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Magic mix making World Cup score-fest

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Since Day 1, when Brazil put three past Croatia, the World Cup has enjoyed a goal deluge as sustained as an Amazon forest downpour.

A combination of factors gelled to put Brazil on a trajectory to smash the record for most goals at any of the 20 World Cups.

The target to beat is 171, from France in 1998. That could be surpassed in the semifinals or July 13 final in Brazil. Already, the 154 goals here — with eight games still to play — are more than in South Africa in 2010 or Germany in 2006.

Naturally, having 32 teams — the format since 1998 — produces more goals than earlier World Cups with 24, 16 or as few as 13 teams.

But the ratio of 2.75 goals per game in Brazil is impressive, too. Organizer FIFA says that is the best average through this stage of the competition since 1986.

Here are reasons why goal-scorers have felt so at home:

Fitness

Thank not just players but their fitness trainers, too. Teams prepared superbly for the heat, humidity and arduous travel between far-flung venues. Players are coping remarkably from the exertions and accumulated fatigue of a match every five or six days.

Better fitness and endurance is allowing teams to attack at higher speeds for sustained periods and to threaten for longer. Players wilted and cramped at some hotter venues and in games taken into extra time, but perhaps not as dramatically as they might have done 10 or 20 years ago.

“We thought that with the weather conditions here in Brazil ... teams were going to be very economical with the expenditure of efforts,” said former Nigeria international Sunday Oliseh, now on a FIFA panel dissecting the play, tactical innovations and other on-field trends of this World Cup.

“It's been end-to-end stuff.”

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