The unexpected protagonist of the Qatar World Cup

Category: Team Analysis

The protagonist of the Qatar 2022 World Cup could be the same as in the Russia 2018 World Cup. The data has been reflecting its dominance in international competitions.


The Russia 2018 World Cup went down in history for a fact so difficult to repeat, being the international event with the most goals from set pieces in history, both by volume and percentage, as a simple starting point of an increasingly established trend. A figure that takes on even greater impact if we check, as we will do below, the corresponding set-piece goals figure from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and what has been happening from 2018 onwards.

Prior to the final, in the last World Cup, as many as 68 goals were tallied in the 62 World Cup matches leading up to the final game, while five of the six goals in the quarterfinal matches and two of the four goals in the semifinals came from set pieces. The importance of a free kick, corner kick or penalty kick in a World Cup has taken on a total significance, much more so than in league competitions, as well as one similar to that usually seen in knockout competitions.

And this will surely continue with similar figures, although it will be very difficult to equal or surpass Russia 2018. This is due to different factors, being the participation of teams with less tradition one of them, far from the resources and talent of countries with much greater potential and tradition, which leads these teams to spend more time defending and interrupting the game, conceding more corners or fouls near the area, or also by their own initiative to work more on these situations when they are in favor to balance the forces that the best teams manage to distance with the ball in play.

In this graph, from which we have subtracted the penalty goals to stay only with goals from corner kicks and direct or indirect fouls, it is easy to see the huge contrast between Brazil 2014 (only 9 of 171 goals were from set pieces, 5.3%) and Russia 2018 (43 of 169, 25.4%), numbers of the latter World Cup that have had continuity in qualifying and international competitions by confederation (Euro, Copa America, Africa Cup, Gold Cup).

With technical staffs becoming increasingly professionalized, including very specific profiles that study every detail of the opponent in all types of plays, it is common in competitions with a knockout format to design and enhance opportunities when a corner or an indirect free kick is taken. As a great example, England, finalists of the last World Cup in Russia, scored up to nine goals from set pieces, breaking Portugal’s record in the 1966 World Cup.

Gareth Southgate’s squad hid their offensive problems to protect their area, attack with space and, above all, make the most of their set pieces, thanks to their great headers (Stones or Maguire) or the extraordinary strike of Kieran Trippier.

We are Driblab, a consultancy specialized in the statistical analysis of players and teams; our work is focused on advising and minimizing risk in professional football decision-making in areas related to talent detection and footballer evaluations. Our database has more than 200,000 players from more than 180 competitions, covering information from all over the world. Here you can learn more about how we work and what we offer.

Autor: Alejandro Arroyo
For Team Analysis we also recommend you:

‘GBE Calculator’: 5 wingers under-25 of the Argentinean Professional Football League with approved GBE

We find and analyse 5 winger under-25 of the Argentinean Professional Football League with approved GBE.

‘driblabPRO’: Match Report PDF

We visualise with an example the PDF match reports that can be downloaded in driblabPRO.

Driblab ‘ELO’: how the top five European leagues have evolved

Driblab produces its own ELO Ranking, with its own variables, in order to measure which leagues are the strongest and how they evolve according to their international and local results.

Jan Oblak, the last great goalkeeper to improve his ball-playing

We look at how Atlético de Madrid and Jan Oblak have changed the way they play, getting the Slovenian more involved and more accurate with his feet.

The new injury time and its impact on the game

How is the new rule related to injury time affecting the new rule? We take a closer look thanks to our database.

Five MLS U-20 talents to watch closely

We uncover five MLS U-20 talents with different potentials to keep a close eye on in the upcoming transfer markets.

Xabi Alonso and his new Leverkusen

We analyse Bayer Leverkusen’s shocking change of style in Xabi Alonso’s second year as the team’s coach.

The importance of own half passes

Passing in one’s own half has become more and more frequent or more and more important. We take a closer look at this trend with facts and ideas.

Huddersfield Town A.F.C and Driblab sign partnership agreement

Huddersfield Town A.F.C and Driblab sign partnership agreement

Fantastic (very young) goalkeepers and where to find them

We go to those places with the greatest capacity to develop goalkeepers of great stature and technical potential to find U21 goalkeepers.


Información corporativa

Somos una empresa con sede en Madrid fundada en 2017 por Salvador Carmona y Cristian Coré Ramiro. Desde nuestros inicios nuestro trabajo se ha centrado en el análisis estadístico de datos para ayudar a los clubes en la planificación deportiva. Somos una consultora big data que ofrece servicios personalizados para cada cliente y defiende un modelo de gestión mixto y una comunicación constante para acompañar el día a día de las instituciones. Nuestro punto fuerte es la más amplia cobertura disponible en número de torneos profesionales y juveniles. Para más detalles, póngase en contacto con nosotros.

Colaboramos con:


Hemos aparecido en: