The Influence of Distance on National Teams’ Performance

Only four years have passed since the victory of the national team of Germany in Brazil, which brought down a “norm” of the World Cup history. In that way, Germans became the first ever European national team that wins the trophy when the competition takes place in Latin America. The distance remains a merciless foe for all the competitors of the title, even for the greatest national teams of all time.


The purpose of this research focuses on the collection of data from four major national teams with rich football history. The researcher will take into account all the data that are revolved around the distance and the results, which will configure a certain profile for each one of these teams. In fact, the main objective of the research is to compare a decent number of stats, so as the researcher to be able to answer the following questions: Where did the teams have better results? In short or in long distance away from their countries? The results of the research will be obtained through the analysis of his collected historical data.


It might seem negligible but distance always was a major indicator of success or failure in a World Cup. Especially, in the past, when the players were visiting countries from other Continents rarely. Nowadays, the commercialization of football has made players to be transferred to every corner of the globe, by reducing the supporters of that theory.


For the purposes of the research, the historical data from four of the most successful national teams will be collected and analyzed. More precisely, the performances of Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Italy will be examined, individually, in all World Cup competitions they participated, since 1958.

Additionally, different weights will be introduced to the data, by producing a certain score for each one of these teams. The distance in kilometers between the home country and the country that hosted the World Cup will also be included. By dividing the score of each team with the distance, a ration will emerge. All the competitions that these four countries hosted are excluded from the research, as the hosted countries, traditionally, perform over the average.

At this point, it is essential to mention that the data analyzation starts from 1958, because previously the formation of the World Cup was different, concerning the point system and the match fixtures. From 1958 to 1990, the win was providing two points and the draw one point, in the group stage. For this reason, from 1958 to 1990, all the wins are considered as three points for the needs of the research. In case that there was no round of 16 or quarterfinals in a competition, it will be assumed that there was.

Finally, the t-test method (Two-tailed, Heteroscedastic) will be used for checking if the distance constitutes a significant factor or not. The Null Hypothesis (H0) suggests the equality of two means mean1=mean2 and the confidence level is 90%.


“Seleção” has the most successful national team, as it has won the trophy of World Cup five times. However, after 1958, it reached to the glory everywhere around the world except Europe.

The ratio of Brazil per World Cup is presented through the graph. Since 1958, Brazil has permanent participation. Except from the competitions of Sweden and France, Brazil’s performances in the European Continent is not as effective as in America or elsewhere. The fact that three out of five trophies have been acquired in America (Chile, Mexico, U.S.A) enhance this belief.

For reaching to safer conclusions about this theory, the competitions in which Brazil has participated will be separated regarding the distance (8685 km or more, 8685 km or less). The p-value is estimated at 0.153 which does not reject the Null Hypothesis so the two means have no statistical difference, which means that distance does not influence the performance of the Brazilian team.


The “Albiceleste” has two World Cup trophies and two times has failed in finals. It is typical that three out of four finals it has participated took place in America (Argentina, Mexico, Brazil) and only one in Europe (Italy).

In this graph, the performance of Argentina is illustrated, except from the World Cup of 1970 (no participance) and 1978 (in Argentina). The Latins have a great tradition when the competition takes place in their Continent. Their best performances were in Mexico (1986) and four years ago in Brazil (2014).

By separating the distances to 9037 km or more and 9037 km or less, the findings are quite interesting. The p-value is estimated at 0,085 which rejects the Null Hypothesis so the two means have statistical difference. The fact that they have not reached the final since 1990, in Italy, confirms those who believe that away from America, Argentina does not have any chance to win the World Cup.


The “NationalMannschaft” is the second most successful national team in World Cup history. It has four trophies and many participations in finals. Together with Italy, they are sharing the title of the best European team in the competition.

The ration of Germany imprints the overall opinion that it always plays a leading role in each competition. Even its “bad” performances cannot be considered as failures, as it reached the semi-finals nine times and the final six times, since 1958 (excluding the competitions of 1974 and 2006 in Germany). But how about its performance in long and short distances?

In case of Germany, the distance is segregated to 6253 km or more and 6253 or less. The p-value is estimated at 0,067 which rejects the Null Hypothesis so the two means have statistical difference. In other words, the closer a competition takes place, the more likely is for Germany to win the trophy.


The Azzurri share the title of the most successful European national team with Germany. It has won the World Cup four times in six attempts, one of the greatest rates in the history of the Cup.

This graph depicts the common belief that the Italians cannot perform in high standards away from Europe. Since 1962, in Chile, their best performances have taken place in Europe. In 1958 they failed to be qualified to the competition, as well as this time in Russia, after 60 years.

Again, the t-test will provide the answer to these theories. The distance will be separated to 6062 km or more and 6062 km or less. The p-value is estimated at 0,0869 which rejects the Null Hypothesis so the two means have statistical difference. That means that Italy prays for competitions to close distance, for having chances to play a major role in it.


Undoubtedly, the distance influences the majority of the teams that participate in a World Cup competition. The climate, the weather and many other factors have different impacts to each player. The Brazilians seem to be affected the least, in comparison with the other teams that are examined in this research. Germany won the title in Brazil, however it performs more effectively in Europe. In the end, Argentina and Italy cannot stand away from their Continents, by showing signs of insecurity.


To sum up, in this research the influence of distance on the performance of four of the best national teams in football history was developed. The conclusion of the researcher is that the distance still influences the performance of a team. Nevertheless, the example of Brazil demonstrates that this tension is about to extinct soon, as the global football market is evolved.


Sakellaris, D. (2018). male-vs-female-footballers. [online] Statathlon: Revolutionize the Sport. Available at: [Accessed 6 Jun. 2018]. (2018). FIFA World Cup 1962 – Historical Football Kits. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Jun. 2018]. (2018). 1966 FIFA World Cup England ™ – Overview – [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018]. (2012). BBC – Tim Vickery: Argentina’s class of ’78 deserve respect. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Jun. 2018]. (2010). BBC – Jonathan Stevenson: The story of the 1970 World Cup. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jun. 2018]. (2014). FIFA World Cup™ Archive – [online] Available at: h [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].

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