Many Americans fail to realize what a huge event the World Cup is on a global level, but to put it perspective, many sports books expect the 2014 World Cup to be the highest-bet event of all-time. Yes, bigger than March Madness or even the Super Bowl when it comes to the amount of money wagered.
While soccer is the most popular sport in the world, it is still thought of as a second-class sport by many Americans, who find the game to be a bit on the boring side. Those perceptions aren’t likely to change when the early round scores begin to come in, as many of those games tend to be low-scoring. Using the 2006 and 2010 World Cups for a sample, there was an average of 2.27 goals per game in the three group play matches. The first matches each team played tended to be the lowest scoring of them all, with an average of 2.03 goals, while team’s second and third matches yielded an average of 2.39 goals per game.
There are several reasons why group play matches tend to be low-scoring. The first is that the majority of the players on World Cup teams come from various professional leagues and haven’t had an opportunity to play alongside their teammates that much. Just as with any other sport, it takes time to build chemistry and cohesiveness and teams won’t be at their peak collectively until later on in the tournament.
The second reason is that teams are aware of their opponents’ best offensive players and can put their top defensive players on them, which will limit their effectiveness. The offensive stars tend to try and do too much individually, as they have not yet built the desired chemistry with their teammates. This especially holds true when you have two good teams playing each other, as there are plenty of talented defenders on both squads who are capable of playing shutdown defense.
Another reason why these games are low-scoring is the way the tournament is set up. There are 32 teams which make the World Cup and they are placed into eight groups. Each team plays the other three teams in their group and the top two teams in each group advance to the knockout stage, which is a single-elimination format. Teams are awarded three points for a win and one point for a tie in group play and goal differential is used for a tie-breaker.
In each group there are large discrepancies in talent and when a weaker team plays a strong team, the first thing the weaker team wants to do is avoid being blown out, which not only hurts in the standings, but also in the goal differential. These teams will often come out and play an extremely defensive-minded game and not make much effort to score themselves, but instead put all of its energy in keeping the opponent off the scoreboard as much as possible. Such a team may be more than happy with a 1-0 loss against a powerhouse and may continue to play a defensive-minded game if they fall behind by a goal.
As group play continues, bettors need to be aware of what each teams need to advance. A weak team that needs a two-goal win in the third match may go all-out offensively, which can also make it vulnerable to allowing some goals, which is one reason why the second and third games tended to see a slight increase in scoring as compared to the first game.
Looking forward to this years World Cup.
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