Measuring the excitement of the World Cup

Paul Wainwright Roar Rookie

By Paul Wainwright, Paul Wainwright is a Roar Rookie


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    Robin van Persie is one of several stars lining up in the third-place playoff. (Image via SBS)

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    We have reached the mid-point of the World Cup, and many are calling it the best World Cup in decades and even the most exiting World Cup in history.

    There have been a lot of great games with late goals and comebacks adding to the drama, but how does this World Cup compare with previous World Cups on some key statistics? Can we measure the excitement?

    We will have a look at four statistics to compare World Cup 2014 with its predecessors: goals per game, both teams to draw, goal margins and result/draw ratios.

    Goals per game
    The first and best way to measure excitement is simply goals per game, and for this World Cup it goes a long way to explaining why there has been so much hype.

    Goals per game after 32 games in this World Cup is sitting pretty at a stunning 2.94. This is almost a whole goal more (0.84) than goals per game in the group stage in 2010.

    It also exceeds the average number of goals per game during the group stage at every World Cup since 1958, when the average goals per game was 3.50.

    Both teams to score
    Goals per game is wonderful but what is more exciting, a 5-0 thrashing or a 3-2 thriller? Most would probably agree it’s the 3-2 that gets the biscuits.

    So the next statistic which illustrates the excitement of this World Cup is both teams to score.

    The average over the past 10 World Cups of games where both teams have scored is 47 per cent, with a low of 38 per cent in 2006 and 1974, and a high of 56 per cent in 1982.

    World Cup 2014 beats them all with 59 per cent of games so far having seen both teams find the back of the net.

    Goal margin
    We have seen goals flying in and both teams scoring them, but how close have the games been and how do they stack up against past World Cups? To measure this, we can look at goal margin and specifically the percentage of games with a one goal margin.

    Looking back at the past 10 World Cups, the average percentage of games that end with a one-goal margin is 36 per cent, with a high of 44 per cent in 1990 and a low of 17 per cent in 1974.

    Again, World Cup 2014 leads the way with 47 per cent of games ending with a one-goal margin.

    Result ratios
    The last statistic on which this World Cup is leading the way is games ending in a result as opposed to a draw.

    The average over the past 10 World Cups of games which ended in a result is 71 per cent, with a high of 78 per cent in 1990 and 1994, and a low of 63 per cent in 1974.

    So far in 2014, a record 81 per cent of games have ended in a result – giving 2014 the lowest percentage of games ending in draws in the past 10 World Cups.

    World Cup 2014 compares favourably across these and probably more measures. We have seen the highest average number of goals per game in a group stage since 1958, both teams have scored in a higher percentage of games than any World Cup in the past 40 years, this is the closest World Cup as measured by games ending with a one goal margin, and this World Cup has seen the lowest percentage of draws in the group stages.

    Most exciting World Cup ever? By most measures we can say it’s heading in the right direction!

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    The Crowd Says (4)

    • June 24th 2014 @ 12:22pm
      Johnno said | June 24th 2014 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

      Brazil 2014, USA 94, Germany 2006, Mexico 1986. Worst world cups South Africa 2010 because of that stupid Jabulani ball, it actually had alot of potential but the hopeless ball killed it. Italia 90 had alot of boring games but also had alot of tension some of the most tense matches and heartbreak were in that world cup, and inspiring stories. Cameroon’s run the Q’Finals almost beating England and Roger Milla, Gazza in tears and England losing on penalties to Germany, Maradonna knocking out Brazil, Italy losing to Argentina on penalties, Schillachi’s goals, Costa Rica beating Scotland, and Germany playing a dominant game. Was a good WC in many ways, but also some dud games. Spain 1982 was boring but for Brazil’s jogo bonto brand of football. Japan/Sth Korea had alot of boring matches, but the hosts good run was exciting.

    • Roar Guru

      June 24th 2014 @ 9:59pm
      James said | June 24th 2014 @ 9:59pm | ! Report

      Really enjoyed this. Love the approach you’ve taken to this subject. Would never have looked so far into stats on goal margins when it comes to how exciting a World Cup is. Good stuff.

    • June 25th 2014 @ 7:25am
      Troy said | June 25th 2014 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      I was wondering about this topic myself. Good choice of measures, and it looks like you have confirmed the intuition of many World Cup watchers.

    • June 27th 2014 @ 12:09pm
      Chris said | June 27th 2014 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      The 2014 group stage ended today, which is a few days after the article, and I think the total number of goals is 136, which makes and average of 2.83, not the 2.92 on the graph. Still, it is an exciting world cup, and not just because there are lots of goals, but also because there have been lots of comebacks and equalising goals. It is always great to see teams fighting back! Hope the goals keep coming in the knockout stage, where the real drama happens. Maybe this year will break the record of 171 goals at France 98

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