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 2)

    This is the second of two articles covering interesting statistics of Germany 2006. In Part 1 we mostly covered goals; now we're going to look at group stage stats, team and confederation achievements, disciplinary matters, and a few miscellaneous items. All group stage stats are applicable only to the modern group stage era, beginning in 1958.

    The group stage in 2006 wasn't particularly remarkable--unless you look at the stats of the winners. It's amazing how dominant the group winners were this time. All 8 winners led their groups outright in goals scored; since the modern group stage began, the only other time it's happened was 1966. Moreover, all 8 also led their groups outright, or tied for the lead, in fewest goals allowed; that happened only in 1986 and 1966. And 2006 matches only 1966 in having all the group leaders at the top, or tied for the top, in both categories. It's particularly remarkable since we have 8 groups now, as opposed to 4 from 1958-1978 and 6 from 1982-1994.

    We can see the dominance of the top teams in two more stats. The first: 4 out of 8, half the group winners, won all three games. The only other times that happened were 1966 and 1970, when 2 out of 4 won all three. (As usual, though, a strong start doesn't mean a strong finish: none of the 4, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, and Spain, made the Final. That makes only 3 out of 20 perfect group stage teams to do so.) The second stat: the worst record for a group winner was 2 wins and 1 draw--that only happened in 1962 and 1966.

    Partly as a result of this dominance, the group races weren't as close as usual. Only 1 of the 16 qualifying places required goal difference to decide (the group C winner); again, the only predecessor was 1966, when there were only 4 groups and 8 qualifying places. And one more stat: only 3 teams out of 32 had records of one win, one loss, and one draw, the smallest percentage since (you guessed it) 1966. You're going to go back and look at those 1966 results now, right?

    In the matter of goals scored, none of the groups were particularly remarkable, ranging from a low of 10 (group B) to a high of 18 (groups A and H). That range of 8 tied for the lowest ever, with 1986 and 1998. But group B stands out, because it continued The Great England Jinx. To quote from our statistical summary of 2002: "In one of the earlier columns we saw that over the years England's group stage games had produced fewer goals than anyone's, fewer even than Italy's...But England also seems to have a draining effect on anyone who comes close: for a remarkable fourth straight time, England's group produced the fewest goals of all. So if England qualifies for Germany 2006, you know where to put your money." Well, England qualified, and hit the low number again. That's five in a row. I blame Frank Lampard.

    Speaking of Group B, take a look and you'll see that the top three teams all allowed the same number of goals. That's the first time that's happened. The only other time three teams in a group allowed the same number of goals was 1990, where Ireland, the Netherlands, and Egypt, places 2-4, turned the same trick. Oh, yes, that was also England's group.

    Now for a few team accomplishments, starting with the group stage (again all stats applicable only to the modern group stage, beginning in 1958). Germany and Brazil continued their remarkable hegemony, both picking up their 10th group win out of 13. Germany have now won 5 straight group stages, Brazil an amazing 7. Third place in group wins is Italy, who got their fifth. Argentina won their group stage as well, but surprisingly for only the third time (1986 and 1998 are the others).

    A special shout goes to Switzerland, who picked up their first group stage win in four tries. They were also the only team to keep three clean sheets in the group stage. They did it again in the Round of 16--unfortunately, it wasn't enough to beat Ukraine, which made Switzerland the first team ever to be eliminated from the World Cup without allowing a goal. By the way, the last team to keep three clean sheets in the group stage and be eliminated the next round was Mexico in 1970.

    A big disappointment was Serbia & Montenegro; if we consider them as a descendant of Yugoslavia, it was the first time they'd finished last in seven appearances. By finishing last, they join that interesting group of teams that have finished first, second, third, and fourth at least once. The others: Argentina, USSR/Russia, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, France, Hungary, Austria. In an outstanding tournament for Europe (see below), Serbia & Montenegro were the only Euro entry to finish last in their group, compared to three in 2002 and two in 1994 and 1998.

    Oh, and a slightly surprising note: if we consider the Czech Republic a descendant of Czechoslovakia, they completed their sixth group stage without ever once finishing on top. The only teams with a worse record are Uruguay, Bulgaria, and (of course) Scotland, at 7. And here's an odd stat. Angola and Côte D'Ivoire, playing in their first tournament, both finished third; the only other team to have played in only one tournament and finished third is Jamaica.

    Back to the positive side: Germany continued their unique perfect record, qualifying out of the group stage for the 13th time in 13 tries. Brazil, who were left out only in 1966, made it 10 in a row. England ran their streak to 9, Italy to 8, and the Netherlands to 6. The Netherlands are the only team besides Germany to have played in more than three group stages and qualified every time. Negative streaks that got a boost were Tunisia, now at 4 straight cups without advancing (second only to Scotland's 7), Iran and Saudi Arabia at 3. In fact, the Saudis now have 3 straight last-place finishes. No team has ever finished last more than 3 times total, the others with 3 being Bulgaria, Scotland, South Korea, and the USA.

