Brazil 2014 – The Story So Far

There have been spectacular goals, upsets, red cards, refereeing errors, performances of a lifetime and more, and it’s less than one week into the World Cup. What does the data recorded so far reveal about the teams participating at Brazil 2014?

Let’s start with goals – Holland’s remarkable 5-1 win over holders Spain was not only a stunning performance against the team that has dominated world football for most of the past decade, it also saw the most goals scored in a game so far by any team. The strength of Louis Van Gaal’s attackers was the efficiency they demonstrated in finding the target, and the back of the net. The 5 goals – one of which was a goal of the tournament contender by Robin Van Persie – came from a total of 12 shots on goal, all of which were on target. From a total of 9 medium-high scoring chances, Holland had 7 dangerous efforts.

Continuing the theme of attempts on goal, it is evident that Ghana have been the most wasteful team when it comes to scoring efforts. They could only muster 1 goal from 21 attempts – the highest in any match so far – in a 2-1 defeat to the USA. Only 7 of those tries were on target. 9 of the 21 efforts were from ‘very low’ scoring chances, showing that Ghana were too ambitious in going for goal from unlikely situations.

The referees have been kept busy so far, with a total 44 yellow and 3 red cards being shown to misbehaving players. There certainly seems to be a level of home comfort for the hosts – of the first round matches in the group stage, Brazil were awarded the most fouls (21) and penalised the joint least (5).

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Looking more closely at some of the most memorable matches, England 1 Italy 2 in Manaus was one of the most eagerly anticipated games in the group stages, and it didn’t disappoint. But Roy Hodgson’s side were adjudged by many to have been unlucky not to get at least a draw. Does the data support sympathy for England?

England impressed with their attacking endeavour, typified by the pace and persistence of Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling and Danny Wellbeck. Of the shots both sides had on goal, only 6 of Italy’s total of 13 were classed as posing a threat, compared to 11 of England’s 16. Moreover, England created 17 chances through individual attacking play, with 29% of them considered a dangerous opportunity, compared to 3 and 33% respectively for Italy.

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So how did Italy win? For a start, they were more clinical when finishing.  From a similar number of medium-high scoring chances (12 to England’s 13), they managed twice the number of goals. They also took advantage when England’s forward moves broke down – 67% of Italy’s 9 counter-attacking moves were classed as ‘high-quality’ compared to 25% of England’s 8.

Germany made a huge statement of intent when they swept aside Portugal 4-0 in Salvador, with Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller netting three.  The two teams weren’t actually miles apart when it comes to shots on goal – Germany 12 with 9 on target, Portugal 8 with 5 on target. However, aside from an obvious superiority in front of goal – the patience of Germany’s build-up was also a telling factor. Joachim Low’s men put together 55 passing build-up moves compared to Portugal’s 39.

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Costa Rica’s shock 3-1 win over Uruguay in Group D is arguably the biggest upset so far. Aside from an ability to find the net, the teams were remarkably even in the constructive phase of play. Both teams created a similar number of good scoring chances (9 each from 45 situations of ‘advanced possession’) and took a similar number of shots from those chances (Uruguay 4 from 9, Costa Rica 5 from 9). Glance at their shot index however, and the true story emerges – Costa Rica’s 10.04 to Uruguay’s 4.49 is the result of the Central Americans being able to trouble the keeper, and pose danger from their overall shots (7 to 3), and score (3 to 1), more than their opponents.

The data thrown up by the first week of the World Cup should act as a warning for some sides, while others, such as England, should take heart from the realisation that the scoreline doesn’t tell us everything.

Until our next publication of World Cup findings, you are now able to follow all the action and match statistics with www.tikiticker.com – a website which uses our data to produce the fastest live text commentary in the world, and provides links to video of World Cup goals as they go in.

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