A World Cup of late goals, penalties, own goals and unexpected results?

Posted on July 11th, 2018   

The 2018 World Cup is drawing to a close. It’s been a very interesting and dramatic tournament to follow.

There has been a lot of discussion on how this World Cup stands out in terms of the nature of the goals scored. In particular, there is a lot of discussion around the increased number of penalty goals, own goals and late goals in the game. This begs the question: Are there really more of these types of goals and how do the own goal, penalty and late goal rate compared to the Premier League?

The graph below shows the distribution of goal times in a game. This World Cup, 14.3% of all goals scored were scored after the 90th minute! To provide some context, in the Premier League, only 5.1% of all goals are scored after the 90th minute.

The table below compares the goal rate this World Cup as well as the number and proportion of penalties, own goals and late goals.


The overall number of goals per match this World Cup is slightly lower than the 2014 World Cup, and around 10% lower that the average number of goals in a Premier League match. The distribution of types of goals is quite different to the Premier League, however. 16% of all goals this World Cup have been penalties (compared to the 6.8% observed in the Premier League), 20.5% of all goals have been own goals (compared to the 3.5% seen in the Premier League) and as stated earlier, there are 2.8 times as many goals scored after the 90th minute as we observe in the Premier League.

Several people have also commented on the number of apparent surprising results. For example, Germany getting knocked out of the Group Stage, Russia beating Spain, Belgium beating Brazil, etc. Has this World Cup really had more surprising results than previous ones? The graph below compares how unpredictable the results of the competition have been.

The number of unexpected results in this World Cup has been in line with the levels observed in previous World Cups, but more surprising than the Premier League. The World Cup with the most surprising results in the recent past is 2010 and the World Cup with the least surprising results has been in 2006.

It looks like this really is a World Cup of late goals, own goals and penalties, but the number of own goals is particularly remarkable. It wouldn’t surprise us if England – Croatia match tonight ends up being won by a 90th+ minute own goal or penalty!