Peter Goldstein

Peter Goldstein is a professor at Juniata College in Pennsylvania in the USA. He has been World Cup crazy since 1966. He will share his views about the past, present and future of this event.

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World Cup 2002 -- Statistics (Part 1)

    Samuel Johnson, the great 18th century British poet and essayist, once said to his biographer, James Boswell: "he who is tired of football, is tired of life." Well, actually, that's not what he said. He really said "he who is tired of London, is tired of life" -- but he probably meant to say football. Or more likely Boswell got the words down wrong. Of course, I, and my colleagues here at World Cup Archive, and all of you online are not tired of football, but the World Cup is over, and there won't be another one for (I can hardly bear to write it) four impossibly long years. So it's time for the next best thing to football: statistics on football! This is the first of two articles on the more important and/or interesting statistics of Korea/Japan 2002. This column will be for the most part on goals; the second will be on group stage results, team accomplishments, and some miscellaneous items.

    Before we start, a couple of notes. First, these columns build on two earlier statistical studies, which you can find at "The group stage -- an analysis (1)" and "The group stage -- an analysis (2)". I'll frequently refer to data and conclusions set forth in those earlier studies. Second, I have been aided and abetted in these columns by Joe Thomas of the USA, who has done a truly disturbing amount of work on World Cup statistics, and, realizing that he's found a fellow mental patient, has shared the results of his work with me. He's a deeply unbalanced individual, and I'm proud to know him.

    The most prominent statistic in World Cups is total goals. The 2002 World Cup finished with 161 goals, an average of 2.52 per game. That's a somewhat disappointing total, the second worst in history, behind 1974 (2.55) and 1986 (2.54), although well ahead of the all-time low, 1990 (2.31). In 1998, for comparison, the total was 2.67.

    But the most interesting stat about goals in 2002 is the disparity between goals during the group stage and goals during the knockout rounds. In one of the earlier articles, I noted that knockout goals/game have been consistently higher than group stage goals/game, in fact, practically a half a goal per game higher. Here's a version of the table from the earlier column, with the 2002 statistics added. The first column is goals per game in the group stage, the second is goals per game in knockouts.

G K.O. 1958 3.5 3.82 1962 2.71 3.0 1966 2.42 3.875 1970 2.54 4.25 1974 2.625 2.0 1978 2.5 3.5 1982 2.78 4.25 1986 2.33 3.0 1990 2.28 2.06 1994 2.58 3.0 1998 2.625 2.75 2002 2.71 1.94
    Note first that before 2002, only twice in 11 World Cups had knockout goals been lower than group stage goals (1974, 1990). The 1974 tournament is an anomaly, since there were only two knockout games that year, so the sample is too small for purposes of comparison. So 2002 is really only the second World Cup in which knockout goals were lower than group stage goals.

    But that's only the beginning. Look how incredibly low that 1.94 number is, especially compared to the group stage number 2.71. In fact, although the knockout goal/game average is the worst ever, the group stage goal/game average is tied for third best. Up until 2002, knockout games had averaged .5 goals more than group stage games, but in 2002 knockout games averaged .77 goals fewer. So 2002 is strange indeed.

    Is there anything we can make of this? Note that in recent years the group stage goals have been on a steady upswing, but knockout goals have stayed relatively low, in fact decreasing irregularly. It's been suggested that 3 points for a win has contributed to more open play in the group stage (I don't believe it; that's another article). But whatever has been happening in the group stage, it's being compensated for by a conservatism in the knockout rounds, which has now reached unprecedented proportions. The 2002 results may be an anomaly, or they may be the leading indicator of a new trend. We won't know for at least 4 more years.

    Some more stats will show how unusual the low total in the knockout games has been. There's a stat I call "scoreless outings," which is the number of times a team goes out on the field and fails to score. For example, in a 1-1 game, there are no scoreless outings; in a 1-0 game, there's one; in a 0-0 game, there are two. The 2002 knockouts had 12 scoreless outings in only 16 games, easily the highest percentage of all time (1990, that notoriously dreary tournament, came the closest, with 10 in 16).

