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2018 World Cup: Historical Finals Stats & Trends


CTG Big Brother Moderator
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Historical WC Final stats that I see as relevant to goal scoring betting...

(1) Full Game Total considerations
In looking through the past finals stats, one thing stood out like a sore thumb, especially as recent finals results are without any doubt going to be swaying many people on one particular front: the full-game total. 4 straight finals, and 5 of the last 6, have gone u2.5, with 3 of them not even featuring a regulation time goal at all. It's probably seen as a must-bet at this point, where someone just considers themselves unlucky if they should lose. But there is a method to this low scoring madness. And that method concerns asking one simple question:

Where is the final being played?

There have been 9 finals played outside of European soil: of the 18 teams involved, 7 have been held scoreless.

There have been 10 finals played on European soil: of the 20 teams involved, only 2 have been held scoreless.

10.0% of participants in European hosted finals have failed to score versus 38.9% of participants in non-European hosted finals. But wait, the killer stat is yet to come: the 2 teams to not score in Euro finals? South American teams. All 17 European teams to feature in European hosted finals have scored at least 1 goal each. If that 84 year trend holds here (it started with 1934's final), that obviously means 2 goals minimum. Who'd think about backing u2.5 pre-game if they knew it was a given both teams would score?

I've stated in numerous previous posts that, for me, 'the modern WC era' starts with 1982's tournament (it was the Cup that returned to featuring quarter-finals & semi-finals after those phases were stupidly excised from the '74 & '78 tournaments, and it involved the expansion from the long-held 16 teams to 24 teams). So, in this modern era there have been 4 finals held on European soil...

1982: 3-1 (0-0 1h)
1990: 1-0 (0-0 1h) Argentina held to nil
1998: 3-0 (2-0 1h) Brazil held to nil
2006: 1-1 (1-1 1h)

France has been involved in 2 of them ('98, '06), and as a team averaged 2 goals/game.

European hosted finals avg. 3.70 goals/game; Modern era only avg. 2.50 goals/game
Non-Euro hosted finals avg. 2.66 goals/game; Modern era only avg. 1.40 goals/game

The venue in the modern era where Under bets for Finals have truly been certified gold: not on European soil.

(2) Time of the 1st Score considerations

1st goal options appear in 15 min blocks, so (modern era figure first, 'old era' figure in brackets)...

...._1st-15th min: 1 (6)
._16th-30th min: 2 (2)
...31st-45th min: 0 (1)
..46th-60th min: 1 (0)
._61st-75th min: 1 (1)
...76th-90+ min: 1 (0)
No goal scored: 3 (0)

In the complete history of WC finals (both eras), there has only ever been 1 game that's opened its scoring with a goal between the 28th & 54th minutes (the 38th minute of the 1978 final, by the team playing on home soil, Argentina). And man what a difference between eras: 60% of the old era finals opening their scoring inside the first 15 minutes, compared to only 11% of the modern era finals.
Concerning the modern era, 33% of the opening goals come inside the first half-hour; 33% of the opening goals have come sometime in the 2h, and 33% of the time there's been no regulation time goals at all. The last 15 mins of the 1h has been an offensive desert from not only this angle, but also...

Looking now at not just the opening goals but at the time spacing of all the goals scored in the modern era finals...

..1st 30 minutes: 4 goals / 30.77%
2nd 30 minutes: 2 goals / 15.38%
.3rd 30 minutes: 7 goals / 53.85%

This pretty much aligns with the 1st goal chart, since the desert that is the 31st-45th min 'zone' for opening goals in involved in the 2nd 30 minute 'zone' here. The middle half-hour has been an offensive desert, while the back-end of games have seen most of the fireworks. To rearrange this chart into more specific minutes...

...1st-27th min: 4 goals / 30.77% of the goals in 30.00% of total playing time
28th-77th min: 3 goals / 23.08% of the goals in 55.55% of total playing time
.78th-90+ min: 6 goals / 46.15% of the goals in 14.44% of total playing time

The first period is perfectly aligned: the total number of 'early-ish' goals scored matches the total amount of time they took to occur in. Beyond that things get wacky. The vast middle period of these finals have been offensively challenged, followed by the rush to make up for that come the winding down of the game. Once we hit 15 mins to go, betting the current live total line Over has been money (of the 4 European hosted finals in the modern era, 3 have had goals scored in the final 8 minutes). Only 1 of the 5 modern era finals to have had a 0-0 h/t scoreline has failed to deliver a goal past the 75 min mark (scored in either regulation time or the following 30 mins ET). The exception is the only final to have been played on US soil (Americans got the result they dreaded: no goals scored before a shoot-out, lol).

