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Gus Keri

A life-long Liverpool fan who resides in New York City and also supports the New York Red Bulls.


The FIFA Under-20 World Cup – The Group Stage in Comparison

Written by on August 8, 2011 | 7 Comments »
Posted in World Cups

The group stage of the U-20 World Cup has concluded and 16 teams have made it to the knock-out round and 8 went home after each team played 3 games.

There were 8 unbeaten teams but only 3 with a perfect record (3 wins out of 3): Colombia, Spain and Nigeria. There were 9 winless teams but only 2 lost all three games: Croatia and Mali.

The only winless team to make it to the round of 16 was England which drew all 3 games, scoring no goals and conceding no goals.

The best attacking team was Nigeria with 12 goals followed by Spain with 11.

The best defensive teams in addition to England were Argentina and Portugal which also conceded no goals.

Two hat-tricks were recorded by Vasquez of Spain (vs. Australia) and Ibrahim of Egypt (vs. Austria). Vasquez leads the golden boot table with 4 goals followed by 5 players on 3.

Comparing confederations

Each confederation lost at least one team, but which one performed better in this World Cup?

Here is a look at how each confederation did:

Continental rankings by records: W-D-L {percentage of points gained (PPG)}

1- South America: 8-5-2 (64%)

2- Africa: 6-2-4 (55%)

3- Europe: 7-5-6 (48%)

4- Asia: 3-1-5 (37%)

5 – Oceania: 0-3-3 (33%)

6 – North America: 3-2-7 (30%)

{I put Australia in Oceania although they played in the Asian confederation – geography over politics}

To see how each one performed across the age groups, I compared this cup with the U-17 World Cup that was held in Mexico last June/July and the 2010 (Adult) World Cup  for the senior teams in South Africa last summer.

Here is how each confederation did in the three cups. Only the group stage results were included:

Continent: (PPG at U-17 WC) (PPG at U-20 WC) (PPG at 2010 WC)

1- South America: (61%) ((64%) (75%)

2- Europe: (48%) (48%) (46%)

3- Oceania: (44%) (33%) (39%)

4- Asia: (55%) (37%) (37%)

5 – North America: (42%) (30%) (37%)

6 – Africa: (25%) (55%) (26%)

{Europe record doesn’t include the all-European games at the 2010 WC}


These stats indicated that the South American teams have the best results across all ages and continue to improve with advancing age.

Europe, on the other hand, doesn’t show any changes across ages. Although they are second best at the senior level, they have some competition at younger ages, especially from Asia and Africa.

The other confederations played their best at younger ages and show deterioration with advancing age.

Scoring stats:

There were 90 goals scored in 36 matches in the group stage for an average of 2.5 goals per game (GPG). It was more than at the group stage of the adult WC (2.1 GPG) but less than at the U-17 WC (2.7 GPG).

As shown in the full  World Cup, there was a significant increase in the number of goals scored between the first round (2.2 GPG) of matches and the second round (3.0 GPG) and similarly, the number went down in the third round (2.3 GPG).

At the 2010 WC, the comparative numbers were: (1.6) (2.6) and (2.1)

On the contrary, at the U-17 WC, the most goals were scored in the first round (3.0 GPG) and went down to (2.7 GPG) in second round and (2.5 GPG) in the third round.

Draws and high-scoring games:

When we look at the performance by results we find that at the U-20 WC, there were total 9 draws (out of 36 games; 25%), 6 of which in the first round. There were 5 goalless draws, 3 of which in the first round.

It was slightly better than the senior WC which had 14 draws (out of 48 games; 29%) and 6 goalless draws but equal to the U-17 WC where there were also 9 draws (25%) with 2 goalless draws.

The surprise was that most of the U-17 WC draws (6) occurred in the third round and no draw took place in the first round.

When considering high-scoring games (at least 3 goals in a game), I also found similarity between the U-20 WC and the senior WC.  In U-20, the number of high-scoring games goes up from 3 in first round to 6 and 5 in the next two rounds.

At the 2010 WC, the number goes from 2 to 7 to 8, respectively.

On the other hand, at the U-17 WC, the most high-scoring games occurred in the first two rounds (7 each). Then, it went down to 4 in the third round.


Although the U-20 teams are more likely to score than the senior ones, the fact that they have a similar pattern in scoring at different rounds and similar tendency at drawing game suggest that, by that age, they have already reached maturity.

