World Cup stats for our football aficionados

The five World Cups since 1998 (including 2014) have involved 32 international teams who qualified through their respective confederations. Examining the performances of the representatives of the differing international continent-based confederations allows us to look at how competitive the differing regions have been.

Key Statistics: Escaping the Group Stage

Europe (UEFA) has seen only 6 of its 13 sides qualify for the 2nd Round in each of the last two World Cups (2010 and 2014.) Before that, 10 sides made the last 16 in 1998 and 2006 and 9 in 2002.

South America (CONMEBOL) has seen 5 of 6 sides qualify for the 2nd Round in 2014 and 5 of 5 sides in 2010.

From 1998 to 2010, only one of the tournament’s African teams (CAF) in each of the four tournaments made it through to the 2nd Stage (the continent had 5 teams in 1998, 2002 and 2006, and 6 in 2010.) This year represents the first time 2 African sides have made the 2nd Round.

The CONCACAF region has witnessed the greatest improvement in recent World Cups, with 2 sides making the 2nd Round in 2002 and 2010 and three in 2014.

Asian sides (AFC) have only made the last 16 (2nd Round) in two World Cups: 2002 and 2010. On both occasions, two sides made it through from the group stages.

Key Statistics: The Elite Eight & Final Four

Whilst the picture emerging from recent World Cups is one of an increasing diversity of 2nd Round competitor nations in terms of their global geographic identity, the pattern of European and South American domination is quickly identifiable through an analysis of the teams in each of the World Cups that successfully navigated their way to the quarter finals.

28 of the 32 quarter finalists between 1998 and 2010 were from Europe or South America. Only Ghana (2010), USA (2002), South Korea (2002) and Senegal (2002) secured quarter final places from those national sides competing from other regions. 19 of the 28 quarter finalists were from Europe and 9 from South America.

Europe’s dominance is even more pronounced at semi-final level. During the period 1998-2010, 12 of the 16 semi-finalists were UEFA teams, with 3 being South American and 1 Asian side (South Korea in 2002.)

2014: Will the pattern remain the same?

The 16 2nd Round teams that will battle it out for quarter final places include 5 from outside South America and UEFA: CONCACAF’s three sides (USA, Costa Rica & Mexico) and the two African (CAF) sides, Algeria and Nigeria.

It will be fascinating to see if any of those sides can join the four sides since 1998 from outside the two dominant continents to make the last eight and, possibly, progress even further. Time will tell.


  • Floreat Ultonia

    Thanks Chris. Some more statfoolery follows 😉

    Quarter finals reached by European teams (including Euros as well as World Cups since 1950, maximum 30)

    Germany 24
    England 18
    Spain 17
    Italy 16
    France 14
    Netherlands 13
    Russia/ USSR 12
    Yugoslavia 11

    Irish Republic 3
    Northern Ireland 2
    Wales 2
    Scotland 1

  • Chris Donnelly

    Costa Rica have at least ensured that a fifth team since 1998 from outside UEFA/ CONMEBOL will play in a quarter final fixture. Personally, I believe the Yanks will make it a sixth and am hopeful one of the African sides can pull off a shock later tonight.

  • boondock

    Floreat ultonia

    Strictly speaking Northern Ireland in 1982 didnt get to the QF as there were still 12 teams left but I like to claim it also.

    Chris I basically just back the European teams I think it is grossly unfair how the qualifying process works as teams like USA, Mexico, Australia, Japan, South Korea etc get a free pass into the finals. The African teams have been talked up for nearly 30 years now and apart from the odd QF showing have completely failed to make a mark. Expect in a few years time the World cup to expand to 40 teams with most of the new spots being awarded to non-european teams. Even the South Americans have it easy considering 60% of their teams are in the world cup compared to just 25%of Europes. Even the dubious world rankings which favour the average teams in crap federations shows the lowest ranked European team at the finals to be Bosnia at 21st apart from USA thats higher than all the other teams (13) from AFC, CONCACAF, CAF.
    Time for world qualifying to address this imbalance.
    This is why the UEFA championship is better than the World Cup unfortunately by expanding it to 24 teams they are in danger of wrecking it too.

  • Floreat Ultonia


    Equally strictly, a quarter-final needn’t necessarily have eight teams. Anyway, we won the group stage 😉

    Europe had 13 places in the current World Cup, to Asia’s four and Africa’s five. So I don’t see any unfairness there. Korea had 14 qualifying games (Iran 16), hardly a free pass. The stronger African teams played eight, not so different to the nine European qualifers with 10.

