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World Cup: Weighted Pass Percentage by Game

Earlier, I discussed the concept of weighted pass percentage in soccer. What this involves is weighting all passes completed in a game by the likelihood of completing a pass at that location on the field. This is a better predictor of whether a team will win a game than raw pass totals would indicate.

Looking at the 10-most lopsided World Cup games in the passing department so far, we see that the team that leads in passing is much more likely to win. In these games, the pass leader had six wins, three ties and only one loss, and outscored their opponents 16-6. Ironically, the only loss was by the most-dominant team so far - Spain:

Team WP% Goals Team WP% Goals
Spain 64.0 0 Switzerland 36.0 1
Brazil 63.4 2 North Korea 36.6 1
Netherlands 62.1 2 Denmark 37.9 0
Italy 59.6 1 New Zealand 40.4 1
Argentina 59.0 1 Nigeria 41.0 0
Chile 58.3 1 Honduras 41.7 0
Ghana 57.4 1 Australia 42.6 1
Brazil 57.3 3 Ivory Coast 42.7 1
Mexico 56.8 1 South Africa 43.2 1
Germany 56.3 4 Australia 43.7 0

In games where the outpassing team had less than 56% of total passes, they went 5-7-7, and scored 16 goals to their opponent's 19. The key to winning in the World Cup is - again, not surprising - getting control of the ball in high-percentage offensive locations. The odds of a team doing that dominantly and getting upset is very low.