Home > Tournament Statistics, World Cup > Shots on Goal: Chance of being held scoreless

Shots on Goal: Chance of being held scoreless

Emboldened by FIFA’s recognition that players are rated based on what’s statistically likely to happen as the result of their actions and not necessarily what does, I thought I’d highlight an interesting piece of information: the value of a shot on goal.

As previously noted, it has been commonly and consistently observed that roughly 24% of shots on goal result in goals.  So I thought I’d take that information and calculate roughly your chance of being held scoreless based on the number of shots you put on goal.

                                     Shots on Goal
   1   2   3   4   5   6   7    8 12
76% 58% 44% 33% 25% 19% 15% 11% 4%

As you can see, the big action is statistically on the early shots on goal.  Take one SOG and you’ve got a 76% chance of being scoreless.  Take another one, you’ve got a 58% chance of being scoreless (an 18% drop).  The third shot drops you down another 14%.  And the fourth, another 11%.  Of course, each new SOG has its own 24% chance of going into the net, but if you are lucky enough to go 5-6 SOGs without conceding, you have to be thinking the soccer gods are smiling upon you.

The obvious limitation of this analysis is that momentum exists and can affect the outcome of matches.  When it’s in your favor, your goalie becomes superhuman.  When it’s against you, well, you know what happens.  For the time being, let’s assume that being scored upon shifts momentum against you and that you are less likely to both (a) score and (b) prevent a goal.  If this were true, teams like the U.S. that allow opponents to put together dangerous attacks early, are playing with statistical fire.  Give up the first three SOGs and six out of ten matches, you’re going to be behind at least one goal early.

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