Where are all the goals at this World Cup?

Why are the teams at the World Cup scoring less than this Sounders fan?

So yeah, this World Cup has had a bit of everything so far. It’s had big crowds, small crowds, some good refereeing decisions, it’s had a couple of bad ones. It’s had some indelible images and some that many (like Robert Green) will want to forget. In short, it’s exactly what we all hoped this World Cup would be… wait…

Oh, yeah, goals. We haven’t had too many of those. In fact, we’ve had even fewer going into Saturday than we did in Italia 90, the “gold-standard” of soporific, barely-watchable major tournaments.

I think it’s a bit early to make any conclusions about why haven’t seen too many goals, especially as Brazil, Spain, and North Korea haven’t played yet.

But still, if scoring doesn’t pick up, look for this to become an even bigger story across the soccer world than even the vuvzuelas.


17 thoughts on “Where are all the goals at this World Cup?

  1. I don’t think we’ve had as many mismatches as other tournaments to this point. Most of those are coming up tomorrow & Wednesday. Frankly, there just aren’t going to be as many mismatches. The one glaring mismatch so far, produced 4 goals.

  2. Good things come to those who wait.

    No one want’s to loose on the first round…second and third…desperation creeps in and needed teams go out for points.

  3. Yea, it hasn’t been a wonderful testament so far to the “casual fan” tuning in wanting to be smitten with wonderful strikes and beautiful golazos. There’s been plenty of ‘atmospher’ and ‘spectacle’, but not so much drama in the games themselves.

    Still very early days though. Maybe even the USA will score a couple each on Slovenia and Algeria, you never know.

  4. It’s probably down to a number of issues; the ball, the altitude, and the general lack of quality from most of these ‘top’ sides. All of the favorites bar Germany [Argentina should have done much better] have been disappointing so far.

  5. I’m very disappointed with the quality of the games so far. Not just the lack of goals but the lack of attacking. I don’t mind a 0-0 game as long as both teams go out and create chances. But I can’t think of one really good game so far. Germany was good but the game was a foregone conclusion after the sending off.

  6. It does make sense that teams would play more cautiously in their opening game, and I wondered if this had been reflected in the scoring rates in past World Cups.

    So, I added up the numbers to get the average goals per game in the opening 16 games in 1998, 2002 and 2006. The results were 1998–2.31, 2002–2.87, 2006–2.43. Through the first 11 games, 2010 is averaging 1.46. It is down quite a bit.

  7. I just a read an article on Wall St Journal’s Marketwatch that said scoring in the last five WCs is barely half what it was in the 14 before them. Soccer is a low-scoring game but traditionally, perhaps not as low-scoring as we’ve become accustomed to?

    Besides goals scored, I’m curious to see what the shots-on-goal (or the related stat: saves) numbers are like over the years. Were they correspondingly higher also back in the day? Or were goals “cheaper” back then for some reason, like the goalkeeping not as good as the current era?

  8. What no one has mentioned that was clear to me throughout all of the matches I’ve seen is the turf has been horrible for soccer. From what I understand they are using a hybrid synthetic turf. Artificial turf sewn into the real stuff. What I’ve seen is nearly every long pass skipping across the touchline a la Giants during MLS. I guess the money interests invloved with the synthetic turf companies has been buying it’s way into the soccer world. Combine this with a new ball which seems to be rocket propelled at times yo end up with top class athlete’s which can no longer control the play. Dempsey seems to have figured it out and perhaps less luck was involved in his goal that we suspect.

  9. Sure (as can anybody who has a computer). The reason why I did 98-02-06 was because they were 32-team World Cups. I’ll do 1990 later today. Brazil-North Korea is about to start. Maybe that will raise the average (or maybe not).

  10. Grant Wahl has a take on this:

    Basically, he suggests the ball, the altitude and relative parity as the culprits, which all make sense. I think players can get used to the ball and the altitude, but I’m afraid the absence of truly bad teams and the defensive tactics and attitudes aren’t going away.

    After all, we live in an age where the most successful tactician in Europe encourages his team to give the ball away.

  11. 1990 was 2.25 through the 12 opening games. Today’s games brought this year’s average soaring all the way to 1.50. It does sound like there’s more to this dip than just opening-game caution.

  12. Incidentally, I think a more revealing stat might be the average goals per game of the losing side (or in case of a tie, the tie score). That might tell us more because then the average isn’t skewed by 6-0 routs when a really strong team plays one of the minnows.

    (You can think of it as a measure of the number of goals you need to beat in order to win. # of goals needed to win = average + 1)

  13. And that’s pretty alarming. North Korea is the only losing side to score a goal (without looking at the RSA vs URU score).

  14. Yes it is, isn’t it?!

    For what it’s worth, I first thought to do this during the women’s college softball world series a couple weeks ago because the game seems to have changed so much over 3 years. There seemed to be an incredible explosion of runs but I wasn’t sure if it was just lopsided games or something more general about offense in the game. (Conclusion – while the lopsided games kind of skew perception on just how much more offense there is, there’s also no question that you need some runs to become champions. Can’t win the World Series by winning every game 1-0 behind Jennie Finch or Cat Osterman pitching, and yes I know Cat never won but you get my point)

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