FIFA World Cup 2018: In-Game Performance vs Results

One of the most exciting World Cup in all times came to an end almost one week ago. During the 25 days of the tournament, 32 National Teams from around the globe competed each other providing the audience a unique experience. This research focuses on the In-Game performance of the National Teams. Did the French National team deserved to be the FIFA World Cup 2018 champion?

Abstract

Good In-Game performance does not always guarantees winning, especially in a closed tournament like the FIFA World Cup. In this document, the researcher examines whether the final results in the FIFA World Cup 2018 matches (excluding the Group Stage) tied with the actual In-Game Performance indexes that each team produced. To calculate each In-Game Performance index the researcher used the data and the methodologies for the Statathlon World Cup 2018 Project (Statathlon, 2018). The research includes 3 parts:

  • The 1st part compares the 16 national teams based on their In-Game Performance Index.
  • The 2nd Part, examines which Continent produced more spectacular football during the FIFA World Cup 2018.
  • The Final part, uses the Statistical Simulation algorithm that the team generated during the Statathlon World Cup 2018 Project. Which team would have won the FIFA World Cup if the In-Game performance determined the final result?

Introduction

The French National team secured the FIFA World Cup 2018 title, conquering the world of football after 20 years. This year’s tournament provided some exciting matches. It ranked second in goal productivity with only 1 out of 64 matches ended goalless (FIFA, 2018). Many teams, especially the ones that proceeded to knock-out phase were extremely structured with great attacking and defensing plans. The main focus of the researcher is to analyze whether the team that generated the best In-Game performance Index during the matches, finally won the trophy. In other words, which team based on the statistical performance inside the pitch deserved to be the FIFA World Cup 2018 champion?

Data Collection and methodology

  • The research focused only on the teams that have been qualified from the group stage and played at least one game in the knock-out phase. Therefore, the minimum number of testing matches for each National Team was 4.
  • To calculate the In-Game Performance indexes, the researcher used specific match statistical indexes that are available in the FIFA website (FIFA, 2018). No individual stats have been taken into account.
  • The weighted Statistical Factors that generated the In-Game Performance indexes are the following: “goals for”, “goals against”, “Yellow Cards for”, “Yellow Cards against”, “Red Cards for”, “Red Cards against”, “Pass Success for”, “Pass Success against”, “shots for”, “shots against”
  • The dataset of the 16 National teams has been normalized in order the comparisons between a National teams that played 7 matches and a National teams that played 4 matches to be statistically valid.

For more information regarding the process of the calculation of the In-Game Performance Indexes check out the FIFA World Cup 2018 Project (Statathlon, 2018).

Part I: The In-Game Performance Comparison

The graph below illustrates the comparison between the National teams providing some very interesting insights regarding the In-Game performance they had during the FIFA World Cup 2018 matches.

The Brazilian National Team generated the best In-Game Performance Index providing a unique football experience during the matches in the FIFA World Cup 2018. The team attempted 80 shots in 5 matches (160% more than the tournament’s average). Yet, the lack of scoring effectiveness did not allow the team to proceed to the semi-final stage. Brazil lost in the Quarter-Finals by Belgium (1-2)

Another very interesting insight refers to Spain. The European side of Spanish National Team produced a very appealing football plan, dominating the ball possession and creating multiple chances in four matches. The team was also unlucky, because even though the team’s In-Game performance was great, the lack of effectiveness costed the team the qualification to the Quarter-Finals. The 3rd and the 4th best In-Game performance indexes generated by the two FIFA World Cup Finalists, France and Croatia.

Finally, 5 out of 16 national teams produced negative In-Game performance indexes. Four of those teams eliminated in the 1st knockout stage, except Russia. The host country of the FIFA World Cup 2018 reached the Quarter-Finals even though the quality of football that the team produced was not as great compared to the other 7 competitors. 

Part II: The Inter-continental In-Game Performance Index Comparison

Brazil from Americas and Spain from Europe produced the best In-Game performance indexes during the FIFA World Cup 2018 even though they did not reach to the end. This part focuses on the comparison between the two Continents with at least two teams in the knock-out phase.

The graph above illustrates the In-Game comparison between the teams from the American Continent that have reached at least the first Knock-out match. It is very interesting that Brazil’s In-Game Performance index was 256% better than the average of the national team’s from the same continent. Another interesting fact is that the American Continent had in its category group the best In-Game performance Index (Brazil) and worst index (Mexico).

European teams’ comparison is also very interesting. As the first part unveiled, Spain generated the best In-Game Performance index, followed by the two FIFA World Cup Finalists France and Croatia. The Spanish National team produced 222% better In-Game performance Index from the average of the European National teams and 82% better score than the FIFA World Cup 2018 Champions, France (88% more than Croatia).

