World Cup Stats – Team Expected Goals

The World Cup group stages are over, and half the 32 teams are packing their bags and heading home. But who deserved to go, and who has a wistful tear in their eye for what might have been?

Let’s have a look at some Expected Goals numbers with some caveats.

Firstly any statistics over three games are a rather small sample size, this is the nature of international football.

Secondly, the data is likely to be skewed in favour of teams who had periods of games where they were behind and needed to attack, and against those who scored early and had the luxury to sit back.

Best Attacking Teams


Spain are top, which makes sense. They have been a very attacking team, maybe at the expense of some of the midfield control you normally expect from the 2010 champions.

England are second! Before rushing off to sing Three Lions, it’s worth pointing out the paucity of opposition in group G – Belgium also feature in the top four.

Sweden have a reputation for being a workmanlike team, missing the mercurial talents of their erstewhile striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but they haven’t found it difficult to create chances in Russia, and are fresh from a 3-0 demolition of Mexico.

The surprise here is the appearance of Germany and Iceland. Both were desperately chasing qualification in their last game. Germany particularly, were guilty of wasting some very good chances and that is a large part of the reason they are on their way home.

Tournament dark horses Uruguay and Croatia make up the top ten.

Worst Attacking Teams


Despite making it through Denmark sit dead last. Part of this may be their bore draw against France where neither team had any motivation to attack. It still doesn’t bode well for the Scandinavians, even with a squad that boasts the talents of Christian Eriksen.

Despite a rush of goals in their first two games, Russia look a bit low on creativity. Their finishing ran very hot early on and it is unlikely they’ll be able to keep that going.

Peru and Morocco were two of the neutrals favourite teams but despite their nice build up play, they were unable to turn this into tangible scoring opportunities and that is ultimately what cost them.

Best Defensive Teams


A solid defence is usually a prerequisite for World Cup glory, especially once the knockout rounds begin – so you might expect the winner to come from these teams.

Uruguay and France unsurprisingly find themselves leading the pack when it comes to lowest expected goals conceded. France have a very defensive and cautious manager, and N’Golo Kanté. Uruguay have the miserly Atletico Madrid central defensive partnership of Godin and Giménez.

Brazil are third best, bucking their stereotype. The Seleção have come to this World Cup with a more defensive game plan, maybe a reaction to their humiliating semi-final defeat last time round.

Spain, Belgium and England all feature again, which is a good sign for their fans.

Surprisingly three knocked out teams also make the top ten. Senegal and Australia were well organised and perhaps unlucky not to progress; especially the African’s who went home on fair-play.

How are Saudi Arabia here! Expected goals may be misleading on this occasion as it does not measure pressure on the ball or the quality of the goalkeeper. I suppose they did improve a bit as the tournament went on.

Worst Defensive Teams


Most of these teams won’t feature again at the tournament – a bad defence is not a good look. Only Mexico and Switzerland remain.

Mexico took a beating in their final group game and actually conceded quite a few chances to Germany despite their famous victory. I fear for them against the likes of Neymar and Coutinho.

The numbers would also suggest Sweden might relish meeting the Swiss defence in the second round.

Note: All models are my own, but they have been inspired by articles I have read on sites such as StatsBomb

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