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 2006 - Statistics (Part 1)

    If, like any intelligent person, you've just watched 5910 minutes of World Cup action, you need a break. Actually, you don't need a break, you need 5910 minutes more. Unfortunately, we're unlikely to get them before 2010--but that's OK, because we can spend the next four years looking at statistics. This is the first of two articles with assorted stats on Germany 2006; the second will come along in a couple of days. As was the case four years ago, I have the help of the equally hopelessly stat-obsessed Joe Thomas of the USA. Joe lived in Pennsylvania for a while, then moved to Southern California; I lived in Southern California, then moved to Pennsylvania. Must be something in the water.

    We start with the most obvious stat, total goals. There were 147 this time, for a meager 2.30 per game, second-lowest ever, ahead only of 1990's 2.21. (FIFA's official site says the 2006 total is 2.29 goals per game, not 2.30. The actual total is 2.296875. Don't people round up anymore?) That 2.30 is a serious second-lowest, by the way; before 2006, the previous second-lowest was in 2002, all the way up at 2.52.

    The low goal total is only part of the story, however. Let's look at a fascinating stat which we've mentioned several times before, goals in the group stage vs. goals in the knockout rounds. Here's the current version (as before, leaving out the second group stages, which appeared only in 1974-1982):

GS KO 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 2.38 3.0 1990 2.28 2.06 1994 2.58 3.0 1998 2.625 2.75 2002 2.71 1.94 2006 2.44 1.875
    The relationship between the two columns has completely reversed in recent years. With the exception of 1990 (and 1974, where with only two knockout games the sample was too small), knockout goals always exceeded group stage goals, and by a significant margin. Through 1998, knockout goals per game were overall almost .5 greater. But in the past two tournaments, knockout goals have fallen through the floor, and are now substantially lower than group stage goals, even lower than they used to be higher. What's happened?

    The short answer: I don't know. It seems obvious to say that teams play more conservatively in the knockout rounds, with so much at stake. Also, there are no minnows in the knockouts, therefore fewer high scores, and the better teams tend to be better defenders anyway. Makes sense. But then what the heck was going on from 1958 through 1994? All those things were true then as well. The new trend may have started in 1998 (perhaps in 1990, if you count 1994 as an anomaly), when knockout goals were just above group stage goals. Has the expansion from 24 to 32 teams made a difference? It's hard to see how that would matter.

    Perhaps football has entered into a new defensive era, which shows up most prominently among the better teams, in the knockouts. But all relevant statistics show that 1962 was a watershed for defensive football as well, and we don't see the same effect. Again, I just don't know. Please send in any suggestions you have.

    To get a further feel for the low scores in 2006 (and not just in the knockouts), let's look at the "scoreless outings" stat. A scoreless outing occurs when 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 2006 World Cup had a record percentage of scoreless outings, 48 in 64 games (thus 128 opportunities), 37.5%. That's just above the previous record, 36.8%, from 1974. This year's tournament also set the record for the percentage of scoreless outings in the knockouts, 13 in 16 games (32 opportunities), 40.6%, ahead of 2002, with 37.5%. The 15 goals in the round of 16 were an all-time low.

    Since goal-scoring news is pretty grim, let's temporarily console ourselves with the Old Reliable, the third-place match. We hear all the time that it's meaningless, but drop it from the schedule and goal totals would be too horrific to contemplate. For the 8th straight time, the consolation match produced 3 or more goals. Perhaps the solution is to brainwash the players so they think every match is the third-place match.

    As if low goal totals weren't bad enough, Germany 2006 set a 24-year record for goals from set pieces. If we subtract penalty goals from total goals, giving us a non-penalty goal total, then look at the number of goals from set pieces, we get this:

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% 2006 41/134 30.6%
    This is easily the highest percentage of set-piece goals since 1982 (I don't have figures for before then, since I don't have tapes with all the goals). Although there were only 6 goals directly from free kicks (vs. 9 in 2002), there were 14 corner kick goals, tied for the highest corners/game ever. There were a remarkable 17 goals that resulted from free kicks, but were not scored directly by the kicker himself, both the highest raw number and the highest percentage per game. There were even 4 goals from throw-ins, an all-time high, with Ecuador becoming the first team ever to score that way twice.

