2010 FIFA World Cup: A Look at the Numbers (So Far)

Obi Wan AsterixContributor IJuly 1, 2010

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 26:  Michael Bradley of the United States and Andre Ayew of Ghana battle for the ball during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between USA and Ghana at Royal Bafokeng Stadium on June 26, 2010 in Rustenburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images


Before we move on to our exciting quarterfinal matchups, it is a great time to take a look at what the statistics tell us about the World Cup so far. Make of it what you will, but below are the numbers.


Best Attackers

David Villa (SPA), Robert Vittek (SLK), and Gonzalo Higuain (ARG) all lead the goal scoring charts with four each.

Thomas Mueller (GER), Luis Suarez (URU), Luis Fabiano (BRA), Asamoah Gyan (GHA), and Landon Donovan (USA) all bagged three.

Elano (BRA) has scored the most goals (two) in least minutes played (140).

There are a few players who have made the most of their limited opportunities on net.

Central defender Lee Jung Soo of South Korea had two shots on goal and two goals out of it, while the Netherlands' Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored on his only attempt. But the real efficiency is with Gonzalo Higuain (31 percent), David Villa, Robert Vittek, and Luis Suarez.

Japan's Keisuke Honda drew the most fouls with 23, his teammate Yuju Nakazawa had 18, and Chile’s Alexis Sanchez 17.

Best creators

Germany's Thomas Mueller, along with Kaka for Brazil, leads the World Cup with three goal assists.

Artur Boka of Ivory Coast only played in one game, but managed to record two assists. That puts him in line with German youngster Mesut Ozil and Ki Sung-Yueng.

Xavi has put nine dangerous balls into the penalty area, but so has Ghana’s Kwadwo Asamoah. Jorge Valdivida of Chile is not far behind with eight.

Worst Attackers

Thomas Mueller might be having a great tournament, but he has lost the ball a record 17 times in the tournament. Sergio Ramos has lost 14, which is a liability for any defender.

Mueller's young midfield colleague, Ozil, has been offsides six times so far.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been the object of 11 successful tackles, something which certainly hurt Portugal’s chances. England striker Wayne Rooney and Algeria's Karim Matmour follow him with nine each.

Among the players who played the full four games, Cristiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi, and Asamoah Gyan have been the least efficient shooters on goal (Ronaldo at five percent, Messi at zero, and Asamoah Gyan at 13 percent). While Clint Dempsey managed to create a lot of chances for the US,  he will not be happy with his five percent accuracy.

Best dribblers

For all his complaning, Cristiano Ronaldo had the most whistles against him due to dribbles with 11.

He was followed by Rooney  and Matmour with nine each, with and Kaka and Messi close behind.

Messi and, surprisingly, Sergio Ramos have beaten defenders with dribbles or speed 20 times each. 

Brazil star Robinho, Ghana's Andre Ayew, and Spanish striker David Villa all had respectable dribbling as well.

While Ronaldo might have done well at times, he also was stripped of possession fiv times. Interestingly enough, Messi, US forward Jozy Altidore, France's Franck Ribery, and Kaka are all up there as well.

Best Shooters

Leo Messi (ARG) has managed the most shots on goal with 13, but has yet to score.

David Villa (SPA) has scored four goals with his 12 shots, making him the best and most efficient attacker so far.

Cristian Riveros, Paraguay’s hard working midfielder, has 100% of his shots on goal with four, one of which was a goal. He is heading to Sunderland for next season.

Worst Shooters:

Podolski, Dempsey, Park Chu Young (SKO), Asamoah Gyan, and Cristiano Ronaldo all Jabulanied more than 10 shots wide during this tournament.

Alexis Sanchez (CHI), Kevin Prince Boateng (GHA), Messi (ARG), Wesley Sneijder (HOL) complete the opprtunity wasters.

Sanchez and Sneijder have seen the most of their shots blocked (six each).

Best Defenders

Majid Bougherra (ALG) was the best tackler of the tournament, with the Glasgow Rangers star managing eight key tackles and 10 recovered balls in addition to other good statistics. His overall statistics really set him apart from the competition.

Also doing very well were Juan (BRA), Michael Bradley (USA), Xabi Alonso (SPA), Stephane Grichting (SWI), Jorge Fucile (URU), Gerardo Torrado (Mex), and Fabio Coentrao (POR)

Best Goalkeepers

Taking into account that some defences gave them less protection, Ri Myong Guk of North Korea made the most saves (21) and allowed the most goals (12),

Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama made a mistake against Greece, but he still seems to have done the most for his team with 20 saves.

