Statistics and the Form of the Soccer Match

“Back in May, before I knew that academic statisticians were eavesdropping on my thoughts, I mused on Sport Is a TV Show that “judging the footballing abilities of two football teams is so difficult that football itself is often a bad way to do it.” I was writing about matches that end in penalty shootouts, but the thought applies just as well to matches in which one team plays better than the other team but loses anyway. As we all know, that’s not an uncommon occurrence—it happens much more in soccer than in any other sport I follow—which is one reason the soccer punditry is so zealous in proclaiming after every whether the winning team really deserved to win. Scoring in soccer is so much more difficult than scoring in other sports, and matches are so much more likely to come down to two or three individual moments, that there will always be an interesting gap between results and merit.” (Run of Play)

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