The flurry of World Cup goals coming off corners and free kicks suggests that teams are at last grasping the opportunity presented on set pieces. But it also raises a question: Where has the widespread dedication to maximizing dead-ball plays been?
The most likable England team in some time has the Three Lions in the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 28 years, while Croatia's 20-year wait is over after it ousted valiant host Russia in a penalty shootout.
Belgium's star trio was sensational in a belief-building win over Brazil, while France showed it can win in multiple ways after grinding out a comfortable triumph over Uruguay in the World Cup quarterfinals.
This relentlessly surprising World Cup has taken a new and compelling turn after England–England!–won a penalty shootout, overcoming its past demons and finding itself with a realistic path to the final.
Spain's World Cup began with the unsettling dismissal of its manager, and La Furia Roja never looked stable in Russia, where their deficiencies were exposed and their stay was shorter than most anticipated.
The two biggest stars in men’s world soccer, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, both went out of the World Cup within hours of each other as Uruguay and France set up an intriguing quarterfinal matchup.