World Cup Statistics

We have begun rolling out World Cup statistics in the same format as those we provide for MLS. Scroll over “World Cup 2014” along the top bar to check it out!

In the Team Stats Tables, one may observe that the recently-eliminated Spain outshot its opponents, and a much higher proportion of its possession occurred in the attacking third than that of its opponents.

Our team-by-team Expected Goals data shows that England played better than its results would suggest, earning more dangerous opportunities than its opponents. It was a matter of inches for Wayne Rooney a few times there…


Finishing data suggests that Lionel Messi has made the most of his opportunities—surprise, surprise—but did you know that none of Thomas Muller’s seven shots were assisted?

And despite giving up a tournament-high seven goals in the group stages, our Goalkeeping Data actually suggests that  Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares performed admirably—especially considering the onslaught of shots he faced that were worth a tournament-most 0.4 goals per shot on target.

Penalty Kicks and Pressure

According to an article on BBC, there is a great difference in penalty kick conversion rates at various points in a World Cup shootout. When a kick would win the shootout, players in the World Cup have converted 93 percent of their opportunities, but when facing elimination with a miss, players have converted just 44 percent of the time.

The article doesn’t cite sample sizes for these situations, but we do know there were 204 penalties taken over 23 shootouts in the data set. Every shootout has to include at least one such chance–either a chance to clinch or a chance to choke–so a conservative estimate would be sample sizes of 10. And in fact, all we’d need for statistical significance are sample sizes of 10. Check!

Even with statistical significance covered, there could very well be some selection bias here, as perhaps the best PK takers are saved for clinching moments. The combination of small sample sizes and selection bias might explain a lot of the discrepancy in conversion rates, but that’s just not a fun conclusion. So let’s assume there is some effect of pressure.

In my mind, a PK to clinch a shootout should have some pressure associated with it, just as a PK to avoid elimination would. But what this data suggests is that it’s the pressure to avoid elimination that really gets to players.

So I thought I’d check it out in MLS. The only problem is that we don’t have nearly enough shootouts that I can access. So instead I will look at in-game PK conversion rates in scenarios where the shooting team is either down one or tied, controlling for which half and whether or not the kick taker is at home.

The results of a logit binomial regression led me to a few conclusions. First, taking a PK at home doesn’t significantly alter its chances of going in, but there is significant interaction between the gamestate and the half. There are four scenarios that seem to matter for PK conversion: tied in the first half, tied in the second half, down one in the first half, and down one in the second half. Here’s a chart that summarizes those outcomes in MLS:

Gamestate Half Goals Attempts Percentage
0 1 38 43 88.4%
-1 2 19 24 79.2%
0 2 18 24 75.0%
-1 1 5 13 38.5%

From our knowledge of World Cup shootouts it was predictable that the highest conversion rate belongs to the situation with the least pressure. Tied in the first half, a miss still leaves the team with a lot of time to win, and there the PK probabilities are highest. What’s somewhat baffling to me is the rest of the chart. Like for instance the incredibly low conversion rate when down a goal in the first half. Though a sample size of 13 is small, the difference between 88.4 and 38.5 percent is still very statistically significant (p = 0.0002). Or how about why facing a deficit seems to matter in the first half but not the second.

I find it hard to blame selection bias here for our findings. Teams that go down a goal in the first half are likely to be worse teams with potentially worse penalty kick takers, but then that wouldn’t explain why they are able to perform well from the spot in the second half. And teams that are tied in the first half have no reason to be the better teams on average, though it’s that group that has converted 88.4 percent of its penalties. I’m left to wonder if I don’t understand psychology, or if this is all a type-I error. After all, if we ignore deficits in the first half, then there is no statistical significance between the other three scenarios.

A couple thoughts on MLS Fantasy Football

I won’t be so bold as to suggest what players you want on your team(s) this year, but I will offer up some interesting statistical data for your consideration.

In looking at Defenders, there has been some guidance offered that talks about going with a ‘team’ of defenders versus some individual defenders. If you consider looking at a team of defenders, here’s a look at how some teams compare to others for Bonus Points…

Defender Blocks, Interceptions and Clearances:

Oddly enough the Chicago Fire have a total score of 9.50 bonus points per game while Toronto (8.67) Real Salt Lake (8.44) and FC Dallas (8.22) follow somewhat close behind.

How I got there: I took the total defender blocks, interceptions and clearances per game (added them up) and then divided by 6 (actions per bonus point).

For the Recoveries bonus points I took the same approach and here’s the top teams on recoveries after three weeks:

The Columbus Crew lead with 5.92 bonus points per game in recoveries, followed by New York at 5.06, Toronto FC at 4.92, and Seattle at 4.83 bonus points per game.

Reminder: these are team averages, not individual averages added collectively. Matty confirms that adding up a bunch of individual averages won’t necessarily lead to the same as the team average.

Next up are negative points for goals against (roughly). In looking at the team defenses in that Category the best teams (that don’t yield negative points) are Houston (0); with Columbus, Colorado and Toronto all yielding just -1 point.

All told the top five defending teams with respect to bonus points are:

1) Toronto (averaging 13 per game)

2) Columbus (averaging 12 per game)

3) Houston (averaging 10 per game)

4/5) Seattle and Chicago (averaging 9 per game)

What this is offering is that if you run a flat back four with just one team–say, Houston–you could have averaged 10 bonus points per game with your players.

This does not take into account all the other ways to capture points in Fantasy Football but perhaps it may help locate some cheaper defenders that will get you a better-than-average point total per game.

With the defending side of the pitch offered up for bonus points here’s a look at which teams offer up more crosses than average and how successful they are in that effort.

The team that averages the most crosses per game is San Jose with 30.5. Montreal follows with 28.3 per game, while the LA Galaxy offer up 24.5 per game.

The team that averages the most successful crosses per game is also San Jose, with 10 per game hitting their target. Montreal is again second with 8.7 successful crosses per game while Sporting Kansas city leapfrogs LA with 7 successful crosses per game. Of note is that LA drops down to 5.5 successful crosses per game (sixth best).

In considering that information, perhaps a way to capture some additional bonus points for crossing would be to pick out at least one midfielder/forward for San Jose and perhaps one from Montreal or Kansas City.

All told, that may give you better chances of getting points week-to-week with somewhat less money invested than just buying the stars. 

All the best,

Fun, or not so fun, Factoid of the Day

While digging through Wikipedia and various articles yesterday, I noticed the following. In 2010, after the expansion draft, DC United traded midfielder Fred Carreiro, allocation money and the #8 pick in the 2010 super draft to Philadelphia in return for goalkeeper, Troy Perkins. That #8 draft pick was used to draft Jack McInerney. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Keep that in mind when people mention the need for DC to find a goal scorer.