World Cup Data Analysis: Part I – Introduction & Evaluation of Performance by Confederation

By @k2thedubs

To download the PDF document in full, click here – World Cup White Paper.

 

Part I – World Cup Analysis: Introduction & Evaluation of Performance by Confederation

In anticipation of the upcoming World Cup in Russia, I decided to conduct a comprehensive statistical analysis on the World Cup. During my research, I gathered data on all World Cup results for the seven tournaments since 1990 and performed numerous analyses on the figures which illuminated a plethora of insights.

Part I of the analysis will evaluate performance by confederation through a series of exhibits.

Exhibit A: Aggregate Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 1

The chart above displays aggregate stats by confederation based on the results of the last seven World Cups as well as some key per game metrics. As seen in the chart, we can glean the following insights.

UEFA and CONMEBOL dominate the World Cup

  • They lead all confederations in World Cups, Matches, Wins, Goals For, Goal Differential, Points, and Winning Percentage.
  • They have accumulated 83% of all Wins and 76% of all Goals For while only accounting for 63% of the field.
  • They are the only confederations to win the World Cup.
  • UEFA and CONMEBOL have strikingly similar per game metrics, including Goals For (1.38 and 1.39), Goals Against (1.05 and 1.01), and Points (1.60 and 1.67).

CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC are minnows at the World Cup

  • The confederations have each won 22 or fewer games cumulatively.
  • They each have won less than 25% of their matches and lost more than 49% of their matches.
  • The confederations each have a meaningfully negative Goal Differential with each worse than (0.5) per game.
  • The confederations each score less than 1.0 goals per game.
  • The confederations each do not average more than 1.0 Points per game.

CONCACAF > CAF > AFC[1]

  • Of the three, the pecking order is CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC. The confederations align in that order based on Winning Percentage, Losing Percentage, Goal Differential per game, and Points per game.

Exhibit B: Per World Cup Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 2

The chart above slices the previous chart’s aggregate confederation stats into per World Cup and per Team per World Cup stats for another vantage point on the data.

Per World Cup Breakdown

  • UEFA comprises nearly half (47%) of teams at the World Cup, followed by CONMEBOL (16%), CAF (15%), AFC (12%), and CONCACAF (10%).
  • UEFA wins 60% of all matches at a World Cup followed by CONMEBOL at 23%, both of which are above their proportional representation.
  • CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC do not combine to win even 17% of all matches and average only 2-3 wins per World Cup for their entire confederation, which is less than one per team.
  • The difference in Goal Differential is stark. UEFA and CONMEBOL are significantly positive whereas CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC are significantly negative.

Per World Cup Per Team Breakdown

  • The average CONMEBOL team is strongest – they boast the best metrics in Matches, Wins, Losses, Goals For, Goals Against, Goal Differential, and Points.
  • UEFA follows closely behind CONMEBOL with the second-best metrics in each of the categories.
  • CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC trail UEFA and CONMEBOL in an orderly fashion with CONCACAF performing third-best in all categories, CAF performing fourth-best in all categories, and AFC performing last in all categories.

Exhibit C: Advancement Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 3

The tables above tally the final place by confederation based on results of the last seven World Cups.

UEFA and CONMEBOL punch above their weight

  • They account for all Champions, Runner-ups, and Third Place finishes.
  • They account for 6 of 7 Fourth Place finishes.
  • They have low Group Stages elimination rates with only 37% and 24% of teams failing to survive the Group Stages.

CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC punch below their weight

  • The only country to make the Semi-Finals from a confederation other than UEFA or CONMEBOL is South Korea in 2002 where they co-hosted the World Cup and benefited from suspect refereeing.
  • They have high Group Stages elimination rates with 74% and 76% of CAF and AFC teams failing to survive the Group Stages.
  • CONCACAF fares much better in the Group Stages with less than half of its teams (43%) exiting during the Group Stages.

Exhibit D: Cumulative Advancement Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 4

The tables above record the number of teams who advanced to each respective stage by confederation based on results of the last seven World Cups.

UEFA and CONMEBOL punch above their weight

  • They account for 50 of 56 (89%) of Quarter-Finals teams and 86 of 112 (77%) of Round of 16 teams.
  • 21% of participating teams from each confederation reach the Semi-Finals and approximately 40% (37% and 42%, respectively) reach the Quarter-Finals.
  • They are overrepresented, relative to their proportion of teams in the World Cup (47% for UEFA and 16% for CONMEBOL, respectively), at each stage of the knockout rounds.

CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC punch below their weight

  • They account for only 6 of 56 (11%) of Quarter-Finals teams and 26 of 112 (23%) of Round of 16 teams.
  • CONCACAF teams have performed better than expected in the Group Stages with 57% of their teams advancing to the Round of 16, which vastly exceeds CAF (26%) and AFC (24%) and only slightly trails UEFA (63%) and CONMEBOL (76%).

