Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, previously defensive in his approach to howls of disappointment from home fans, is playing with three strikers at the World Cup. The Netherlands made a mockery of pre-tournament criticism of their formation switch with blisteringly fast, attacking play to blow away defending champion Spain 5-1. Even Bosnia, the World Cup debutant, aggressively took the fight to Messi and Argentina — as coach Safet Susic promised they would.
"This is how we play football," he said. "We don't know any other way. And I don't want my players to play any other way."
The fans have reacted by filling stadiums or fan fests and embracing the carefree culture: A group of middle-aged German men in super-tight swimming costumes and with bellies bulging played football on Copacabana Monday morning before heading for the big screen TV.
Of course, it's still early days. Organizers can't let down their guard. There was a moment at Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo last week when Brazil's opening night seemed to hang by a thread — or an electrical wire. One section of the floodlights flickered off, then on, then off again. Disaster loomed. The lights came back on, stayed on, and Neymar rescued Brazil with a double as the home favorite came back from 1-0 down to beat Croatia 3-1.
There have been sporadic protests — police clashed with protesters not far from Rio's Maracana stadium on Sunday night while Messi scored and Argentina beat Bosnia — and in the northeastern city of Natal, torrential rain and flooding is threatening the World Cup experience.
But on the field, at least, the tournament has met the early challenge and more. Brazil's only worry there is if the goal-happy World Cup can keep up this breathtaking pace for a month.
"It's a big party," Netherlands supporter Rolleman said on Copacabana. "But I do need to get some sleep now."
AP Sports Writers Jim Vertuno, Tales Azzoni, Mike Corder, Karl Ritter and Stephen Wade contributed.