Richard Kingson and Eduardo both have had an impressive compilation of statistics, while Japan's Eiji Kawashima really putting in four impressive performances.

Argentina's Sergio Romera and Spain's Iker Casillas have had the least work to do of all the goalkeepers.

Perhaps the best overall performance was by Diego Benaglio of Switzerland. When objectively judging some of the qualities of his saves, the Wolfsburg man was extraordinary and very secure for Switzerland.

Best Passers

Felipe Melo (BRA) is the most efficient passer for amount of time on the pitch, with 91 percent completion. Carles Puyol follows him with 90 percent, with Sergi Busquets (SPA) not far behind at 89 percent.

Worst Passers

Shinji Okazaki (JPN) and Oscar Cardozo (PAR) have been the most wasteful players with 34 percent pass completion only. Surprisingly, Fernando Torres is at 44 percent.

Nelson Valdez (PAR) normally is much better than the 40 percent he has achieved in South Africa so far from the wing.

Jozy Altidore was also rather wasteful, with only around 42 percent of his passes reaching their intended targets.

The Foulers

Surprisingly, Keisuke Honda  has had by far the most fouls whistled against him with 19. Perhaps that is a tribute to his defensive input as a lone striker and is rather a positive statistic due to low amount of cards.

The real whistle magnets were Gerardo Torrado, Rory Fallon of New Zealand, Arturo Vidal of Chile, Abou Diaby of France, Gokhan Inler of Switzerland, and Chris Killen of NZ.

Seven straight red cards haven been given so far (never to the same player), and seven reds were given for second yellows, for a total of 14 expulsions.

Jozy Altidore leads the handball tables with three, and is joined by Hakan Yakin (SWI), Arturo Vidal (CHI) and David Suazo (HON). Yakin and Suazo managed to have three handballs in two matches played comparing to Altidore's four.

Hardest Workers

Two Americans worked the hardest.

The coaches’s son, Michael Bradly, ran more than any other player in the tournament with a whopping 51.69 km covered in four games. Second place went to Landon Donovan with 48.47 km.

Sami Khedira (GER), Gerardo Torrado (MEX), Yasuhito Endo (JPN), Clint Dempsey (USA), Andre Ayew (GHA), Anthony Annan (GHA), Keisuke Honda (JAP), and Cristian Riveros (PAR)  all covered incredible amounts of ground.


Best Shooting

Japan had the best percentage of shots to shots on goal, with 59 percent of their strikes finding the target.

Slovenia, Holland, England and Argentina all did well, but only Argentina and Holland really bagging a significant amount of goals out of their opportunities.

The worst shooting was a tie between Honduras and Algeria. Both sides only managed 17 percent success rate when hitting the ball towards goal. New Zealand, Serbia, France, and Slovakia all seem to have their struggles with the light Jabulani ball.

Best Passing

Who leads this category? Why, Spain and Brazil, of course.

Spain completed 81 percent of their passes, while Brazil was close behind at 80 percent.

Argentina was a close third, with Ivory Coast, Germany, and Mexico an honourable distance behind.

The interesting breakup is that Algeria, Spain and Italy had the most efficient short passing, although Spain’s was much more often in the opponent’ defensive zone while Algeria and Italy knocked the ball around in their own defence.

Brazil, Spain, Germany, Holland and South Africa had the best medium-range passing, but South Africa's occurred much more in their own half. 

Japan had the worst passing rate, with Honduras and New Zealand slightly below Uruguay, USA and North Korea.

In terms of crosses, Spain had 106 crosses but only 29 percent reached their target (perhaps because of the poor form of Torres and the lack of tall players on the field).

The best crosses were from Ivory Coast, North Korea, Serbia, Argentina, and Italy. The worst crosses were from New Zealand, with only seven percent reaching their intended target.


Ivory Coast was by far the most dangerous team on corners, completing 67 percent of their corner kicks into dangerous situations. Nigeria did reasonably well, as did Mexico.

Interestingly, Uruguay, Holland and Greece had the worst corners, with Uruguay managing only 14 percent.

Best Tackling

Algeria and Portugal were the best tacklers, although Algeria’s tackling was more effective.

Brazil, Portugal, Chile, Uruguay and England also were efficient in the tackles.

Best Goalkeeping

The North Korean goalkeeper might be grilled for letting in 12 goals, but he also pulled off the most saves at 21.