Exhibit E: Results by Confederation from 1990 – 2014

Image 5

Image 6

UEFA and CONMEBOL punch above their weight

  • UEFA has had 1 (5 of 7 World Cups) or 2 (2 of 7) participants in all Finals.
  • UEFA has had 1 (3 of 7 World Cups) or 2 (4 of 7) participants in all 3P / 4P games.
  • UEFA has won each of past 3 World Cups in Europe with at least 3 Semi-Finalists in each (4 of 4 in Germany 2006).
  • CONMEBOL has had 1 team in either the Finals or Semi-Finals for 5 of last 7 World Cups. No CONMEBOL teams made the Semi-Finals in 2006 and 2 CONMEBOL teams made the Semi-Finals in 2014, which was hosted in South America.
  • CONMEBOL has strengthened over the past 3 World Cups.
    • 2 QFs and 1 R16 in 2006
    • 1 SF, 3 QFs, and 1 R16 in 2010
    • 1 F, 1 SF, 1 QF, and 2 R16 in 2014
    • Only 2 teams have failed to advance from Group stages, and they finished 18th (in 2006) and 17th (in 2014), respectively.

World Cup Composition – UEFA & CONMEBOL Underrepresented and CAF & AFC Overrepresented

An analysis of the bottom 16 teams who failed to reach the knockout rounds supports the idea that UEFA and CONMEBOL are underrepresented and CAF and AFC are overrepresented.

Of the 40 teams finishing in the bottom eight of the past five World Cups, 13 (33%) have come from AFC, 10 (25%) have come from CAF, 10 (25%) have come from UEFA, 6 (15%) have come from CONCACAF, and 1 (3%) have come from CONMEBOL. The concentration of AFC and CAF teams in the bottom eight relative to their proportion of the World Cup field as well as the weakness of their aggregate confederation stats illustrates that their allocations are likely too high. In contrast, the lack of UEFA and CONMEBOL teams in the bottom eight relative to their proportion of the World Cup field as well as the strength of their aggregate confederation stats demonstrates that their allocations are likely too low.

However, it must be stated that the World Cup’s objective is not simply to field the best 32 nations but to be a global competition of the world’s best. While it may be accretive to the overall quality of the World Cup field to limit AFC, CAF, and CONCACAF to three (or fewer) teams apiece, it is unlikely FIFA will make such a radical change. That being said, there is a compelling argument for transferring a bid each from CAF and AFC to UEFA and CONMEBOL, respectively.

CONCACAF, while performing much worse than UEFA and CONMEBOL, appears to benefit from a more logical World Cup allocation than CAF and AFC. Since they have fewer spots, the highest quality nations from the region tend to earn qualification and underlings, who would be susceptible to poor performances at the World Cup, rarely make it. In contrast, since CAF and AFC are overrepresented, the weakest squads to earn qualification tend to perform poorly at the World Cup as they are largely overmatched relative to the strength of competition.

Exhibit F: Number of Teams to Advance in Knockout Rounds by Confederation from 1998 – 2014

Image 7

The table above and summary below highlight the boost that confederations receive when they host the World Cup, as measured by the number of teams reaching the respective knockout rounds in a home World Cup compared to the average number of teams reaching the respective knockout rounds across all World Cups.

Home Continent Advantage by Knockout Round

  • UEFA (1998 and 2006)
    • R16
      • 10 teams – 1.8 teams ahead of average
      • 10 teams – 1.8 teams ahead of average
    • QF
      • 6 teams – 1.4 teams ahead of average
      • 6 teams – 1.4 teams ahead of average
    • SF
      • 3 teams – 0.2 teams ahead of average
      • 4 teams – 1.2 teams ahead of average
    • F
      • 1 team – 0.4 teams behind average
      • 2 teams – 0.6 teams ahead of average
  • AFC (2002)
    • R16
      • 2 teams – 1.0 teams ahead of average
    • QF
      • 1 team – 0.8 teams ahead of average
    • SF
      • 1 team – 0.8 teams ahead of average
    • F
      • N/A
  • CAF (2010)
    • R16
      • 1 team – 0.2 teams behind average
    • QF
      • 1 team – 0.6 teams ahead of average
    • SF
      • N/A
    • F
      • N/A
  • CONMEBOL (2014)
    • R16
      • 5 teams – 1.2 teams ahead of average
    • QF
      • 3 teams – 0.6 teams ahead of average
    • SF
      • 2 teams – 1.0 teams ahead of average
    • F
      • 1 team – 0.4 teams ahead of average

Exhibit G: Composite Results by Confederation Based on Actual Results from 1998 – 2014

Image 8

The table above displays a composite of World Cup performance by confederation based on the average results of the past five World Cups since the field expanded to 32 teams. Please note this analysis does not adjust for geography. Please also note that for the upcoming World Cup, the final spot (which is the composite of CONCACAF, AFC, and OFC based on playoff results) will be a fifth team from AFC – Australia.

 

To continue on to Part II – click here.

 

[1] This pecking order is not as straightforward as it seems. Part IV of this analysis will delve deeper into the comparative performance of these confederations.

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