(3) Half Scoring considerations

1st Half scoring in the modern era (Euro hosted, then non-Euro hosted in brackets)

0 goals: 2 (4) ... 2 goalless
..1 goal: 0 (1)
2 goals: 2 (0) ... 2 w/goals = 50% have involved scoring

2nd Half scoring in the modern era (Euro hosted, then non-Euro hosted in brackets)

0 goals: 1 (3) ... 1 goalless
..1 goal: 2 (0)
2 goals: 0 (1)
3 goals: 1 (1) ... 3 w/goals = 75% have involved scoring

The first thing that strikes me here is, there's never been a 1-goal first half in a modern era final on European soil (this extends into old era finals as well: in the 10 finals hosted on Euro soil none have seen a 1h total 1 goal. This is simply a bizarre stat; by comparison, 2 of 9 non-Euro finals have involved 1-goal 1h). Also, while there's been 6 scoreless 1h, 66% of those have come in non-Euro finals.

Finally, just an all-era finals observation on scoreless 2nd halves: Up until and including 2002's final, only 2 of 16 finals had involved a scoreless 2h. Every final since ('06, '10, '14) has seen no 2h scoring. At the point where the count was only 2/16, one could understand a results regression occurring to even things up a bit (a 12.5% rate is low), but at 3 straight I'd say with confidence we've hit a saturation point (a rate in excess of 25% is high; 5/19 = 26.3%). There will be a 2h goal in this coming final.
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CTG Big Brother Moderator
Staff member
I looked at the historical stats through the lens of how each of our two finalists contrived to find their way into the final. It's not hard to identify the 3 areas that have supplied long standing sign posts regarding a team's chances for the final: offense, defense and the nature of their wins. Before I get into specifics, let me say out front that historically speaking Croatia is the worst/luckiest WC finalist in the history of the event (certainly in the modern era), while France's achievements puts them amongst the best. This isn't only a mismatch on paper, it's a mismatch through the lens of history re assessing the nature of pre-final results.

Finally, before I start I realise that some angles that could always be framed in such a way as to appear as a defensive concern or an offensive concern. For example: if a team fails to consistently score 1st, is the issue an offensive one (why can't we score 1st?), or is it a defensive issue (why do we always concede 1st?). I've dealt with things that allow for a clear alignment with past history.

Before I cover the historical angles that stood out for me, I'll note here the one angle that one have expected to anticipate a finals winner simply showed no such correlation: that being total reg. time goals scored in knockout games prior to the final being played. For instance, France has a 7-3 lead over Croatia on that front headed into this final. Surely that anticipates a good final outcome for the French, no? Not historically speaking. Brazil entered the 1998 final with an 8-2 lead over the French, and they couldn't score once in 90 minutes. Holland had a 7-3 lead over Spain headed into the 2010 final, and they couldn't even score in 120 minutes. Germany had an 8-1 lead over Argentina headed into the 2014 final and they too couldn't score in 90 minutes (though off their peak SF effort of putting up 7 vs. Brazil on Brazilian soil, that they were flat offensively in the final at least has some basis by which it can be understood. Brazil and Holland had no such excuse to fall back on, given neither were off SF wins that could be similarly categorized). So, it's not about looking at the surface picture of total offense, but rather specific and important aspects of it.

(1) WC Finals involving teams who managed to score the 1st goal (be it in reg. time or 30 mins ET) in all of their R16/QF/SF games vs. teams who did not (team that ended up winning the final I've bolded)...

2018 - France vs. Croatia (failed to do so in R16 & QF & SF)
2010 - Spain vs. Holland (failed to do so in QF)
2006 - Italy vs. France (failed to do so in R16)
2002 - Germany vs. Brazil (failed to do so in QF)
1994 - Brazil vs. Italy (failed to do so in R16)
1990 - Germany vs. Argentina (failed to do so in QF & SF)
1986 - Argentina vs. Germany (failed to do so in QF)
1938 - Italy vs. Hungary (failed to do so in SF)

So, teams heading into a final conceding this particular 1st scoring deficit to their opponent have a 1-6 finals record. The one exception (2002) involved the greatest performing WC team of all-time taking on arguably the weakest ever German team in the modern era to make the final. Outside of this, the next most noticeable thing is that only one finalist failed at this task more than once (Argie in '90), and none failed more than twice. Croatia has failed to do so thrice. This is history-making/breaking offensive (or defensive, take your pick) futility that we've been witness to. Usually such ineptness at getting ahead hasn't been good enough to sneak beyond the SF stage, but two massive upsets (Germany's & Spain's departures from appearing in the Croat's side of the draw) set the stage for such offensive weakness to have it's day in the sunlight of the final.

