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