TL/ World Cup


If you’re currently predicting scorelines for the World Cup Semi’s and fancy a flutter, a 2-1 home win seems a worth a shout…

The figure below summarises scorelines from the 60 games of the 2014 tournament so far. The area of the circles, indicate how many times each scoreline has occurred.

There have been a freaky number of 2-1 home wins – 11 in total, out of the 60 games played. This is equivalent to 18% of all games. There have been 20 different scorelines so far and almost 20% of games have had the same one: a 2-1 home win. The 2-1 home win also has more than 3 times it’s opposite number – the 2-1 away win – which has happened only 3 times.
Bubble chart Showing World Cup 2014 scoreline frequencies up to the semifinals

I haven’t looked at scoreline frequency before but, aside from the 2-1 home win, things look fairly sensible. You might expect high scoring games to happen less often and the figure below supports this. The 2-1 home win is the only outlier from this curve, by a fair way. Bizarre. (The curve shown is a second order polynomial fit to all data).


Other notes:

  • Out of 20 different results, 1/3 of all games have either been 0-0 or 2-1 home win.
  • Several sources state, without data, that 1-0 is the most common world cup scoreline with 0-0 in second place. So far 2-1 is beating both of these in this world cup.
  • The winners of the high goal games are fairly imbalanced, with the away team’s winning much more often. The Away team has won roughly twice as many games as the home team (11-6), when 3 or more goals have been scored.

I’m sure the wise will prefer to weight their predictions toward the specifics of the new pairings involved in the forthcoming games and will also be aware that the World cup home advantage (excluding the hosts) shouldn’t count for much at this stage. But perhaps there’s something in the Brazilian water and as I’m not very wise – I think there’s probably enough to warrant a little flutter…



Where did all the goals go? The 2014 World Cup set off to a flying start, but the knockout phase has been a relative drought, with just half the normal-time goals per game of the group stage.

The world cup flew out of the blocks, with 14 goals in the first 3 games. While this rate was unlikely to last, the group stage still bagged a very respective 2.83 goals per game – the highest average seen in the group stage since 1958. But then this seemed to flip on its head in the knockout phase.

The 12 knockout games so far (the last 16 + quarter finals) have provided great entertainment, but weigh-in at a measly 1.33 goals per game, in normal time. Less than half the goal scoring rate of the group stage. As a result, half of the all the knockout games (6/12) have been forced into extra-time.
Bar Chart showing World cup 2014 goals per game in normal time in the different stages of the tournament


Is this normal?

My first thought was whether a reduction in goals per game through the tournament was just normal. Plausible reasons seemed to include – more evenly matched teams, tactical response to the games being knockout and various consequences of more increasing pressure in the later stages.

The historic averages below are based on The Ecomomist’s great all-time World Cup goal-time interactive. Data goes back as far as 1986, such that all competitions have a single group stage and either 52 or 64 competing teams. Quarter finals have not been included, as 4 games seems too few to form a very meaningful average for comparison, in this case.
Figure showing the change in average world cup goals per game between group and last, for world cups between 1986 and 2014 inclusive

Looking back to 1986 the camp is divided, with 4 tournaments having an increased last 16 average – 4 decreased. So, no clear answer on whether ‘fewer goals per game in the last 16 is normal’ based on this set, but enough to show that 2014 is definitely extreme. This year’s tournament switches from the highest goals per game in the group stage, to the lowest normal-time goals in last 16 phase.

2014 Last 16 goals – more in added and extra time, than in the first 90 mins

The pie chart below shows the split of goal-times in this years knockout phase to date (12 games of last 16 and quarter finals). To seemingly emphasise the normal-time relative drought, there have been more knockout phase goals scored in added time and extra time than in first 90 mins of normal time – 11 vs 8. Later goals may be more common, but such a high ratio is surely extreme – more analysis is required to be sure.
Pie chart showing Split of goal times in 2014 world cup last 16 and quarter final games

Why is 2014 so extreme?

More analysis is required to answer this one. One extreme factor for 2014 is the tough ambient conditions. Is it plausible that teams astutely eyed an opportunity to overhaul technically superior teams on fitness grounds, if tactically, games could be extended into extra-time? It would be interesting to compare 2014 playing conditions at the other low goal average tournaments (1990, 2002, 2006) to see if this stacks.

