THIS World Cup, the Filipino football fan’s lack of sleep has been rewarded with an endless supply of goals. With an average of 3.4 goals per game, the tournament has exceeded expectations in this aspect. And these weren’t just goals – they’re mostly quality goals.

There was Brazilian Neymar’s wonder strike, the first “real goal” of the tournament, then Robin van Persie’s spectacular “Flying Dutchman” that opened the floodgates against Spain, and of course Argentine Lionel Messi’s epic goal eight years in the making, astonishingly only his second in two World Cup appearances.

With quality goals in generous supply, the matches, though broadcast during odd hours – no surprise there – have been a joy to watch, except, of course, the ones where the teams you’re rooting for were at the losing end.

And every soul on this planet agrees that the biggest upset of the 2014 World Cup so far was the 5-1 demolition of defending champions Spain at the hands of the Netherlands in Group B, the team they beat in the 2010 final.

The question now in everyone’s mind is whether Spain will be able to recover the way they did in the last World Cup where they also lost their opening match to Switzerland 1-0. But unlike the narrow 2010 loss that only fired up La Furia Roja, last Saturday’s humiliation – the worst day of captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ life – was absolute, an existential drubbing that makes the Spanish players question the whole point of their playing in some distant land where the heat and humidity are just as oppressive as the fate that has befallen them.

Vicente del Bosque’s men can still overcome decently strong Chile and koala bears Australia in Group B, but many doubt if Spain, broken to the core, still carries the will, the hunger and the mental fitness to meet the likes of hosts Brazil, Germany, Argentina or possibly the Dutch, again, further deep into the tournament.

Or it could be worse: Spain could self-destruct the way France did in 2002 Korea-Japan, when, as defending champions, the team failed to score a single goal and crashed out at the earliest and worst possible way, the group stage. No defending champion has ingloriously exited the tournament the way France did. Surely, Spain wouldn’t wish to go that route and outdo France in that aspect.

While not as dramatic as Spain’s loss, other upsets, near ones and plain heartbreakers have made this tournament even more special.

Take lowly Costa Rica’s methodical 3-1 defeat of 2010 semifinalists Uruguay, or 2006 titlist Italy’s narrow 2-1 escape over underachievers England, courtesy of bad boy Mario Bolatelli’s moment of magic at the expense of retiring captain Steven Gerrard’s squad.

But while both Group D matches were highly entertaining, it was Japan’s 2-1 loss to the Ivory Coast in Group C that I found most heart-breaking.

Japan, of course, is Asia’s best bet to the World Cup, and being Asian, I am predisposed to have a certain attachment to teams from our region.

It was a game that the Japanese should have won despite the clear size disparity—what they lacked for in heft they made up for speed, and it befuddled the Ivory Coast players, a number of them big names in Europe, until the entry of aging captain Didier Drogba midway in the second half.

Apart from their attacking third’s inability to complete seemingly simple passes in the danger zone, the Blue Samurai apparently was mentally unprepared for Drogba’s sudden introduction as sub. With the momentary malfunction came swift repercussions: two successive goals from which the Japanese would not recover.

Beating giants Ivory Coast was a missed opportunity, but against untested Colombia and catatonic Greece in Group C, Japan still has a realistic chance of advancing into the knockout stages and carry Asia’s banner, hopefully alongside hopefuls South Korea, Iran, and, well, Australia.

If that doesn’t happen, there’d still be 32 quality matches remaining, more than enough reasons for the sleep-deprived football fan to wake up to.

(nsvillaflor@gmail.com)