The Portuguese, Algerian, Danish, Greek, Ghanaian, and Japanese goalkeepers did a lot of work with many saves. South Korea and the USA are not far behind.

Best Offense

Spain has had the most attack of any teams with 68.

A shocking second is England with 64, but the efficiency difference is shocking.

Spain has the best overall attack without a doubt, with 99 successful dribbles past defenders and 44 balls into the penalty area (2nd is Chile with 38). With all that success, however, it is pretty shocking that most of their goals were a result of individual actions rather than team play, with only two assists.

In comparison, all nine of Germany’s goals were from team play rather than individual action, and all seven of Brazil's and Portugal’s as well (though Portugal did it in one game).

Overall, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Germany had the most performing attacks according to the statistics. England attacked a lot, but quite ineffectively.

Spain and South Korea attacked the most from the left side, while Germany, Brazil, Spain, Uruguay and Mexico the most from the right. The English led the charts of attacks through the center, although (again) much less efficiently than Argentina in second and Brazil in third.

Argentina had the best percentage of shots on goal at over 50 percent on target, and the most goals with 10.

Germany comes second with nine, and Brazil third with eight. 

Germany scored all nine of their goals from open play, which puts them top, and I believe that is the most important indicator of a best attack. 

Ghana scored two penalties, and South Korea were masters of set pieces, scoring an amazing five goals from corners and freekicks.

Holland and Argentina each scored three goals from outside the penalty area, making them the best distance shooters.

Worst Offense

Algeria and Honduras didn’t manage any goals.

Switzerland, France and North Korea only scored once.


Spain and Brazil are joint leaders of bad dribbling, each losing possession 22 times due to good opponent tackles.

England had nearly half of their shots on target (31 of 65), which puts them high in the table, but the goalkeepers did really well against them (they made it easy) and the post and bar helped three times and the linesman once.

Chile and South Korea were the most panicky in attack, with  eight shots blocked in the penalty area for the South Americans and five for South Korea. Both could have benefited from cooler finishing, although Argentina and Paraguay were inefficient in good scoring opportunities, too and still made the quarterfinals.


Germany, Honduras and Chile were called offsides the most times (18), although the US will think they were the biggest victims of flag waving. They are next to Brazil in only having been whistled offsides four times,

Best Defense

Uruguay and South Korea lead the league of clearances from defense completed, but Uruguay has the best defense with a close fourth in the tackles statistic.

Algeria had one of the best defenses, with the most effective tackles to regain possession and the best overall defensive statistics.

Honduras, with their performance against Switzerland, interestingly had excellent defensive statistics and lead the percentage of successful clearance charts above Uruguay.

It's important to mention that Paraguay, Brazil, Portugal, and surprisingly England all had good defensive performances.

Worst Defense

North Korea conceded 11 goals inside their penalty area for a total of 12 goals. In three games that is hard to beat, although surprisingly they had a marvelous defensive (and offensive) performance in their first game against Brazil before completely falling apart.

They will be happy to know that South Korea had the second worst defense, with eight goals conceded (seven from inside the penalty area).

Slovakia, Australia and Denmark bring up the rear with leaky defensive performances.

The Wrong Sport

As for handballs, the US  team leads the competition with nine of them, with Chile and the Dutch in second place and Paraguay and Japan tied for third.

The Victims

In their four games Japan had by far the most fouls against them with 92.

Spain are a distant second with 74.

The Bad and the Ugly

Mexico committed the most fouls, getting whistled against them 84 times in four games.

They are followed by Chile, Paraguay and Japan. Chile collected 13 yellow cards, although frankly three of them were absolutely undeserved, with Slovakia, USA, Mexico and Slovenia following not far behind.

This implies that the Paraguayans and Japan are really good at fouling and not getting carded.

Australia leads the tournament with two straight red cards, the only team in that prestigious category. But Algeria were not far behind with two double yellows.

Hardest Workers

The United States worked the most of any team in terms of distance covered, logging 473.48 kilometers.

Japan was the second hardest working team with 464.52 kilometers covered, and Ghana and Paraguay are close up the leaderboard on distance covered with hard work ethic.

Spain, Germany and Mexico covered the most distance while in control of the ball, with Spain a clear top at 194 kilometers while in possession of the ball. Japan did the most work without the ball, perhaps a reason for their great defense this tournament.

The fastest speed of running was achieved by the Mexicans (let’s hold off on the Speedy Gonzalez jokes)  with Germany, Nigeria, Greece (really?), and Argentina all clocking in above 30 km/h and faster than the rest.



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