The FIFA 2010 World Cup – The Stats


I came across (via Facebook) this excellent link on the New York Times detailing the stats of all the teams so far in the World Cup. I was mighty impressed by the fact that this sheet, in addition to the good ole’ goals scored, goals against, and points stats, also captures the less-tangible but no less important stats on possession, game control and attacking proficiency. It can be difficult to really see the significance of some of those numbers at first glance, so I will leverage my slightly professorial bent of mind to give some meaning to the numbers.

To start with the simple stats, first, Argentina are scoring. A lot. 2.5 goals / game (even with a statistically weak number of games that is the World Cup so far) is a very prodigious strike rate. Whatever else people may say about their top-heavy squad, weak midfield and lack of possession (for South Americans), the bottom line is that Maradona has them scoring.

An interesting set of stats belongs to Ghana. They have pinged in 1.0 goal/game so far. Which is pretty awful. In fact, with Paraguay, they are the worst goal-scorers of any team in the last 16. Why have they qualified? Two reasons – a combination of the amount they are seeing of the ball (touches / games) and the vast number of shots / game, far in excess of their goals scored. (Note where their peers in goals scored stand w.r.t shots on goal.) Ghana score, have a good amount of possession and keep blasting away at the opposition goal, effectively or otherwise.  Coupled with their INCREDIBLE physical condition (as the USA found to their detriment), they have a miserly 0.8 goals/game against.

Another set of interesting stats are Spain. Enormous amount of touches / games. Very few touches allowed leading to a huge touch difference (the best in the WC) which equates to monstrous possession. They also have the highest shots / game (even higher than the trigger-happy Ghanaians). What they do not have is shots on goal and a correspondingly low goalscoring rate. The Spaniards are dominating their games, completely. Playing their opponents of the park and peppering the opposition goal with shots, but just not scoring. (Wherefore are thou, Torres?)

So who are the most dangerous / threatening to score teams in the World Cup so far? Well, Argentina of course. Lots of goals, 2nd highest touch difference (possession) and the 2nd-lowest difference between shots and shots on goal – most of their shots are on target.

This leads to, in my humble opinion, the most dangerous team in the World Cup (on performance so far). Uruguay. They are completely miserly in allowing goals (bettered only by Portugal), and have the lowest difference in shots vs shots on goal. If you let Uruguay shoot, they will probably score. And they probably will not return the favor. Considering that they see very little of the ball compared to their opposition (touch difference), the inference is a very strong defence and attack with little in between. The very opposite, if you will, of Spain. They are able to score, defend and win without really dominating possession.

For justice to be done, we should have had an Argentina – Uruguay final. Goalfest.

The most relentlessly consistent team of the World Cup so far? Brazil. Dominating possession and scoring goals. Runners up – Germany.

Is the elimination of England, Italy and France a surprise? No. Look at their pass-completion rate. Awful

A final note. This is FOOTBALL. This is THE WORLD CUP. Stats are meaningless the moment the clock starts. At that point, its GAME ON!!!!


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