    Fair point that African football is treading water generally despite Algeria and Nigeria progressing this time.

    I would go for a radical change in the World Cup, ie revert to 16 finalists. It’s not an elite playing competition otherwise, the main restriction is on potential hosts.

    24 teams in the Euros is a bad idea. Unless we make it.

    Right quick quiz. What’s the WC connection?

    1958 NI
    1962 England
    1966 England
    1974 Brazil
    1982 Italy
    1990 Germany
    1994 Romania
    1998 Netherlands
    2002 Sweden
    2006 Germany
    2010 Germany

  • Valenciano

    Africa, after promising performances from 1982 through 1990, hasn’t impressed in recent world cups and Asian sides have always struggled to make an impact. That makes the ideas of Blatter and Platini a nonsense. It’s hard to believe that having Jordan, Uzbekistan and Burkina Faso there instead of France or Uruguay would make for a stronger tournament.

    If we do stay at 32 teams, they should take 2 automatic qualifying places from Europe, 1 from South America and 1 each from Africa, Asia and Concacaf. Then have intercontinental play-offs. 4 UEFA and 2 South American sides on the one hand, versus 2 from the other 3 federations on the other. That way, if the smaller federations genuinely deserve more places they’ll win them fair and square on the pitch.

    40 teams is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. If they must go down that insane route, they should just go the whole hog and increase it to 48, as at least they could come up with some mathematically satisfactory formats as a result. If that happened, it would make more sense to give the strongest 24 countries a bye and have the rest contest eight groups of three teams, with the winner going through. There would be a number of advantages with that, smaller teams would appear more at the World Cup, but would only face the strongest teams if they passed the first round, so we’d avoid any one sided cricket scores. There would actually be less games played than with a 40 team tournament and in the main group stage of 32 teams, sides wouldn’t be messing around having off days. The possibility of the Germany-Austria-Algeria 1982 fix couldn’t happen also under such a format.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    There are already inter-continental play offs (Uruguay and Mexico beat Jordan and New Zealand this time).

    In the last three World Cups (164 matches to date), only four teams have conceded a rugby score of more than four goals. Three of them were European, including the current champion 😉

  • Floreat Ultonia

    Edit: 180 matches to date.

  • Valenciano

    They’ve been having intercontinental play-offs since at least 1958 and they should use more of them, as it’s a fairer way of deciding how many places each confederation should get. That way, there would be more places open to Africa, Asia and CONCACAF than now, but only if their teams are good enough. Merit, not an excuse to curry favour with regional associations by FIFA presidential candidates. Havelange pulled that stunt in the past as well. The increase to 24 teams was purely to secure his election as FIFA president.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    I don’t see the need (for more I-C play-offs). The African and Asian teams have had 20 years with nine or 10 of them playing in the finals (effectively, the biggest play-off of them all). Usually only a couple make the last 16 stage. Unless and until that figure increases it’s hardly unfair not to give them more places.

  • Valenciano

    Ah, but that cuts both ways. Instead of five direct qualifiers, you’d have four direct qualifiers and two in play-offs with European and South American teams. Africa would then have the chance of one more team than now, but it could also result in one team less than now. I personally think that Africa is over-represented, but rather than taking a place away, it would be fairer to have that double-edged sword. So you’d end up with Cameroon and Burkina Faso in play-offs versus someone like Denmark, Croatia or Venezuela. A much fairer way to do things, since Cameroon has done diddly squat at recent world cups.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    As per that system, would a second-rank European team have to go through two sets of play-offs? If so, why not use even more and dispense with group qualifying altogether?

    I agree Africa is over-represented. The thing is, so is everyone else with 32 qualifiers. Bosnia and Switzerland are two of the best teams in Europe at the, they’ve been mediocre.

    You have some element of global politics to counteract Europe’s advantages, else it wouldn’t be a genuine World Cup. In other words, Asia, Africa and North America will always get some positive discrimination. So, in my ideal 16 team event there would be:

    Europe x6
    Americas (North & South combined) x6
    Africa x2
    Asia x2

    I understand Cameroon’s performances, partic against Croatia are interesting the legal and er, turf accountancy authorities 😉

  • Valenciano

    No, you wouldn’t need two sets of play-offs in that case. Would be the same as now, nine groups, winners progress, best eight runners-up into play-offs. Only difference is that only four of the European teams would play each other. The other four would play teams from other federations.

