This world cup has been quite unusual so far. We had to wait for the 13th game to get a draw. Although we did get 3 more within the next few days, that only makes 4 draws in 23 games – an average of 17%. Historically, world cup matches have had many more draws – indeed around 25% of all world cup games since 1970 have been draws the full distribution of draws and other results is shown in the table below: –
But is this all a factor of the fact that we are only in the group stages? Are matches more likely to be drawn when there is more at stake, and teams can not afford to lose? Actually the opposite is the case. In the world cup, 27% of group games are draws, and in the knockout stages, only 18% of games are draws.
There is also something more interesting going on. In group games, as well as there being more draws, we are also more likely to see teams being beaten by higher amounts. This does make some sense. Not only are the worst teams less likely to reach the later stages, but also there is less benefit in winning by a higher margin in knockout games, where goal difference does not count for anything. So for example there have been 5 group stage games in which the difference between the teams has been 5 goals or more, but there have been no knockout stage games with this score difference.
The full difference between the two stages of the competition can be seen in the charts below: –