Saturday, March 04, 2006

World Cup: Don't Fall Behind...

There is a distinct characteristic among the 17 World Cup winners: They don't spend much time trailing. Pretty obvious considering you have to win games to advance, but as much as it would be great to hear stories about teams coming back from insurmountable odds, that's not really what happens.

In the 2002 World Cup, Brazil spent only 27 minutes down a goal out of a possible 630. Second place Germany were only losing for the final 23 minutes of the final, a lower total than the champions. In 1998, France trailed for only a minute (or less) against Croatia in the semifinal.

In fact, out of all 17 champions, they have only spent a combined total of 532 minutes behind. That's an average of 31 minutes per squad. Taking place in 103 games (falling behind in 25), that's only 5.6% of the time.

Only twice has one of those teams had a full game's worth of trailing in a World Cup. That would be Uruguay 1950 (124 minutes) and W.Germany 1954 (99 minutes). By contrast, the three winners never to fall behind were Italy 1938, Italy 1982, and W.Germany 1990.

It's also an amazing stat that only one team out of the 17 ever had a two goal deficit, which also was the only one to allow three goals in a game. That was W.Germany 1954, who lost 8-3 to Hungary in the group stage. They would gain revenge in the final, although they would also trail by two goals early on in that game. None of the other 16 had either of those things happen. In fact, only 18 times in 17 tournaments have the championship team allowed even two goals in a game.

Uruguay 1950 was the only team that really made a habit of coming from behind, spending a third of their time trailing. After an 8-0 win over Bolivia to advance to the final group (which was the format used that year), they were losing in all of their final three games, coming back to get two wins and a draw. They scored 5 goals from the 66th minute on in those three games, including most famously two in the final against Brazil to win the tournament.

Minutes Behind

Total Pct
1930 Uruguay 31 8.6%
1934 Italy 19 3.7%
1938 Italy 0 0.0%
1950 Uruguay 124 34.4%
1954 W.Germany 99 18.3%
1958 Brazil 6 1.1%
1962 Brazil 39 7.2%
1966 England 6 1.1%
1970 Brazil 38 7.0%
1974 W.Germany 63 10.0%
1978 Argentina 28 4.2%
1982 Italy 0 0.0%
1986 Argentina 28 4.4%
1990 W.Germany 0 0.0%
1994 Brazil 23 3.5%
1998 France 1 0.1%
2002 Brazil 27 4.3%

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