(2) WC Finals involving teams who managed to score more than 1 reg. time goal in at least one knockout match vs. teams who did not (numbers in brackets represent R16 then QF then SF goal tallies / team that ended up winning the final I've bolded)...

2018 - ......France (4, 2, 1) vs. ....._Croatia (1, 1, 1)
2014 - Germany (0, 1, 7) vs. .Argentina (0, 1, 0) ... neither team scored in reg. time in the final
2010 - ....Holland (2, 2, 3) vs. .._..._Spain (1, 1, 1) ... neither team scored in reg. time in the final
2002 - ........Brazil (2, 2, 1) vs. ..Germany (1, 1, 1) ... Germany didn't score in reg. time in the final
1990 - .Germany (2, 1, 1) vs. Argentina (1, 0, 1) ... Argentina didn't score in reg. time in the final

A Finals record of 1-3 for the sides whose offenses haven't amounted to much in 3 knockout matches before said final. The one exception? Unlike Croatia, the 2010 Spanish side didn't conceded a goal in any KO match before the final (Croatia has conceded one in every game); Spain scored 1st in every KO match before the final (a feat Croatia hasn't managed once); and that Spanish side was also the current ('08) European champions at the time (where Croatia obv. isn't here). So, there's simply no comparison at all in quality between Croatia & the one exception to overcome the offensive futility this angle represents to winning the WC final, except to add that Spain's offense (along with the other 3 teams who shared this feat in off. futility) wasn't good enough to score in the reg. 90 min of the final itself. This angle anticipates consistently poorly performing offenses to blow fat ones come final time.

(3) WC Finals in the modern era involving teams who scored 2 or more combined 2h goals in their QF+SF vs. teams who could only score 1 or less (total 2h goals in brackets / team that ended up winning the final I've bolded)...

2018 - ........France (2) vs. ._...Croatia (1)
2014 - _Germany (2) vs. Argentina (0)
2006 - ......._...Italy (2) vs. .......France (1)
2002 - ......._Brazil (2) vs. _Germany (1)
1994 - ......._Brazil (4) vs. ............Italy (1)
1986 - Argentina (4) vs. ..Germany (1)

2h goals are about grabbing late winners (or killing a team off) when one doesn't have anything like a full tank of gas left. In 3 knockout matches Croatia has failed to deliver a late winner in any 2h which otherwise would've saved their legs from ET. France on the other hand has done so twice (though in one match that this category doesn't cover, R16). No finalist in the modern era that's failed in this task over their two prior games has won the WC final. 4 of those 5 losing finalists couldn't score a 2h reg. time goal in the final itself (you have to go back 32 years to find the exception).

Looking beyond just the modern era & the offensive futility stipulation (1 goal or less), there have been 13 instances where one team has entered the final having scored more 2h reg. time goals over the QF+SF stages than their opponent managed. The regulation time record for those 13 teams in the final? 7 wins, 5 draws & 1 loss.

Only 1 loss through 90 minutes over 13 finals.

The sole exception? 1998 when the French won on home soil. Vive la France!
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CTG Big Brother Moderator
Staff member

(1) WC Finals involving teams who conceded a reg. time goal every knockout match played vs. teams who did not (numbers in brackets represent R16 then QF then SF goals conceded / team that ended up winning the final I've bolded)...