    The Swiss haven’t been that bad, but definitely haven’t justified the first seeding which FIFA crazily gave them.

    A 16 team world cup would be stronger, but is an absolute non-starter for political and financial reasons. Sadly they probably will end up ruining it by extending it, much as they’ve weakened the European championships.

  • boondock

    The likes of Korea still get a free pass, I dont care if they play 100 qualifying matches if the opposition are all useless then it doesnt matter. A quick glance at the Asian qualifiers shows a huge number of matches end up with cricket scores. Its so poor Australia decided to switch federation to make life easier, maybe the Irelands should switch to concacaf. a quick glance at their qualifying shows that the only half serious team not to qualify was Jamaica the remaining 30 odd teams being a joke. Currently watching the last African team left in the tournament although not sure how African they are seeing as 17 yes I said 17 of the squad were born in France!

  • boondock

    Sorry FU forgot to add I dont know the answer to your question, I thought it was something to do with the tournaments best player or goalkeeper or something but it doesnt seem to fit

  • Floreat Ultonia

    The Swiss haven’t been that bad, but definitely haven’t justified the first seeding which FIFA crazily gave them

    Switzerland’s seeding followed from their World Ranking (what’s the point of having it otherwise?). Their record in qualifying was better than France, England and Italy. Any of those three being seeded wouldn’t have been that big a surprise.

    A quick glance at the Asian qualifiers shows a huge number of matches end up with cricket scores

    The second group stage (ie for the best 10 teams) included 40 games. In only two of which did a team concede more than four goals. Suggesting that that stage was fairly competitive. Admittedly the previous stages were less so, but even there Korea failed to win their group,

    17 of the [Algeria] squad were born in France

    I’ll grant you that doesn’t say much for player development in Algiers, but NI used seven players in qualifying who’ve never lived there. As we exploit the rules we can hardly be surprised if others do too.

    I dont know the answer to your question

    Team that knocked Argentina out of the WC (so obviously excepting 1978 and 1986 when they won it)

  • Pete Rock

    Boondock I think FIFA have recognized NI as having reached a Quarter Final in 1982.

  • Kensei

    Both African sides were pretty unlucky yesterday. They just couldn’t make the crucial breakthrough and then tired. Algeria in particular played phenomenally well, they just lacked the last pass until ti was too late.

    Asia have had a poor tournament, but CONCAF and South America have had sterling ones – it’s genuinely annoying that the draw pitted so many South American teams against each other in the second round. This has been Europe’s worst tournament for years, so arguing for more presentation is beyond me.

    We are also never going back to 16 teams. And this tournament has demonstrated we don’t need to – it’s been genuinely thrilling the whole way through. The depth of the game is such that the tournament is competitive from the off and the stakes are high – lose your first game and you are seriously under pressure. The group stages have been awesome – certainly a million miles better than the procession that is modern Champions League groups. The talk is of 40 teams but that would be a detrimental change. Even if the additional 8 teams are competitive, it just doesn’t work out right on group structure – 3rd place teams getting through sucks the tension from the groups. This will be the problem with the Euro 2014.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    We are also never going back to 16 teams. And this tournament has demonstrated we don’t need to – it’s been genuinely thrilling the whole way through

    Many fans thought the 2010 tournament was dull. How can you be confident 2018 or 2022 won’t be similar?

    Advantages of 16 team finals:

    a) it can be both inclusive (of all continents) and exclusive (few or no makeweights, anyone getting through the group stage is a realistic contender)

    b) a much wider range of countries can stage

    c) less likelihood of them feeling forced to build white elephant stadia and other infrastructure

    d) 24 day tournament with maximum six matches is less tiring for players than 33/ seven. I’d also abolish extra time btw

  • Mick Fealty

    0-5 to Germany against Brazil? Who’da thunk it?

  • MYtwocents

    up the huns, up the orange tomorrow.

  • ForkHandles

    We’re not Northern Ireland, we’re Brazil ! 🙂

  • MYtwocents

    I predict a riot.

  • MYtwocents

    CNN are discribing this as a Bloodbath,its their headline, next they will report on the 26+ including 8 children that Israel have killed today, but no worry’s, these folk where Palestinians, no real people, no israelis.