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06 Jul 2018 by Maylice Lavorel

Late goal trend at the 2018 FIFA World Cup

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It is the 97th minute of Brazil – Costa Rica, on Friday June 22. In the middle of the field, Casemiro retrieves the ball and gives it to Douglas Costa. The latter crosses to Neymar who scores the second goal of the game with his left foot to confirm victory for the Seleção. As The Stats Zone reveals, not only had the Paris Saint-Germain striker just scored the latest regulation-time goal in World Cup history he also reinforced the trend observed since the very start of the tournament.

Indeed, after approximately ten days of competition, experts, observers and supporters at once agree on the same analysis. This 2018 edition seems to be – so far – the one of late goals, goals scored during extra-time, at the business end of matches.

Midway through the group stage, such late goals led to the first comebacks. In Kaliningrad, Switzerland fell behind to Serbia after only five minutes, but managed to win the game thanks to Shaqiri’s impressive 91st minute goal. The following day, 1740 miles south-east, Germany beat Sweden with an amazing 95th minute curling effort from Toni Kroos, despite Toivonen having opened the scoring for Sweden. Germany had a taste of their own medicine when South Korea ended their hopes with two late goals as drama continued to reign.

From the start of the tournament, last-gasp goals have enabled several national selections to confirm precious victories and earn vital points. As early as the second game of this World Cup, Uruguay defeated Egypt with an 89th minute header from Gimenez. A few hours later, Iran surprisingly got the upper hand over Morocco after Bouhaddouz’s own goal. And there are so many other examples to list…

So what is really with those late goals ? Can we genuinely affirm that they are characterising this 2018 World Cup? How many goals have indeed been scored beyond regular time? And speaking of late goals, where do we place this Russian edition, compared to the previous one?

Let’s take a closer look at all the goals scored before the quarter-finals of this 2018 World Cup.

Of the 121 goals scored during the group stage, 18 have been scored after the 90th minute. It represents almost 15% of the goals scored so far. If this figure seems unimpressive in itself, it must be placed into its context. Looking at the distribution of all the 121 goals scored, as the table shows, we can see that the time period “90 – end of the game” is the fourth-most prolific time period in a match.

Time period

Number of goals

0-15

13

15-30

13

30-45

21

45-60

24

60-75

20

75-90

13

90+

18

It means that, of the 48 matches in the 2018 World Cup, more goals have been scored after the 90th minute, than in the time periods 0-15, 15-30, and 75-90. And at the same time, it places the time period “90 – end of the game” amongst the most significant times in a game.

And those figures are totally previously unseen. Never in the history of the World Cup played with 32 teams and under this format of group stage – final stage, had a World Cup seen, over the first two stages, more goals scored after regular time than during any other time period.

This analysis becomes more striking when figures are compared with the ones of the 2014 edition.

Time period

Number of goals

0-15

15

15-30

17

30-45

20

45-60

20

60-75

32

75-90

24

90+

8

In Brazil four years ago, at the conclusion of the first 48 games, 136 goals had been scored, a bit more than for this Russian edition. But of those 136 goals, only 8 were registered after the 90th minute, representing around 6% of all the goals that were scored by that time. It’s rather far from the 14% of this 21st World Cup. And by the way, in 2014, the “90 – end of the game” was the least prolific one. During the first 48 games, every other time period had seen more goals (see table above). The situation was hence very different from the Russian Mundial. This comparison reinforces our impression on the revolutionary side of this phenomenon and confirms the idea that this is relevant to call this 2018 World Cup the one for late goals.

The impression is even more reinforced when we look at the four previous 32-teams tournaments (similar to the current format).

Number of goals

Time period

2010

2006

2002

1998

0-15

10

17

17

15

15-30

17

20

17

14

30-45

15

20

17

17

45-60

15

13

25

25

60-75

15

10

29

19

75-90

27

32

23

36

90+

2

5

2

0

In the previous editions, only a few goals were scored after regular time (and even sometimes not at all, like for the 1998 French World Cup). And those few goals embodied only a feeble percentage of all the goals scored. Once again, it is a distant situation from that of the 2018 Russian World Cup.

Importantly, 50% of matches in which a late goal had been scored, saw those goals significantly change the course of a game, and sometimes even a group.

Goal(s) consequences

Number of goals

Changes the final result

9

Confirms a victory

7

Reduces the gap

2

Half of the goals scored after the 90th minute saw a positive outcome with that team winning the match thanks to that goal. It represents one third of all those goals and it is considerable. We think about Tunisian Bouhaddouz’s own goal that grants victory to Iran. Going further, we can cite Shaqiri’s flashing goal, that gives the three points to the Helvetian team and later enables the players to advance their push for qualification. Thus, we can suppose that the late goals leave strong marks on us because they change the course of matches and groups. Which one of us has not thrilled in front of Kroos’ amazing shot against Sweden?

This is also why we particularly remember late goals, and why they leave a strong mark on us. They are vehicle of a precise dramatism and they come with strong emotions, multiplied by passion, timing and context. They are often synonymous with a result forged in the last seconds of the game, or of a comeback that nobody had dared to believe in. They carry something so special, so difficult to reproduce. And we will remember those goals for years and years.

The numbers are a bit different regarding the round of 16 and must be analysed in a different way.

Number of goals

Time period

2018

2014

2010

2006

2002

1998

0-15

5

0

2

5

5

5

15-30

0

1

3

2

2

3

30-45

2

4

5

2

2

4

45-60

8

3

2

1

0

3

60-75

6

0

6

0

2

3

75-90

1

2

3

3

4

4

90+ (including extra-time)

3

10

1

2

2

1

At first sight, it appears that it is during the 2014 Brazilian World Cup that there were the most goals scored after the 90th minute (10), far ahead of the 2018 tournament (3). Regarding the four other previous editions, the number of goals scored after extra time is very low, one or two only. Nonetheless, among the 10 goals scored after normal time during the 2014 edition, 3 were scored during extra-time. On the contrary, the 2018 Russian World Cup is the only one (amongst the last six competitions) that saw a round of 16 without any goals scored during extra time.

For this Russian World Cup, of the three goals scored after the 90th minute, two have had a significant impact on the game: Chadli’s 90+4 goal granted Belgium its qualification for the quarter finals, and Mina’s 90+3’ header allowed Colombia to push England into extra-time (before losing the game in a historical penalty shoot-out).

There are several possible explanations for this increase in late goals. The most obvious one seems to be linked to VAR. With the implementation of a video review system, sensitive or complex situations are analysed over a longer period, with lost time during the 90 minutes being tagged on at the end. It is a tendency that has been observed since the beginning of the competition although not all matches with stoppage time goals have had incidents under video review.

So not only is it relevant to call the 2018 Russian World Cup the one for late goals but also for significant, dramatic and game-changing strikes, many of which involved incredible comebacks and transformed the shape of games, groups and national destinies. In the end, this is maybe why these goals have led many to question if this is the best World Cup ever. We still have eight matches left and none of us should be switching any of them off early.

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