Despite such few normal-time goals, the knockout phase has produced some awesome entertainment. Much like the old ‘overtaking in Formula One’ debate, perhaps showing that you don’t need goals for a good game – particularly with penalties lurking at the end! It will be interesting to see if the final 4 games continue in the same vain.



World Cup team performance summary at the end of the group stage, to see who’s been the best so far.

Visualisation of the World Cup End of Group Stage standing. Teams are ranked by tournament rank = points, goal difference, goals scored

Some Notes:

  • Uruguay did pretty well to get 6 points from a goal difference of 0.
  • Spain are the only seeded team (Pot A) to leave the tournament.
  • FIFA may be happy that 3 teams from each of the other pots (B,C,D) qualified.
  • Algeria were the set piece specialists – 3 set piece goals and a penalty, out of their 6 goal total.
  • The gods were perhaps with the Greeks. They managed to qualify without scoring a single open play goal and with a net goal difference of -2 (England returned just 1Pt from the same goal difference). They were good at hitting the woodwork through – doing this 4 times – more than any other team and twice as many times as the goals they actually scored.
  • Switzerland games have been great for goals, with 13 in 3 games, averaging at more than 4 a game. Top tip.
  • No Asian teams made it out of the group stage.
  • There is a cluster of crucial set piece goals around the mid-table teams.
  • Croatia put six onions in the proverbial bag but still didn’t qualify. Half the teams that qualified scored fewer goals!
  • Ecuador however may feel most hard done to. They scored the same points and better goal difference than Greece but still didn’t qualify.


In the figure, teams are ranked from top to bottom, by tournament end of group standing i.e points > goal difference > goals scored. Change in relative team position since the start of the tournament is also shown in colour, along with a breakdown of how goals were scored.

I’d planned to include some shot information, but then noticed a big discrepancy between FIFA and BBC numbers. Will do this analysis later if I can understand why the two are different.

Obviously the above ranking is done in the eyes of the tournament rules and doesn’t take into account the relative ease of the groups when ranking performance thus far. For example, a team that has beaten 3 good teams has arguably performed better than a team of similar rank, that has beaten 3 poor teams. The two would be ranked the same above. Weighting each result by standard of opposition (ranking), much like the official FIFA ranking points, is probably a better indicator. I’ll try to produce this comparison to follow.



As we head into the third and final batch of group games, a quick look at who’s through, who’s heading home and who’s still fighting.

After two group games, 6 out of the last 16 places have already been snapped up. Over the next 4 days, 21 countries will be fighting it out for the remaining 10.

Just over a third of the teams already know their fate, with 6 cruising through and 5 heading home on the early bus. By the end of play Thursday, the 16 spots in the knockout phase will have been decided. Last 16 games start on Saturday.


World Cup Standings After Two Group Games - Who's qualified and who's going home



Every World Cup needs a Wall Chart.

I’ve put together a world cup wall chart. It’s all ready for some good old, pen and paper action and is available to print and play below.

Because I’m a little bit excited, I’m also going to ship A2 prints to the first 5 to ask, before Brazil kick off tonight. You might have to make do with the old notebook for the first few games, but you’ll hopefully be up and running for the final 50 or so!


A wall chart for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Championship in Brazil, with flags, fixtures, group tables and concise tournament history summary for each country.


Sometimes it’s just got to be pen and paper and when it’s the world cup you’ve got to get your wall chart out. After a quick look around earlier in the week, I couldn’t really find any that I’d actually want to put up. So I set out to create a world cup wall chart that was easy on the eye, but still brimmed with information.

I also wanted something that was a more of a grow-your-own visualisation, rather than just ending up as the usual, difficult to read, sheet of numbers and letters. There’s also plenty of scope for your own doodles, for the proud chart keepers – some tips and ideas for filling the chart in to follow.

On top of the basic schedule, each team badge contains a summary of the countries history in the tournament and current rank. Starting clockwise from 1930, the rings shows progression in each tournament, from ‘Group stage’ outwards to the elusive World Cup gold winner’s star.

I’m optimistic (as ever), but notice the 3 world cup winners and 7 world cup wins sitting in England’s group!

To keep and eye on current group tables fill in 1 bar for each point the team scores, starting from the outside, working towards the centre and the Last 16 stage.


Don’t forget, if you’d like a print, just be one of the first 5 to ask before tonight’s kick off. Can ship to anywhere within the UK.

Hope you enjoy and it’d be great to see any completed versions – if you’re on Twitter use #WorldCupWallChart.

Printable PDF of the rainbowworks World Cup Wall Chart here.