    A few more stats along these lines. In 2002 there were 7 knockout games in which the two teams together scored only 1 goal or less; this was as many as in the two previous tournaments combined. Germany became the first team ever to win three consecutive 1-0 games; even 3 consecutive knockout shutouts was a record. The 17 goals in the round of 16 was a record low (1990 had 18). The 5 goals in the quarterfinals were also the lowest ever (1990 had 7). The 2 goals in the semifinals were yet another record; it was also only the second time in history that both semifinals were shutouts (1986 was the other). As for the Final, 2 goals wasn't bad at all for recent years, but it was the fourth straight Final in which at least one team failed to score.

    There was a little bit of good news from the knockout stage, though. With some help from the golden goal, there were 3 matches in which the winner came from behind (Senegal-Sweden, South Korea-Italy, Brazil-England). That tied for the most ever comeback victories since the round of 16 was introduced in 1986. The golden goal also ensured that there were fewer matches decided on penalties (only 2, Spain-Ireland and South Korea-Spain) than in any year since the round of 16 went into effect. (In fact, the golden goal was a huge success this year; it had seemed on its way out, but maybe now it'll stick for a while.) And the third-place game continued its reputation for freewheeling play: for an incredible 7th straight time, the consolation game produced at least 3 goals.

    So that's total goals. But just as important as total goals is the type of goals you get. Penalties aren't as exciting as other kinds of goals (although they have their own kind of excitement). The history of penalties in the World Cup is fascinating: the numbers show that penalty goals have significantly increased in the last 25 or so years. Up to and including 1974, no tournament had ever had more than 9% of its goals scored through penalties. In 1978, there was an abnormally large number of penalties, and the total was 11.65%, the highest ever. The number dropped back below the 9% level for 1982. But from 1986 through 1998, the percentage of penalties was never below 9%. This means that in recent years: 1) fouls in the penalty area are actually well up; and/or 2) referees are trying to crack down on fouls in the penalty area; and/or 3) referees are getting better at spotting fouls in the penalty area; and/or 4) players are getting more skilled at fooling referees into believing there are fouls in the penalty area. I'm personally betting that 4) plays a big role.

    In any case, in 2002, out of 161 goals, 13 came on penalties, only 8.07%, the lowest since 1982. Good news? Well, maybe not. The main reason the percentage is down is that no less than 5 penalties were missed or saved (actually, all 5 were saved), tied for the highest ever with 1990. In fact, there were exactly the same number of penalties whistled this year as in 1998, a total of 18. In 1998, however, all but one were converted.

    One more striking penalty stat. As noted, there were 18 penalties whistled in 2002. Amazingly, however, only one was whistled during the knockout rounds (Ireland, vs. Spain), an all-time low since the round of 16 was introduced in 1986.

    Finally, a note and a query. First, Brad Friedel saved two penalties during the tournament, becoming only the second keeper ever to do so, after Jan Tomaszewski in 1974. Second, Hernan Crespo scored a goal from a penalty rebound this year; since it's strictly speaking not a penalty goal, it's been counted not as a penalty goal, but as a set piece goal (see below). I've been trying to find out when the last goal was scored from a penalty rebound, so far without success. Anyone out there know?

    From penalties to set pieces. A good indicator of how exciting the play has been is the percentage of goals scored from open play vs. set pieces. I only have full and definite statistics on set piece goals from 1982 onward, so I've confined the analysis to that period. I've subtracted penalty goals from total goals, then looked at the percentage of set piece goals out of total non-penalty goals. The first column is set piece goals and total non-penalty goals; the second is the percentage.

SP/NPG % 1982 27/138 19.6% 1986 19/120 15.8% 1990 23/100 23.0% 1994 23/126 18.3% 1998 32/154 20.8% 2002 28/148 18.9%
    Fairly remarkable, when you look at it. Allowing for normal fluctuation, set piece goals have been pretty steady over the last 20 years.

    Intertestingly, however, this year there were more corner kick goals (14) than in any tournament in this period; even allowing for the increase in games from 52 to 64 in 1998, corner goals per game was the highest as well. The only team to score from 2 corners was England.