2018 - . Croatia (1, 1, 1) vs. France (3, 0, 0)
2010 - Holland (1, 1, 2) vs. ..Spain (0, 0, 0)
1998 - .....Brazil (1, 2, 1) vs. France (0, 0, 1)
1994 - .......Italy (1, 1, 1) vs. ...Brazil (0, 2, 0)

Teams with consistently leaky defenses have not fared well in WC finals. While one might observe this to be a very small stat pool to draw many conclusions from, that fact actually emphasizes matters. Teams which have entered semi-finals having conceded goals in the R16 & QF stages, and then conceded again in the SF itself simply have little history of winning through to the final. It's rare, because leaky defenses rarely find consistent success in WC knockout phases. Once again the Croats defy a WC historical trend, and once again it's primarily down to the fact of the two huge upsets which affected their side of the draw (as well as their SF opponent pretty much snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Horrible finishing in the 1h to potentially put the game to bed; horrible 2h game management; horrible defending in ET for the winning goal. Just horrible. Will the French be as godawful? There are nice odds on offer if someone thinks so).

(2) WC Finals involving teams who could keep at least 1 clean sheet for the reg. 90 mins in a QF &/or SF match vs. teams who couldn't (numbers in brackets represent the number of clean sheets / teams that ended up winning the final I've bolded)...

2018 - .......France (2) vs. ..Croatia (0)
2010 - ..-....Spain (2) vs. .Holland (0)
1998 - ......France (1) vs. ......Brazil (0)
1994 - ........Brazil (1) vs. ......_Italy (0)
1962 - ......-Czech (1) vs. .....Brazil (0)
1954 - Germany (1) vs. Hungary (0)
1938 - ..Hungary (1) vs. ........Italy (0)
1934 - ..........Italy (2) vs. .....Czech (0)

While there are two exceptions to buck the finals doom that this defensive deficiency otherwise strongly points to, one should note the important fact that both of those occurred in the 'old era' (when more goals were scored thus teams knew they could afford to concede a goal and not immediately be in big trouble in a QF or SF. For those unaware, a team down 3-0 inside the first half hour of a QF match played in 1966 went on to win by 2 clear goals). Also, neither of the exceptions involved have more than a one clean sheet deficit to what their finals opponents managed. There are no exceptions to have won facing a deficit greater than what applies for this coming final.


Nature of Victories

(1) WC Finals involving one team that played in more ET periods over their QF+SF games than what their finals opponent did (numbers in brackets represent number of ET games played / team that ended up winning the final I've bolded)...

2018 - --....France (0) vs. ......Croatia (2)
2014 - -Germany (0) vs. Argentina (1)
2006 - ...-._France (0) vs. .......... Italy (1)
1990 - ..Germany (1) vs. Argentina (2)
1986 - Argentina (0) vs. ..Germany (1)
1970 - ....___Brazil (0) vs. ...........Italy (1)
1954 - ..Germany (0) vs. ._Hungary (1)

Note: Italy had to replay a QF draw in 1934, but because of that they ended up getting almost a full week's rest from the time of the end of their SF (3rd June) until the final was played (10th June). Thus the more-than-normal time off nullifies what was an even more taxing experience than a mere ET period, where their opponent had to play in no such replays (ET).

This one is captain obvious stuff. It's no advantage to have played in more ET matches than your opponent, and most such opponents here share with France the fact that they required no ET at all in their QF or SF matches. But we do have an exception. What happened in that match? The talisman player for the losers (the WC hero from 8 years before) got red carded, and subsequent to that event they ended up losing on penalties. Also to note: that sole exception only played in one more ET match than their opponent did. Croatia has played in 2 more than France over the QF+SF stages: none of the disparities represented on this list exceed more than 1 ET match.
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CTG Big Brother Moderator
Staff member
Sometimes David beats Goliath. More often than not Goliath beats the living daylights out of David. Given the plethora of historical WC playoff trends which strongly point to a French final win that I've posted above, I decided to look at not only modern WC upsets but also Euro ones (given there's so few of the former) to see it what was that made for the upset concerned.

Portugal over France in the 2016 Euros final
Portugal's offense was poor at best (they scored 3 reg. time goals in 4 knockout matches), but naturally to compensate for this they put up supreme defensive efforts. They conceded all of 1 knockout match goal in winning that tournament. Castigate their quality as a side all you want, you manage that feat in a WC or Euro (for even just the R16, QF & SF phase, never mind the final as well) and you're a friggin clinical, well-drilled defensive unit. So, Portugal lived up to the axoim, defense wins championships. As for France, they trailed at h/t in their R16 game (never a good omen for any team to have trailed at h/t in any KO match prior to the final), and they delivered a peak performance in winning their SF against the then current WC champions (winning by 2 goals to nil). Add in what, given hindsight, must have affected them re a final on home soil pressure, and a picture slowly emerges of what made for this result. Conjecture aside, Portugal won this final with defense: they kept France scoreless.

