We had to wait (if that’s the right word) until the 37th match of the World Cup for a goalless draw. For most of the fixture between France and Denmark both sides knew a draw would suffice for progression to the last 16. It was obvious from early in the match that the circumstances would create a stalemate because there was no incentive to score. At the time of writing there have been 40 matches in the 2018 World Cup and some clear scoring trends have emerged. These statistics can be useful in identifying betting opportunities over the rest of the tournament.
The biggest variance from the World Cup in Brazil four years ago is the number of penalties. Before this tournament had reached the halfway stage for matches played the tally of penalties in 2014 had been reached. A rise in the number of penalties also had an impact on the average number of goals which stood at 2.63 per match after the bulk of the group fixtures has been played. In the last World Cup the scoring rate declined from round to round and something similar is expected this time.
The above average number of penalties can mainly be put down to one TLA (Three Letter Acronym!). No prizes for guessing we are talking about VAR which has worked in most cases but there have still been some farces due its application and the jury is still out. It seems that whenever a referee refers to VAR his decision is changed. There have been exceptions but it seems like the ref feels obliged to give penalties when they consult the pictures away from the scene.
About 80% of penalties are converted which makes it an anomaly that both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have missed from the spot even though it wasn’t a bother for Harry Kane twice against Panama. Kane is now in the driving seat to be the top scorer and he is already closer to the total that is usually enough to win the prize after just two matches. Kane is the first player to score a hat-trick for England in the World Cup since Gary Lineker netted three times against Poland in 1986. Only one other England played has scored three goals in a World Cup match. Guess who!
We can expect about 2.5 goals per match in the 16 knockout matches based on the drop in goals after the group stages in previous World Cups. The last 16 brings together group winners and runners-up so the teams are more closely matched and that means fewer goals. Germany’s 7-1 win over Brazil in the semi-finals in 2014 distorts the figures but generally goals decrease at each successive stage of the World Cup and that should happen in Russia despite VAR.
There were eight draws in the first 40 matches which is below average. This trend is linked to the number of goals and lack of nil-nil draws. The favourites won 60% of these matches which equates to 4/6 but the average price of the favourites was much lower. Eight underdogs earned three points or one in five which is about standard in the group stages of the World Cup. Both teams scored in exactly half the matches which tallies with past results in the World Cup. Three matches produced more than five goals and only one team scored six goals in a match! It’s hard to believe who!
VAR has led to more penalties and more goals. The average is high for the group stages and will dip as the tournament progresses but overall we can expect ultimately that the 2018 World Cup is relatively high scoring and one of the factors is VAR.