The 171 goals scored at the 2014 World Cup is the joint-highest total in the history of the tournament, with France 1998. But how did they go in?
Brazil hosted a dramatic tournament full of surprises, starting with the elimination of holders Spain in the first week. The number of late goals has certainly added to the excitement. Who can forget Uruguay’s Luis Suarez putting England to the sword with 5 mins of their Group D match to go, or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s last-gasp penalty to take Holland through to the Quarter-Finals at the expense of Mexico?
The 76-90 mins stage of matches saw a higher number of strikes than any other 15 mins time period (41), followed by 61-75 mins (33).
We saw a general pattern of more goals the longer a match progressed. Was it fatigue caused by the hot climate, the tactical effect of substitutions, or simply the pressure to score a goal before the final whistle?
Substitutes definitely had their part to play in this pattern. There were more goals from substitutes in this World Cup (32) than in any previous edition.
Talented left-footed players are still seen as something of a rare breed, and they were certainly a useful weapon for teams in this World Cup. James Rodriguez of Colombia, who many felt should have been awarded the Golden Ball over winner Lionel Messi, scored a breathtaking left-foot hit from the edge of the box, while Mario Goetze’s winning goal for Germany in the Final was also a sumptuous left-footed volley.
A total of 59 goals were scored with the left foot, only 14 behind right-footed strikes (71). There were 34 headers and 5 goals were courtesy of the opposition!
Last week we published our analysis on the effect of FIFA’s ‘vanishing foam’ for marking out free-kick walls. There is evidence to suggest the innovation has helped attacking teams in free-kick situations, but although more free-kicks have been hitting the target, there were only 3 goals directly from free-kicks at this World Cup, David Luiz’s long-range effort for Brazil vs Colombia arguably being the best. 12 goals were scored in open play from the penalty spot, while corners produced 21 goals.
Precision has triumphed over power at this World Cup. Germany, the new holders, scored all 18 of their goals from inside the box. Just 19 of the 171 total were scored from outside the box. Goal poachers such as Germany’s Thomas Muller and Karim Benzema of France have made their presence felt – there have been 35 goals from inside the 6-yard box, with 117 being delivered from elsewhere in the penalty area.
Forwards (65) unsurprisingly accounted for more goals than any positions, but only 19 more than wingers (46) who were provided with the next highest total of strikes thanks to the likes of Alexis Sanchez (Chile), Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland) and Arjen Robben (Holland). The 4-3-3 formation favoured by many coaches at Brazil 2014 seems to give wide men more opportunities to make runs into the box to receive passes and crosses.
From Holland’s shock 5-1 thrashing of 2010 winner Spain, to Germany’s 7-1 demolition of the hosts, Brazil 2014 will be remembered by many for the goals that were scored. Can we ask for any more? How long will the 171-goal record be preserved?