On the other hand, the U-17 tendency to score more early in the tournament and have much less draws and more high-scoring games early suggest that they are less nervous and start tournaments with less pressure and more freedom than the older ones.

Somewhere between the age of 17 and 20, soccer players become mature and manifest the adult characteristics of playing soccer.

Round of 16 match ups:


Portugal vs. Guatemala: 6 pm EST

Argentina vs. Egypt: 6 pm

Cameroon vs. Mexico: 9 pm

Colombia vs. Costa Rica: 9 pm


Nigeria vs. England: 6 pm

Spain vs. South Korea: 6 pm

Brazil vs. Saudi Arabia: 9 pm

France vs. Ecuador: 9 pm

Look forward for some fireworks with some of these matches. Most notable ones are Argentina vs. Egypt and Brazil vs. Saudi Arabia.

The one I will be looking forward to the least is Nigeria vs. England. Look for the stingy defensive English team to make it difficult for the highest goal-scoring team.

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7 responses to “The FIFA Under-20 World Cup – The Group Stage in Comparison”

  1. C.How says:

    Concacaf has 3/16 teams still alive. But they also had 100% (3/3) of their teams qualify for the knock-out round. Who else can match that?

  2. Roberto Manita says:

    “Geography over politics”. I never thought I’d hear that coming from you Gus. We need you to talk some common sense to those who arbitrarily allocate certain nations to certain continental associations 😉

  3. Roberto Manita says:

    Gus – With all of these footy statistics I honestly believe you’ve missed your calling. You shouldn’t have been a footy journo, you should have been a credit rating analyst at S&P 😀

    Thanks for the schedule though. That was useful.

  4. Gus Keri says:

    C. HOW:

    CONCACAF had 3/4 qualify. (75%)
    Panama failed to qualify

    If you look from the qualifers point of view:

    South America: 4/5 (80%)
    North America: 3/4 (75%)
    Africa: 3/4 (75%)
    Europe: 4/6 (66%)
    Asia: 2/3 (66%)
    Oceania: 0/2 (0%)

  5. Gus Keri says:

    U-20 WC:

    Round of 16:

    Argentina – Egypt: 2-1 (all on PKs)
    Portugal – Guatemala: 1-0

    Argentina meets Portugal in the quarterfinals.

    Argentina apparently was the more worried side in this match. They played focusing on defense and relying on counterattacks.
    They were helped tremendously by some refereeing controvesies.

    They also resorted to a non-soccer tactics to delay the game and put their Egyptian counterparts in trouble for it.

    Iturbe who came on as a sub in the second half caused the most trouble toward the end where he could have scored few goals if it wasn’t for his rash decisions.

    On the other hand, although Egypt had a lot of possession especailly late in the game, they could not break down the superb Argentinian defense which didn’t concede in this cup until this game and it took a PK to get through them.

    Toward the end, Hegazi, one of the best defenders in this cup, had to move up to center forward and the team tried to play route-1 soccer exploiting his hieght but to no avail.

    In brief, it was a game where the Argentinian defense beat the Egyptian offense and the referee spoiled a good game.

    I was able to sneak few looks at the other game in between and it looked like Portugal was dominating the game until the end where Guatemala outplayed the portugese and was very unlucky not to get the equalizer.

    I can say right now that the Argentina/Portugal meeting is going to be one of the hardest game to watch (two of the top three defenses in the cup) and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some ugly soccer (like Portugal/Holand 2006).

  6. Gus Keri says:

    U-20 WC:

    Colombia – Costa Rica: 3-2
    Mexico – Cameroon 1-1 (Mexico wins PKs: 3-0)

    Finally luck smile to one of the CONCACAF teams today.

    After Guatemala gave Portugal real tough time and almost got a late qualizer, Costa Rica played Colombia very well and almost took them to the extra time, before losing, and Mexico won its game on PKs.

    But the real story today was the diving and the referees falling for it. The favorites Colombia and Argentina had to resort to diving to overcome their oppopnents. The result was a heartbreak for Egypt and Costa Rica.

    Colombia meet Mexico for the Quatrterfinals.

  7. Gbenga says:

    Interesting analysis Gus… Things become very dicey in the knockout stage… Shame on the referee for not seeing the dive that led to the first PK. One thing I’ve noticed about Argentina is when you match them ball for ball, they resort to dirty tricks and they also start whining to the ref. Remember Italia’90 final against Germany? I won’t be surprised if Portugal takes them out.

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