The World Cup is over. Germany have won their 4th World Cup title, beating Argentina via a 115th-minute goal from substitute Mario Goetze, 1-0. For me this has been one of the most exciting World Cups I can remember. It has featured lots of goals (140 in total, equal to the highest number ever at a World Cup tournament, a record which was originally set in France in 1998) impressive highlights, and even some surprising upsets. In the end, the Final match provided a thoroughly entertaining game, which seemed as though it could have gone either way until Goetze’s brilliant effort 5 minutes from the end of extra time.
This year the best team has won the World Cup. Before you read my explanation as to why I believe this fact to be true, please put aside any potential biases you may have towards your favorite national team and/or player(s), as well as any opinion you may have about whether any of the games were “fixed”. My explanation will focus only on statistical analysis, which cannot be influenced by anything other than what the players do on the pitch, and because I do not personally support Germany or Argentina, you can consider my explanation and analysis to be as neutral as possible. Below is a summary of why Germany was the best team in this World Cup, and why they deserve to be crowned World Champions.
Several different studies done on soccer using match analysis data, including an in-depth analysis of the previous World Cup in South Africa in 2010, identified the following performance measures as being the best predictors of success in soccer games (listed in order from highest to lowest predictive value):
1. Shots on target
2. Total number of shots
3. Pass completion percentage
4. Percentage of ball possession
5. Number of total passes completed
Using these metrics on German team in the 2014 World Cup, it is not very difficult to see why they did so well in this year’s tournament. Germany had the 2nd-highest number of shots on target (at 71 only one shot behind Brazil’s 72); the 3rd most total number of shots (at 98 behind Brazil’s 111, and Argentina’s 105); the highest pass completion percentage (82%); the highest ball possession percentage (63%, with a high of 67.5% versus the U.S.A.); and the 2nd-highest pass completion percentage (at 82% tied with Spain and behind only Italy at 85%). Taken together these statistics paint a picture of German dominance at the 2014 World Cup. Today’s World Cup Final was not much different. In the game, Germany had 7 shots on target to Argentina’s 2; 10 total shots to equal Argentina’s 10; they completed 80% of their passes compared to Argentina’s 72%; held 60% of the ball possession to Argentina’s 40%, and completed 915 total passes to Argentina’s 568.
What makes Germany so uniquely dominant is that, unlike other possession-oriented teams like Spain and Italy, the Germans are able to keep a lot of the ball, while at the same time also out-shoot/out-score their opponents. Germany’s 18 goals scored at this World Cup (many of which were taken by world class strikers such as Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose, and the aforementioned Goetze) stands far above all others in the tournament (their closest rival was Holland with 15) and is a testament to their efficiency at both creating, and finishing, their scoring chances. This unique ability, combined with a solid defense and the man voted by FIFA as the tournament’s best goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer, made the 2014 German team the best in the world this year, and arguably one of the best of all time. The only question now is, what is the rest of the world going to do to stop them?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.