    There were also more goals scored directly from free kicks than ever before (9), although the number of free kick goals per game was only second highest, behind 1982. The roll of honor: Schneider, Arce, Roberto Carlos, Bouzaiene, Svensson, Mendieta, Walem, Ronaldinho, Lee Eul-young.

    With high numbers in corners and direct free kicks, we need to have a low number somewhere. It came in goals which resulted from free kicks, but were not scored directly by the kicker himself. There were only 4 of these, easily the lowest number in our 20-year period. The scorers were Roque Santa Cruz vs. South Africa, Michael Ballack vs. the USA, Siyabonga Nomvete vs. Slovenia, and Gary Breen vs. Saudi Arabia.

    Now to goals scored with the head. On this we have more reliable statistics, going all the way back to 1930. Here's the table: the first column is headed goals and non-penalty goals, the second is the percentage.

H/NPG % 1930 6/ 69 8.6% 1934 4/ 69 5.8% 1938 7/ 81 8.6% 1950 6/ 85 7.1% 1954 16/143 11.2% 1958 6/119 5.0% 1962 13/ 81 16.0% 1966 13/ 81 16.0% 1970 12/ 90 13.3% 1974 15/ 91 16.5% 1978 12/ 91 13.2% 1982 21/138 15.2% 1986 19/120 15.8% 1990 28/100 28.0% 1994 21/126 16.7% 1998 31/154 20.1% 2002 33/148 22.3%
    It's a fascinating set of numbers. Through 1958, headed goals were very low; even the high number in 1954 is lower than any number after 1958. In 1962, the numbers jump dramatically and never go down again. (Interestingly, 1962 was also the year that goals per game dropped dramatically, never to return to earlier levels. Apparently, something drastic happened in the style of play between 1958 and 1962.) From 1962 through 1986 headed goals are fairly steady at this new elevated level. But in 1990 they take a huge jump upwards, and although they drop in 1994, at no time after 1990 do they return to pre-1990 levels. The last 4 cups have had the 4 highest percentages of headed non-penalty goals.

    This is fairly extraordinary, and indicates that the style of play has once more changed. Perhaps if statistics could be found for other international games during this period, we might be able to theorize on the extent of the change. Does anyone have statistics for, say, the European championships over the years?

    In any case, 2002 seems to be a typical year under the new dispensation, with the second highest percentage ever. Topping the list was, of course, the amazing Miroslav Klose, whose 5 headed goals are an individual record. No other player had more than two: Morientes, Ahn, and Vieri each picked up a brace. Klose also becomes the third person to score headers in three different games: Gerd Mueller in 1970 and Paolo Rossi in 1982 were the others.

    Just as important as the type of goal is the time of the goal. One indicator of the kind of football the teams are playing is first-half goals as a percentage of total goals. Over the years first-half goals have been on a slight and irregular decline, as teams risk less early, and wait until later in the game to get attacks going. Here are the numbers for first-half goals as a percentage of total goals:

1930 41.4% 1934 44.3% 1938 47.6% 1950 48.9% 1954 48.3% 1958 44.4% 1962 43.8% 1966 47.2% 1970 35.8% 1974 46.4% 1978 49.5% 1982 34.9% 1986 42.4% 1990 29.2% 1994 46.1% 1998 40.4% 2002 42.2%
    In the 10 cups from 1934 through 1978, only once was the percentage of first-half goals below 43.8% (1970). But in the 6 cups from 1982 through 2002, only once was the percentage of first-half goals above 43.8% (1994). (The 1990 cup, as usual, is a disaster.) The overall decline is irregular and relatively small, but definite. By these standards, 2002 was a solid year. Notice that from 1978 to 2002 the percentage has zigzagged down and up in alternate years, but the latest down year, 1998, is higher than the others. Note also that 2002, the latest up year, is the lowest of the up years since 1978. These numbers may indicate that the decline has been stabilized.

