DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 16: Xavi Hernandez of Spain looks dejected at the final whistle as Spain lose the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group H match between Spain and Switzerland at Durban Stadium on June 16, 2010 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Dispatches From South Africa: World Cup Goals Per Game Down Dramatically In 2010

Daily Soccer Fix's Steve Davis gives us this report from South Africa, where he concludes that the lack of World Cup scoring thus far is because of the ball.

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Dispatches From South Africa: World Cup Goals Per Game Down Dramatically In 2010

JOHANNESBURG - Players are tired talking about ball. Officials are tired of talking about the ball. 

So let's not talk about the ball.

Rather, let's discuss that the ball is doing the tournament. It's reducing South Africa 2010 to a terribly low scoring event. And that is certainly not a good thing.

The first go-round of games in the opening round is over, and the goals at South Africa 2010 are coming at a slow drip. This is lowest scoring round of openers since 1974.

Just 24 goals were scored over 16 matches representing the nation's openers. That's an average of 1.56 goals a game.

Team openers at Germany 2006 generated 2.44 goals a game, which is right about in line with most World Cups.

So, how to explain the flagging offensive production here? It's not the match officials allowing too much grabbing, colliding, obstructing and such. They've been pretty good, generally making players behave. Actually, I think the officials have been excellent, with a couple of exceptions here and there.

So, really, there is no other explanation other than the ball that nobody can quite come to grips with. American attacker Landon Donovan's words seem to corroborate the evidence.

"I think as much as the goalies are frustrated by it, I think the players are, too," he said. "You're seeing a lot of missed chances, a lot of crosses that are mis-timed or mis-played that would normally be goals, that are not going in."

Or, as U.S. defender Jay DeMerit said: "If you can't pass the ball, you can't score."

This World Cup is en route to being the lowest scoring tournament since the slow-going, cynical Italia '90.

That tournament, by the way, prompted significant rule changes, such as the back pass rule, meant to make it more difficult for teams to waste time with repeated passes back to the man with the gloves. Further, three points rather than two became the norm for victories to encourage teams to attack and look for wins.

Goals scored in each nations' World Cup openers since 1974

World Cup 1974

16 goals in 12 matches

= 1.33 goals per game

World Cup 1978

22 goals in 8 matches

= 2.75 goals per game

World Cup 1982

34 goals in 12 matches

= 2.83 goals per game

World Cup 1986

24 goals in 12 matches

= 2.00 goals per game

World Cup 1990

27 goals in 12 matches

= 2.25 goals per game

World Cup 1994

30 goals in 12 matches

= 2.5 goals per game

World Cup 1998

37 goals in 16 matches

2.31 = goals per game

World Cup 2002

46 goals in 16 matches

= 2.88 goals per game

World Cup 2006

39 goals in 16 matches

2.44 goals per game

World Cup 2010

25 goals in 16 matches

1.56 goals per game 

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