It’s flown by in a flurry of great football, bad refereeing and Luis Suarez jokes. 63 games down, one to go. And what a one it is.
Two giants of the world game going toe to toe in a fascinating final. After blowing Brazil away in Tuesday night’s stunning semi-final, Germany have the momentum and the reinforced stereotype of being a ruthlessly efficient team. In contrast, Argentina were far less spectacular against the Netherlands, but if they can recreate that display of dour discipline – and who knows, maybe even get Lionel Messi on the ball in a dangerous position – they could potentially shock the Germans.
World Cup Finals are endlessly captivating. We’ve been stung by a few that provided all the entertainment of an episode of The Antiques Roadshow. They may not always be the most exciting, but they’re always unmissable. And surely The Antiques Roadshow will provide some gobsmacking drama one day. ‘Well, upon closer inspection, it would appear you have the mummified remains of Jesus Christ and thanks to modern technology, we can reanimate his corpse right now. If I was to put a value on it, I’d say it’s more a squillion-gazillion-billion-million-trillion pounds. Tune in next week, when we’ll be in Chichester.’
Yeah, Chichester – mental.
We have a general idea of what might happen, but there’s a multitude of ways in which we might end up at that destination. The Paddy Power Blog has whipped out the history books once again to have a look at what a typical World Cup final looks like.
The answer is, it can pretty much look like anything. Yeah, that’s not especially helpful. Splitting the 19 finals to date into four categories meant to encapsulate the notion of the ‘comfortable win’ all the way to the mega-tight, luck/skill of a penalty shoot out gives a healthy variety of styles.
With so much at stake, it would be easy for the sides to engage in some serious bus parking. We’ve certainly had that – the 1994 final being that hardest thing to watch pre-dating ‘Two Girls, One Cup’. But thankfully, that type of game has been far from universal in World Cup Finals.
Perhaps surprisingly, the most common victory is the ‘Two or more goals’ type – the admittedly vague category we use to imply a comparatively comfortable win. They represent 42% of all World Cup finals and what’s more, they’re fairly evenly spread throughout the history of the tournament.
If we are looking hard to find an emerging trend, then we could focus on the last 40 years of finals. Focus, but also squint and ignore the three finals that were won relatively comfortably. If we do that, we see a pattern emerging of closer finals:
- three won by a single goal
- two being decided in extra time
- two going to penalties
On average, they occur once in every two and a quarter-finals and considering, the last one came three finals ago in 2002 when Germany lost out to Brazil – the Germans are in good shape to record a similarly comfortable victory based on the absolute spanking they gave the hosts last Tuesday. Jogi Loew’s team are 11/2 to win the final by exactly two goals.
Wins by exactly one goal in normal time are less common. About one in four finals has been decided this way which may be on the low side if you expect finals to be tight affairs between teams of very similar abilities, or could be just about fine if you think that view is over-stated. Basically all the omens are pointing to Germany because West Germany were the last team to achieve that, way back in 1990 – when Rolf Harris was still a wholesome family entertainer, Maradona didn’t have his own gravitational pull and a club spending more than a million pounds on a player was considered mind-blowing.
Having said that, Argentina have won five of their six games at the World Cup by exactly one goal and the other one was the penalty shoot-out. If they are to upset the odds, it won’t be by a big margin and they’re a tempting 4/1 to win by exactly one goal.
It’s not conclusive, but don’t be surprised if it’s on the closer end of things, despite the vastly differing semi-final displays.
Aside from the general outcomes of the matches, there are a few other delicious stat-nuggets that might help.
- Five of the last six finals have been under the 2.5 goals mark
- The last three finals have all been draws at half time
- Nine of the previous 19 finals have finished 0-0
As with all stats, you can choose to view those in a couple of ways. Either you can take it as a sign of long-term trend emerging or you can see them are blips which will be corrected as the stats regress to the mean. That’s really up to you.
We don’t really know how the final will unfold. It could be a cracker, it could be dull as a post-match interview or it could all be over inside 20 minutes. It’s a World Cup Final and whatever happens, we won’t take our eyes off it for as long as it carries on.