Finally, the Inter-Continental comparison shows that even though there was no National team from the American Continent in the Semi-Finals, the average In-Game Performance from the American teams was 16% better than the European Index (Both samples are highly skewed around the two leading countries, Spain and Brazil). In other words, the football from the American national teams was much more structured, appealing and less effective during the FIFA World Cup 2018.

Part III: The FIFA World Cup 2018 Simulation using the In-Game Performance Indexes

This part is focused on rerunning the whole FIFA World Cup 2018 Knock-out stages using as parameters the above index scores divided per possible result.

During the FIFA world Cup Project, the simulation was based also on the Preliminaries that the teams played to reach the FIFA World Cup 2018. In this research, the probabilities are getting generated taking into account only the In-Game Performance of the National teams during the FIFA World Cup 2018.

The statistical probabilistic algorithm has been created and tested using the R Programming Language. For each match, the teams generated a score for each result. These scores were added based on the three possible results (WinTeam1+LossTeam2, DrawTeam1+DrawTeam2 and WinTeam2+Loss Team1). The algorithm simulated the match 1,000,000 times and extracted a number within the summed range of the 6 generated numbers for each match. To clarify the winner (Qualified Team), the researcher examined the exact spot that the average generated number was placed.

The 1st Knock-out Stage matches followed by the National teams that they qualified to the Quarter-Finals are the following:

MatchQualified Team
France - ArgentinaFrance
Uruguay - PortugalPortugal
Spain - RussiaSpain
Croatia - DenmarkDenmark
Brazil - MexicoBrazil
Belgium - JapanBelgium
Sweden - SwitzerlandSweden
Colombia - EnglandEngland

From the results, it is very interesting that the FIFA World Cup Finalist, Croatia, is getting eliminated by Denmark. Moreover, Portugal succeeded to eliminate the National team of Uruguay.

The Quarter-Final matches followed by the National teams that they qualified to the Quarter-Finals are the following:

Team1 - Team2Qualified Team
France - PortugalFrance
Spain - DenmarkSpain
Sweden - EnglandSweden
Belgium - BrazilBrazil

From the Results, is very interesting that the Spain proceeded over the National Team of Denmark. Besides, Brazil eliminates Belgium and Sweden eliminates England.

The Semi-Final matches followed by the National teams that they qualified to the Quarter-Finals are the following:

Team1 - Team2Qualified Team
France - BrazilBrazil
Sweden - SpainSpain

The results above, show that neither France nor Croatia would have been qualified to the final if the In-Game performance was the only factor that would have secured the outcome of a match. The final between Spain and Brazil was actually the final between the number 1 and the number 2 in the In-Game Performance rankings illustrated in Part I.

The two finals in the simulation of the FIFA World Cup 2018 are the following:

Team1 - Team2Winner
Spain - BrazilSpain
France - SwedenFrance

The Full simulation of the FIFA World Cup 2018 based on In-Game Performance Indexes, promoted Spain as the World Champion of In-Game Performance. The Spanish National Team was ranked 2nd in the indexes in Part I and secured the title in the simulation using the probabilistic algorithm that has been created for the purposes of the FIFA World Cup 2018 Project (Statathlon, 2018).

Results and Discussion

The statistical Analysis regarding the In-Game Performance index provided some very interesting insights regarding the FIFA World Cup 2018. Even though France succeeded to score 11 goals in 4 matches during the knock-out stage, securing the FIFA World Cup title, the quality of the football the team generated was only marked as 3rd best between the 16 teams. Is it also very interesting that Spain, the team that was eliminated from Russia in the 1st knock-out phase, is ranked as the second best National team in terms of In-Game Performance securing also the title in the simulated process that has been run during the part III.

Summary

FIFA World Cup is a closed and very stiff competition. Even though there are some very well-structured and prepared teams, the results are not always anticipated. Brazil and Spain are the two most indicative examples. The tournament also provides some very interesting outliers. Russia for example, that during FIFA World Cup 2018 remained undefeated in the knock-out stage while having negative In-Game Performance index. The next FIFA World Cup is in 4.5 years in Qatar. The best advice for the coaching staffs using the above analysis is to better be prepared to secure results than apply good and appealing football if their goal is to reach as far as they could in the tournament.


Bibliography

FIFA, 2018. World Cup Statistics. [Online]
Available at: https://goo.gl/GTjJkF

Statathlon, 2018. FIFA World Cup 2018 Project. [Online]
Available at: https://goo.gl/WNPA1R

Energy and Persistence conquer all things according to Ben. Franklin. Statathlon for me combines my two lifelong passions: sports and science. Statathlon will be successful because all of us in the team are determined to seize every moment and every opportunity that either we see or create from scratch.

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