World Cup history. Teams have played aggressively, and there have been just a handful of draws. Trailing teams have made comebacks, and a several upsets have captivated TV audiences around the world. Superstars such as Neymar, Robin Van Persie and Lionel Messi have played well. Although there were a handful of questionable calls, most games were decided by the players, not referees. Although a couple of European powers — Spain and England — were eliminated early, fans in most of the world have enjoyed the goals and the games.

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