We have made it, 35 vintage and memorable World Cup matches have been thoroughly reviewed and analysed. Five glorious tournaments have been added from 1998 through to 2014. This has spanned four continents and six host countries. It has seen some incredible shocks, some thrillers, goal fests, red cards, controversies and shambles. We’ve seen records broken, looked at a couple of fan theories and, of course, delved into the sheer bastardry of Luis Suarez. This is The World Cup Calendar end of series statistical review. It is unashamedly filler, written mainly to answer a few questions that I have been pondering myself for a while, but hey, it can still be an alright read.
The World Cups have featured a great many teams over the last five tournaments. Each tournament followed the same standard formula, 32 teams split into groups of four, the top two progressing from their group to the Round of 16, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Finals. 61 nations have filled those spaces over the years. Some teams, such as Brazil, have participated in all five tournaments, others, such as Trinidad and Tobago, have only competed once. A particularly interesting anomaly is the nation of Serbia, and in particular their former captain, Dejan Stankovic. They were a country who had been in a series of political upheaval for years, and the nation of Yugoslavia split into various small nations, including Serbia and Montenegro. Serbia and Montenegro then split into two independent nations after the 2006 World Cup. So of the 61 nations that have played in the World Cup since the start of the 1998 tournament, Dejan Stankovic has played for three of them.
The continental breakdown is interesting too, with some nations being serial contenders at the World Cup. The deck is stacked, with Europe having so many nations competing. Of the 61 nations that have competed since France ’98, Europe have had 29 participants. Africa have had the second highest number of participants, with 11. South America have had seven participants during the time period, with only Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia missing out from that region. North America have had six participants, as have Asia. Oceania have had two participants, Australia and New Zealand. I have put Australia down as an Oceanic team, as they first qualified for World Cup 2006 from the Oceanic region, however, they have since qualified for 2010 and 2014 through the Asian qualifying system.
This has been the story of the World Cup 1998-2014 as a whole, but as we all know, The World Cup Calendar didn’t feature every match on every date of every year. No, we picked a select game daily, of most excitement or interest. So let’s now look with more detail at the teams featured during this series.
Firstly, a breakdown of the featured games by tournament. The France ’98 tournament featured seven out of our 35 games. 2002 Korea/Japan involved only four games. It is worth noting that the tournament kicked off over a week early than most World Cups, therefore a chunk of the group games were cut off before our opening game on June 9th. World Cup 2006 was my favourite World Cup to date. Despite this, only seven games were selected from this, probably due to me trying hard to pick the best games on a whole rather than specifically my favourites. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was my least favourite tournament, yet featured nine games in this series. The most recent tournament, Brazil ’14, showcased eight matches.
Of the 61 teams that have played their part in the rich history of the World Cups of the past five occasions, 27 teams featured in the World Cup Calendar, hailing from six continents. The 35 games meant that 70 individual teams would play. Brazil featured the most, with ten appearances. Such was their prominence that they even inspired their own mini-series, the Brazilian Chronicles, a trilogy which featured The Ronaldinho Show, The Ronaldo Show and The Rivaldo Show. The Netherlands and Germany were the second top features with seven appearances a piece. Italy and the Uruguay had five appearances while France and England had four each. The biggest shock may have been lowly Costa Rica amassing three appearances, although with their boisterous endeavours during 2014, this may not be as big a surprise as it seemed.
The actual team to feature most was Brazil’s 1998 side, as they beat Scotland, Denmark and the Netherlands before losing the final to France. Brazil’s 2014 side and Uruguay’s 2010 side was second with three appearances. The rest of the teams made one or two appearances during the time period.
As I said during The World Cup Calendar preview, one of the few benefits of being a Scotland supporter is that I get to poke fun at England’s far too frequent eliminations. England featured four times during the series, losing on all four occasions. Three of these loses resulted in tournament elimination, to Brazil in 2002, to Portugal in 2006 and to Germany in 2010. Their other loss was to Romania in the groups in 1998.
The 35 games featured in The World Cup Calendar brought about a grand total of 95 goals, a feat made even more impressive due to the fact that four of the matches finished 0-0. These 35 games also contained thirteen red cards, including four in one match – Portugal v Netherlands in 2006. With so many of our games being knockout matches (21/35), it was surprising to find that only six of the games resulted in a penalty shootout. Despite my dislike for the South African World Cup, games from that tournament brought about the most goals, with 27. The 2002 World Cup only provided 11 goals, although with only four games selected from this tournament, this is not a bad average. There were a great many goals scored during the World Cup, and yet of the 95 scored, only one was an own goal, scored by Scotland’s Tommy Boyd, against Brazil in 1998.
On a final note, there are two themes that had regularity throughout this series. Firstly, the bane of World Cup 2010, the vuvezela. 11 separate times I wrote disparaging comments towards the godforsaken things. Quite frankly, I thought that that total was nearer the hundred mark! Secondly, Luis Suarez. Two matches were dedicated almost exclusively to him. He was named as a bastard on four separate occasions during this series. I like Suarez, he is a player of the highest calibre, but I stand by what I said. Total bastard.
So, valued reader. I am all out of stats. I am all out of games. The World Cup Calendar is officially finished. What a pleasure it has been to research and write up this. The concept just popped into my head one evening quite by chance. I spent far too long trying to come up with a name for it, changing my mind frequently before landing on The World Cup Calendar. To read match reports, watch highlights (often in foreign languages, frustratingly) and to write up and proofread each individual article, I take approximately 2.5 hours. This means that I have taken approximately 87.5 hours out of my life since June the 9th to write up this series. It has been tough at points, due to conflicting work commitments. That being said, I am absolutely thrilled to have been able to put this series together, and would like to take the time to thank Chris Darwen and all the team at FMG for allowing me the opportunity to share my World Cup views and opinions. I’ve reviewed some good games, some bad games, some great goals and some scandalous situations. I hope that in the absence of a major football tournament this summer that The World Cup Calendar has gone some way to filling the void. I’ll conclude with the same sentiment in which I started the series with: I bloody love the World Cup. Roll on Russia 2018!