Thursday, 26 June 2014

Sport: World Cup By Goals

This World Cup has been smothered in plaudits from those who have been impressed with the free-flowing, attacking football on offer. Of course there are exceptions, the goalless draw between Japan and Greece was a game that quite literally put me to sleep. Still, goals are being scored at a phenomenal rate of 2.83 a match (136 in total), and better yet most games are tight affairs - 44% are being decided by a single goal. There's more drama than anything Vince McMahon could have scripted, who would have believed that Greece could sneak past the Ivory Coast with a last minute penalty after failing to find the net in their opening two games? Or, closer to the WWE analogy, Suarez yet again deciding to gnaw at human flesh?


Iran's goal eight minutes from time in their final group game means that, for the first time since 1998, all teams at the finals managed to score at least once. Holland put the most goals past the opposition goalkeeper with ten, followed by Colombia with a respectable 9. Despite France's final game ending goalless they still notched eight thanks to FIFA's new goal line technology. Depressingly there are nine players who scored more goals than the entirety of the England team; Xherdan Shaqiri only required 65 minutes to better Wayne Rooney and co. 

In terms of goals conceded it's perhaps a surprise that, alongside Belgium - whose only goal against was the penalty conceded by Jan Vertonghen -  Mexico and Costa Rica only conceded one goal apiece. At the other end of the spectrum are Australia and the somewhat troubled Cameroon, who picked the ball out of their net nine times. Greece were the only team to qualify for the knockout round with a negative goal difference. Australia, Cameroon - two of the three bottom ranked teams, alongside Honduras had by far the worst goal difference overall. Unsurprisingly Germany, France, Netherlands, and Colombia lead the way in that department. France and Germany find themselves in the same quarter - so if both teams get through the last 16 then that'll make for an outstanding quarter final.

Group D, with three teams ranked inside the top ten, scored least frequently - but still with a respectable 2 goals per match. On the other hand Group B set a blistering pace, with six goals in the Netherlands demolition of the reigning champions. Come the end of the group they still found the net once every 25 minutes - or 3.66 goals per game.

As mentioned in my opening statements, the games have, for the most part, been close. 63% of games have ended with honours even, or one side prevailing by a single goal. It's interesting that games that would traditionally be close have often ended up being lopsided; Spain 1-5 Netherlands, Switzerland 2-5 France, Germany 4-0 Portugal. However when you look at games that should be easy wins for either team they have often ended up being much closer affairs. Argentina in, hypothetically, the easiest group only managed to defeat each team by a single goal. Nigeria, who qualified with Argentina in Group F are the lowest ranked team to make it past the group phase of the tournament.

Finally the world cup started with a bang, 49 being scored in the first round of matches. In the final round that figure was down almost 15% to 42. That doesn't bode well for the knockout rounds, as defences tighten up and nobody wants to make the mistake to lose the game but with some of the matchups who knows what will happen? Yet more 2-1s to come?