TOI brings you a digest of the numbers that stood out after the sumptuous Qatar 2022:
If heavyweights flattered to deceive, some of the minnows made jaws drop in disbelief in Qatar. But while only the faithful may claim they knew all along how it would play out, the devil actually lies in the data. Analysis by pundits using advanced tools shows where the top teams fell short and how some of the unfancied sides outperformed expectations.
One such metric is ‘expected goals’ or xG, which measures the probability of a shot finding the goal based on an assessment of several variables, including shot angle and distance from goal.
Here, the Netherlands defied the mathematical odds, scoring a total of 10 goals against 5 expected, including two last-minute stunners against Argentina in their scrappy quarterfinal tie. The stragglers in this department were the Germans, who were assessed to have about four fewer goals than what their firepower should have permitted them to score.
Germany, which failed to clear the group stage, tops the chart for total shots on target per every 90 minutes of play. While that would have contributed to the high expected goals billing for the team, the shots data further underlines Die Mannschaft‘s inability to turn attacks into goals. In absolute numbers, France’s 100 shots at goal put them on the top of the chart in absolute terms followed by Argentina and Brazil at 95 each.
Among the top shooting teams, Argentina led on shots on target overall. Costa Rica had the lowest tally of shots overall while Poland, whose attacking star Robert Lewandowski had a lacklustre Cup, had the fewest on target.
It’s not how much of the ball you have but what you do with it. That’s an oft repeated piece of advice. But having the lion’s share of possession did not make any difference to Spain’s fortunes this year. In fact, four of the teams that are in the top 10 for average possession at Qatar 2022 did not make it out of the group stages. On the other hand, four of the 10 teams with the lowest average possession, including Morocco, managed to progress to the round of 16.
In their group match versus Costa Rica, which they won 7-0, Luis Enrique‘s Spain completed over 1,000 passes in 90 minutes. But wonder soon turned to frustration as supporters slammed the team for not having anything to show for all their slick possession.
Though Ecuador conceded an average of only a goal per match, it was knocked out in the group stage. Spain and Brazil conceded the joint fewest goals in the tournament, but neither made it beyond the quarterfinals. The second stingiest defence was that of Argentina. Croatia was the only semifinalist not in the top 10 for keeping attacks at bay.
Referees reached for the yellow card for a total of 227 occasions at this World Cup – there were also four red cards – and more than half of those involved the teams that make up the top five in this department. Argentina’s 17 yellow cards included 10 in the quarterfinal versus the Netherlands alone. Saudi Arabia gave away the most fouls with semifinalists Morocco also in the top 10.
Note: The number of matches played is not the same for all teams Source: fbref.com, Fifa, media reports
Research: Richa Gandhi
Graphics: Karthic R Iyer