Greece over Portugal in the 2004 Euros final
Greece's offense wasn't much better than Portugal's in '16: never more than 1 reg. time goal scored in any game. But once again, clean sheets baby. They too didn't allow a single goal in a knock out game (though unlike Portugal there was no R16 phase in 2004). Still, once again they knelt before the axoim, defense wins championships. As for their opponent, Portugal - unlike the French - had never won a Euro title before so the pressure to capture their first, on home soil, against a team they were expected to comfortably beat all day, every day, must've played its part in their downfall. Also like the '16 French side, they failed to score. Greece's defense won the day.

France over Brazil in the 1998 WC final
The French conceded 1 goal in their 4 knockout matches of that WC, so let's cut straight to the chase: here's yet another dog kneeling before the altar of the axoim which needs no further repeating. Brazil on the other hand had (just like Croatia) conceded goals in all 3 of their pre-final KO matches; a very bad omen. Of course the French team here also played the final on home soil, but was a side that was experienced: avg. age of 28+ years, youngest (2) players being 26, so obviously they were mature enough to handle the pressure. Also, France had suffered a big scare in the SF (going down 1-0 to a 2h goal by Croatia), and sometimes when you feel the worst that can happen to you happens and you come through it, it can lead to a supreme confidence about facing whatever comes next in the wake of such an experience. I'd posit that SF test of their mettle served them in the subsequent final (yes, Croatia suffered a similar scare in their SF and I fully recognise that their experience may well end up serving them positively in the coming final - it's not like they have nothing going for them - but they had 85 minutes after England scored to find an equalizer whereas France had just 44 mins to do so. Also, the French replied inside of 2 minutes to conceding, that's how good slash clinical they were. Croatia took over an hour to reply against an English team nowhere near as good as the opponent France played. There are more differences, but suffice to say the two efforts do not point to these two sides "being similar" in quality).

Those are the only three real upsets that I can locate involving a format close to such as applies to this WC. Denmark beating Germany at the 1992 Euros was also a decent upset, but back then that tournament was hosted in Sweden so it couldn't get much closer to home for the Danes, and more importantly it only involved 8 teams which led to a mere SF/F format for the knockout stage (1996 introduced the QF stage, and it's since then that I looked for finals upsets in that tournament). To me the fewer number of knockout matches required to be played means the more chance a well prepared dog has to catch the fave on the hop. A QF+SF+F format (and esp. w/the R16 as well) allows the stronger/favoured teams much more time to find their rhythm and really start to hum as a unit, so by the time the final rolls round they make for a far harder side to topple (unless they have injury worries). Thus I struggle to find any WC Final result in the modern era that could be considered the kind of upset that matches the 2 Euro ones I've highlighted. Most of the unfancied WC teams achieve the highest of heights by simply making the semis, then they get dispatched by the now-humming stronger teams. Once again, the 2 big upsets in this WC have subverted that norm from taking place here. The biggest SF upset I can immediately recall is Argentina winning against Italy in 1990, but of course the Argies not only didn't score in the final that followed but they had 2 men sent off they were so out of their depth. Negative ugly fuckers played awful just to stymie the German offense while trying to get the match to penalties. They deserved to lose (God that was a boring watch to get up in the middle of the night for).

So, I see few similarities defensively-speaking with Croatia and the 3 sides I've highlighted here who generated these upsets, and there's no argument those results were built on the back of defense. As for the favourites who lost, this French team has recently lost a big one thus have that experience ("you've got to lose one in order to win one") to bring to bear on this final where that '16 French side and '04 Portuguese side did not (at least that I'm aware of/can find). Regarding the '98 Brazilian side, this French team's defense has kept 2 clean sheets whereas that Brazilian side managed not one (just like... you guessed it, Croatia). Defense wins 'ships. Managed a clean sheet before the final? is a question that few future finals winners have been unable to answer in the affirmative.

I've various straight & parlayed bets already (I never go big pre-match anymore, & SF beating the Cubs in 13 has closed up the other end of the parlays)

France ml (par & straight)
France to score in both halves (par)
France to score their 1st goal in the 1h (par)
o0.5 goals 1h (straight)

Will hunt more live, especially (as I noted in the opening post) a goal to be scored in the 2h if & when the price gets good enough (game score dependent, of course).
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