    Now let's look at penalties. PK's continue to be whistled at a relatively constant rate, 18 in 1998, 18 in 2002, 17 in 2006. The 2006 number could have been significantly higher; for some reason the refs seemed reluctant to call penalties until well after the tournament began. Three penalties were missed this time (Gyan, Bravo, and Larsson), vs. zero in 2002 and one in 2006; only one was saved (Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi from Dario Srna), vs. five in 2002 and zero in 1998. Penalties were 8.84% of total goals, up from 8.07% last time, but still the second-lowest since 1982. (The all-time record is 11.65% in 1978.)

    On to headers. Last time we posted a table showing the percentage of non-penalty goals scored with the head: here's the latest version. Note the the two jumps in 1962 and 1990:

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% 2006 27/134 20.1%
    After the 1962 jump, the numbers are always higher than pre-1962; after the 1990 jump, the numbers are always higher than pre-1990. This year fits the pattern perfectly.

    From goals to times of goals. Joe Thomas has prepared a table showing the distribution of goals by 5-minute groups:

Total First goal 1- 5 9 9 6-10 11 10 11-15 3 1 16-20 6 2 21-25 11 10 26-30 7 4 31-35 6 4 36-40 9 2 41-45+ 8 1 46-50 5 2 51-55 4 1 56-60 9 4 61-65 4 1 66-70 4 1 71-75 4 0 76-80 11 0 81-85 14 1 86-90+ 19 3 Extra time 3 1
    The extraordinary detail here is the huge numbers of goals in the first 10 minutes. In fully 19 out of 64 games, 29.7%, the first goal was scored in that time. Since the modern group stage began, that's easily the record, well above the 23.5% in 1958. What makes it even more amazing, of course, is that overall goal totals for 2006 were so low. It comes as no surprise, then, that 2006 has a record 13.6% of its goals coming in the first 10 minutes.

    Another interesting point from Joe is the vast difference between the goals scored from minutes 30-75 and those from 76-90+. If the teams scored at the 75-90+ rate throughout (extra time not counting), total goals per game would be 4.125. If they scored at the 30-75 rate, it would be only 1.66.

    So what does this mean for the games themselves? Four years ago we looked at an indicator for whether a game was competitive and interesting. Under Joe's formula, such a game had the following two features:

1) there was an equalizing goal scored at some point during the game;

2) the game did not end up 1-1.

    My version of the stat included only number 1), reasoning that any equalizer should be enough to fill the bill. Let's look now at the percentages of such games over time, measured by both versions:

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% 2006 20.3% 28.1%
    There's a real dry patch in there, from 1974-1990, with the exception of 1978. After 1994 things began to look up, but as you can see, 2006 is the poorest year in a while. On the other hand, under Joe's criteria (although not mine), 2006 is still better than all those dry spell years. Under my criteria, it's the second worst after 1930. There were, however, 8 games in which the winner came from behind (wins on PK's not included). Considering the low goal totals, that's not bad at all. In 2002, there were 9, but in 1998, only 6.

    This is just a start: there's no such thing as enough stats. Part 2 will be along in a few days. To keep you going, here are a few oddities:

  • Côte D'Ivoire became the first team to allow two goals in the first half of all three group games.
  • Against Serbia & Montenegro, Argentina became the first team to have all three substitutes score.
  • Italy's 2:0 win over Germany in the semifinals was the first ever 2:0 extra-time victory.
  • England's first goal against Trinidad & Tobago, in the 83rd minute, was the latest first goal ever for a 2:0 winner in regulation time.
  • Australia's first goal against Japan, in the 84th minute, was the latest first goal ever for a come-from-behind winner in regulation time.
  • England-Paraguay was the first 1:0 game decided by an own goal; the 3rd minute goal was the earliest ever in a 1:0 game.



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