    Now let's look at consecutive group stage game streaks. Germany are the champs once more, with a remarkable 15 straight group stage games without a loss. Their last defeat was to Denmark in 1986. Mexico's unbeaten streak was broken at 10, so now the second-longest is Sweden's at 9. But if we're talking wins, Spain's your choice: they've now won 7 straight group stage games, well short of Brazil's record 12, but still outstanding. Brazil has the second-longest current win streak, at 6. A negative streak: Tunisia, after winning their very first game at the World Cup (1978, vs. Mexico), have now played 11 more without duplicating the feat.

    There wasn't much of special interest in the knockout rounds, since the usual suspects won through. Ukraine, in their first tournament, made the quarterfinals, which sounds good until you remember that Croatia in their first tournament made the semis. The low goal totals made for a few interesting stats. Italy became the first team to make it all the way to the Final allowing no goals to the opposition (the USA's goal was an own goal), and since France's goal in the Final was a PK, they became the first team ever to go through the Final not allowing a single goal to the opposition except from the penalty spot. Portugal managed to make it all the way through the semifinals while scoring only once in the knockout rounds, a first since the tournament was expanded in 1986.

    We move now to confederation performances. With the tournament in Germany, everyone predicted a big year for Europe. But I doubt anyone expected the slaughter that ensued. Europe scored a stunning +14 in the group stage, well above their previous all-time best of +10 (1974 and 1998). They also got all four teams in the semifinal, for the first time since 1982, and both teams in the Final, again for the first time since 1982.

    South America didn't do too badly either, if you consider only the group stage; their +5 tied their best-ever score, achieved in 1986. But otherwise they were a disappointment, no team getting past the quarterfinals for the first time since that year 1982.

    Since it was a good year for the big boys, it was obviously a poor year for minnows. Asia (-6), Africa (-6) and CONCACAF (-7) all got hammered; for the latter two it was their worst performance ever. CONCACAF was going four-deep for the first time, and three of their teams finished last. Africa got their customary one team into the second round for the sixth straight time. As for Asia, since 1966 they've still had only one team make it to the second round away from home (Saudi Arabia in 1994). Let's salute Australia, though; the first (and likely the last) team from Oceania ever to make the second round.

    Now to some disciplinary statistics, once more from Joe Thomas. You think there were a lot of yellow cards this year? Here's a table showing numbers of first yellows, second yellows, and straight reds, plus yellows/game and sendings-off/game since 1970, when the card system was introduced. Before 1994, the data don't distinguish between second yellows and straight reds. (Some of this data is approximate, particularly for yellows, since data sources disagree.)

G 1Y 2Y Red YC/G SO/G 1970 32 46 --- 0 1.44 0.00 1974 38 86 --- 5 2.26 0.13 1978 38 58 --- 3 1.53 0.08 1982 52 98 --- 5 1.88 0.10 1986 52 138 --- 8 2.65 0.15 1990 52 170 --- 16 3.27 0.31 1994 52 228 6 8 4.50 0.27 1998 64 255 5 17 4.06 0.34 2002 64 267 6 10 4.27 0.25 2006 64 325 19 8 5.375 0.42
    Both yellow cards per game and sendings-off per game were easily an all-time high. Perhaps the most striking figure of all is the gigantic number of second yellows, more than three times the figures from 1994-2002. You get the feeling the directives from FIFA painted the refs into a corner, making them less likely to look the other way on possible yellows after that first caution. Oddly enough, straight reds were actually quite low for recent years.

    We'll close with a few miscellaneous matters. First, draws. There were only 11 draws in the 48 group stage games, a fairly low 22.9%, compared to the overall 27.8% since 1958. The 11 draws were fairly evenly distributed among the groups, with only group A going drawless. The low number and even distribution meant that no group had more than 2 draws, the first time that's happened since 1978.

    Now to rest days. In a prior article we noted that rest days seemed to have overall little effect on results. Before 2006, teams who had an extra day of rest in the group stage showed a minimal advantage, 53 wins to 49. The pattern held this year: of the 10 teams with such an advantage, 4 won, 4 lost and 2 drew. We can't say much about rest days in the knockouts, since in 2006 all but the Final were played on equal rest. However, if the group stage followed the pattern, the Final did not. As the prior article noted, up until now if you had an extra day of rest before the Final, you lost. (West Germany 1966, Argentina 1990, Brazil 1998, Germany 2002.) So Italy in 2006 became the very first team to win the Final with an extra day's rest. They also became the first team since 1982 to win the Final while having played in the first semifinal. Who won in 1982? Italy, of course.

    Finally, my very favorite subject, team strips. Five teams wore only one strip for all their games: Germany, Portugal, Spain, Ecuador, and Ukraine. Germany continued their ridiculous first strip streak; the last time they wore their second strip was the 1990 semifinal, making now 25 straight times for the white-black-white. (Remember that Klinsmann wanted to use the new red second strip for the first game, and FIFA said no?) At the other end, France, although they eventually settled on all white, wore four different strips in their first four games: blue-blue-red, white-blue-white, blue-white-red, and white-white-white.

    Fascinating, you say. But here's the oddity of oddities, and my favorite piece of trivia from the whole tournament. The rules say you're supposed to bring two separate strips: two different color shirts, two different color shorts, two different color socks. So what the heck were Costa Rica doing wearing three different color socks? They wore red in the first game, white in the second, and blue in the third. You know what that means: now I have to hunt down all the videos from all the prior World Cups to see if that's the first time that's ever happened. See you in, say, four years?



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