Who'll be #8?

I have spent the last week or so working on a TV truck at Arlington Stadium. Because of that, my mind has been a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of statistical data.

Since I have been living in the stats world for the past week, why not take a look at some of the World Cup stats.

Spain has 6 out of the top 8 passers in the tournament, led by the incomparable Xavi. He averages 95 passes a game, and completes 77 of them for an 81% completion rate, which coincidentally is the same rate for the team. And here I thought Germany looked like Guatemala playing at the Azteca, when, in fact, they just never had the ball at all because the Spaniards wouldn’t give it to them.

Spain has also completed 1000 more passes than anyone else with 3,387. Holland is third at 2,434. One would expect that all that possession would lead to scoring chances, and it has. Argentina, though, finished the tournament as the team with most shots on goal at 43. They should be eclipsed by both finalists, though, as Holland and Spain are at 41 and 40 respectively.

All that running around with the ball has added up for Spain. They have run a total of 288KM with the ball, which is about the distance between Mexico City and Acapulco. The team that had the ball least was Honduras at 94 km. Such a shame. I know they had a lot of people out, but they still had enough talent to play a little more offensively. The Catrachos were a big disappointment.

Individually, distance covered is dominated by the two losing semi-finalists. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira each ran the equivalent of 6 miles every game.

And I still can’t get over the fact that Chicharito was the fastest player of the tournament.

I was all set to continue the narrative of South American dominance. Was it the Southern Hemisphere’s weather cycle? Were the other teams more freaked out by water going down the drain backwards? And then just like that, they were all gone. Are the two best teams of the tournament in the final? Well, considering that neither team lost in qualifying and they have combined for over fifty wins and only three losses in the last 2 years, I would say yes.

Holland may have scored more goals, but they haven’t had to run through the defensive gauntlet that Spain did. Portugal, Paraguay, and Germany combined to give up only 3 goals in their 12 games before playing la Furia.

This World Cup started off slow and boring, and I was all set to proclaim it to be the worst World Cup since 1990. The knockouts, though, have been very compelling, dramatic, and heartbreaking. It hasn’t been the best World Cup, but certainly hasn’t been the worst. The mundial picked up speed, and we can only hope that the best game of the tournament has yet to be played.

But I’ll be in that truck, missing it.