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FIFA finals: Where have all the goals vanished?

Source : SIFY
Last Updated: Tue, Jul 15, 2014 13:19 hrs
Messi wins Golden Ball

Once upon a time, FIFA World Cup finals used to be a parade of scintillating goals. If you look at the finals from 1930-86, then forget the winning team, even the losing team would end up always scoring a goal.

That means at least three goals were hit in every final and the worst score (in terms of goals scored that is) was 2-1. The best was Brazil's 1970 win over Sweden and the final score stood at 5-2. Pele and Vava scored two goals apiece.

It was an extremely riveting final. Sweden took the lead in just 4 minutes, but fell by the wayside by the Brazilian attack. However the golden era of goal hitting ended in 1990 after which the defences of all teams became rock solid.

The 1990 final was the turning point, when for the first time leave the losing team even the winning team failed to score a single field goal. West Germany beat Argentina by a solitary penalty kick in the dying moments of the game.

If people thought that it was an aberration, then 1994 was even worse. Both Brazil and Italy failed to score a single goal and for the first time ever, the title was decided via a penalty shootout.

It happened again in 2006 in the Italy versus France final but at least this time the scores were tied at 1-1 at the end of extra time. But there's another peculiarity. That was the only time after 1986 that the losing team managed to score a goal.

That means in seven finals from 1990-2014, the losing team has managed to score a total of just one goal! Where have all the goals vanished in the FIFA World Cup finals? If the goal average of the first 13 finals was a high 4.5, the same figure has plummeted to 1.4 for the next 7 finals! That means a good 3 less goals are being scored per final! Football always thrives on superstars and it's not as if they have not been there post-1986.

In the 1990 final, Maradonna looked a pale shadow of himself. Neither could he score a goal, nor could he inspire his team-mates to do the same. Two red cards and a listless Argentine team playing with 9 players made it probably the worst final ever.

The 1994 final saw Roberto Baggio failing to score for Italy. To make matters worse he even missed his penalty in the shootouts that handed Brazil the title and that's something that haunted him for a very long time.

Then there was the below-par Ronaldo in the 1998 final whose dismal performance led to a host of conspiracy theories. The hero of that final was Zinedine Zidane.

And that brings us to the 2014 final. Argentina was relying heavily on Messi. Messi's four goals in the league stages helped his country to top the table. He however fizzled out after that. Argentina scored a paltry 2 goals in four knockout matches with Messi scoring a blank.

In terms of goal scoring at least Argentina did not look like a great team in the knockout stages.

That way full credit must be given to Germany in the 2014 tournament. On hindsight they were by far the most deserving winners. They scored at least one goal in each and every match in the whole tournament and did not go ahead in a single match via the penalty shootout route.

All in all they scored 18 goals and clicked as a team and this attacking side was extremely refreshing to look at. They have it to become an even greater team and scale even greater heights. They didn't rely heavily on superstars.

Miroslav Klose took his World Cup goal tally to a record 16. Thomas Mueller got the Silver Boot for 2014 with 5 goals. The tournament winning goal was scored by Mario Gotze.

That's unlike the Brazilian team which was too heavily dependent on Neymar and Argentina who relied too much on Messi!

But Germany's 7-1 victory over Brazil in the semi-finals will remain an oasis in the drought of goals that generally take place in FIFA World Cup knockout matches.

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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