    A related statistic is the average time of the first goal, denoting how long we have to wait for someone to get on the scoreboard. Joe Thomas has looked at this stat. Here's his table: the first column shows average number of minutes per goal overall; the second shows the average number of minutes to the first goal.

M/G M/FG 1930 23.1 28.2 1934 23.1 20.8 1938 21.4 24.7 1950 22.5 21.2 1954 17.4 18.9 1958 25.2 24.7 1962 32.4 39.1 1966 32.7 32.1 1970 31.3 37.8 1974 35.3 41.3 1978 33.8 38.8 1982 32.3 38.0 1986 36.6 35.6 1990 42.8 52.1 1994 34.0 33.8 1998 34.3 36.3 2002 36.1 36.5
    The idea here is that if the number in the second column is noticeably higher than in the first, then teams are waiting longer than the average time to get going and score that first goal. Also, the raw number in the second column indicates, from a spectator point of view, just how long we have to wait for that first goal. Notice that 1962 again is the key year, when the raw time of the first goal jumped dramatically, and also was noticeably larger than the average. The number in the second column never gets back to pre-1962 levels. Note also one of the key reasons 1990 was so notorious: the first goal came on the average an incredible 52.1 minutes into the game, the only time in history it was in the second half. Plus, the 10 point margin of the second column over the first is the greatest ever. The good news is that in recent cups there is little difference between the first and second column; plus, those raw numbers in the second column are among the lowest since 1962. As for 2002, it's right in line with those good recent tournaments.

    Let's look now at one more set of stats from Joe Thomas. Joe tried to find quantifiable criteria that would indicate that a game was competitive and interesting to watch, and came up with a set of two:

1) there was an equalizing goal scored at some point during the game;
2) the game did not end up 1-1.

    Such games have one team taking the lead and the other team equalizing, and at least three goals. Plenty of ebb and flow. I like these criteria, although personally I'd drop number 2, because I'd argue that the presence of an equalizer itself is enough to make a game competitive and interesting. So let's look at the tournaments from 1930 through 2002, for the percentage of games that meet Joe's two criteria, and the percentage that meet my version, including only the first criterion.

Joe Peter 1930 16.7% 16.7% 1934 52.9% 58.8% 1938 55.6% 66.7% 1950 36.4% 36.4% 1954 34.6% 38.4% 1958 45.7% 54.3% 1962 37.5% 37.5% 1966 34.4% 40.6% 1970 31.3% 37.5% 1974 15.8% 28.9% 1978 36.8% 42.1% 1982 19.2% 36.9% 1986 13.5% 30.7% 1990 13.5% 26.9% 1994 28.8% 38.5% 1998 32.8% 45.3% 2002 25.0% 40.6%
    We'll start with the amazingly high figures for 1934 and 1938. These were pure knockout tournaments, and as we noted way back at the beginning of this article, knockout games tend to have more goals. So it's not surprising there was plenty of back-and-forth in those games. It's also clear that starting roughly in 1962, things went into irrevocable decline, especially by Joe's criteria. After a jump up in 1978, things got really bad for a while, but have rallied in recent years.

    Note that under both sets of criteria, 2002 was a fairly strong year, by recent standards (somewhat better under my version). This is remarkable, when you consider that 2002 was the second-lowest scoring cup of all time. What happened was that the relatively small number of goals were well-distributed, and as a result the games were competitive. Even the incredibly-low-scoring group stage had three games that fit the criteria.

    Here the "scoreless outing" stat which I mentioned at the beginning of this column comes back into play. We noted that the knockout games had the most scoreless outings since the round of 16 was introduced. But it was well compensated for by the group stage, which had only 25 scoreless outings in 48 games, the second lowest percentage since the group stage was introduced. Only 1958, before the big drop in scoring, was better.

    One last stat along these lines. The 2002 tournament had 9 games in which the team that scored first lost, the most ever. Alas, the 2002 tournament had many more games than earlier tournaments, and its 14.1% total (9 out of 64) fell well short of the 1970 record of 25%. But again, the 9 come from behind wins are another indicator that total goals don't tell the whole story.

That's it for now. Coming soon, Part 2!



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