Most common football scores in finals

football match concept score 1-0Football finals at the elite level always have a different feel to your average match. The occasion can get the better of some players, while others take their game to new heights on the biggest of stages. Through the ages, we’ve seen some classics and some absolute snooze fests, but it’s long been speculated that the latter outcome is far more likely. Indeed, with so much at stake, many onlookers have a perception that the high-stakes nature of a final paralyses players and managers, generally leading to cagey, low-scoring affairs.

But is this actually the reality? Well, in order to find out definitively, we have parsed through the data, stretching back decades, to establish what the most common football scores are in notable finals.

Why finals tend to be cagey affairs

football scoreboard 0-0 man changing numbers

The notion of finals being low-scoring and tight does most certainly have some merit, as it didn’t emerge from thin air. Indeed, no period proves this point quite like the 1970s and 1980s. Between 1978 and 1983, every European Cup Final finished 1-0, often with very few chances being created. A similar pattern emerged at the FIFA World Cup between 2006 and 2014, as all three finals went to extra time, with two of them finishing 0-0 after 90 minutes of play.

The many reasons for this are well documented. Firstly, as was previously mentioned, the nerves of both players and reluctance to concede from both respective managers can breed defensive setups. Given that it’s a one-off game, conceding early could be disastrous, especially if the opposing team can defend well in a low block. Further to this, a final tends to be contested between two very good sides, who often will be well-matched. In such a scenario, there is little to separate them, and as such, a stalemate ensues.

Was it always this way?

football formationsFootball has gone through various eras of tactical evolutions, meaning that it is difficult to make any blanket statements pertaining to finals. What is clear, however, is that from football’s earliest games, low-scoring finals were indeed commonplace. Out of the first 20 FA Cup Finals (between 1871 and 1891), 11 saw two goals or less scored between the two sides (not including replay goals). And yet, in the 150 or so years between then and now, various tactical revolutions and trends have taken place, which greatly altered the rate of goal scoring in regular games and finals alike.

For instance, the three pre-World War Two World Cups (1930, 1934 and 1938) returned two 4-2 scorelines and a 2-1 result. Somewhat coincidentally, the two most recent World Cup Finals have returned high final scores, with 2018 ending 4-2 to France and 2022 ending 3-3 after extra time. And yet, in the previous seven World Cup Finals, only one had three goals or more. All of this shows how much the data has fluctuated through the years, although for context, here are some factors from different eras that might shed light on why some finals have more goals than others – depending upon the years they take place.

From WM to 4-2-4

One of the first great formation revolutions came from the WM, which could loosely be described as a 3-2-2-3. It helped teams set up in a more balanced and organized way compared to what came before. However, from the 1950s onwards, many teams, especially international sides, started to set up in 4-2-4 variants. Examples include West Germany in 1954 and Brazil in 1962, who each won the FIFA World Cup in those years. Notably, both tournaments were very high scoring, with the Semi-finals and Final alone producing 18 goals in 1954.

Introduction of the 4-4-2

However, This wouldn’t last, as the next tweak to the 4-2-4 was the heralded 4-4-2, which saw the wide forwards become more defensive-minded midfielders. This formation was most prevalent in England, as The Three Lions famously won the World Cup in 1966, playing a 4-4-2.

Golden era of defending

While the 1970s and 1980s would vary greatly in terms of goals in finals, some universal trends did begin to emerge from the late 80s onwards. A combination of more pragmatic tactical game plans, combined with a new crop of incredible defenders, ushered in a new era of tight, low-scoring finals. In the old European Cup (now the UEFA Champions League), pragmatism prevailed in finals, with only two between 1977 and 1996 seeing both sides score. Indeed, three of those finals ended goalless, meaning they had to be settled on penalties.

The dominance of stubborn Italian defences can partially explain this trend, with AC Milan being particularly stingily in their five European Cup Finals between 1989 and 1995. And yet, that legendary Milan backline of Maldini, Baresi, Costacurta and Tassotti also brought low-scoring finals to the international game, as the 1994 World Cup Final – involving Italy and Brazil – became the first in history to end 0-0.

Gegenpressing and possession-based football

After a period of defensive World Cup Finals, the late 2010s have arguably seen a return to teams using attack as the best form of defence. The 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals seem to underline this, as they each produced six goals, with the attacking players on show shaping the games.

However, other competitions seem to prove those right who say that finals continue to be low-scoring and tight. Last season’s (2022-23) League Cup and FA Cup Finals both ended 0-0 between Chelsea and Liverpool, while even the Champions League final – involving two ostensibly attacking sides in Liverpool and Real Madrid – ended 1-0. Perhaps then, the teams involved and how well-matched they are has a greater bearing on just how many goals will be produced in that final.

With all that context in mind, let’s dive into the data and find out what the most common scorelines are in some of the biggest and best footballing competitions. We begin, as is only right, with the FIFA World Cup.

FIFA World Cup

uruguay yugoslavia match 1930 world cup
Uruguay v Yugoslavia match 1930 World Cup – Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The sample size for the FIFA World Cup is naturally smaller than some of the other competitions we will assess, given the fact that it takes place every four years. Even so, we do still have plenty of data to work with, which paints a fascinating picture – as the most comment score isn’t one you would expect.

The World Cup Final scoreline that we have seen more than any other is actually 4-2, which has occurred on four occasions. Two of the first three World Cup Finals – 1930 and 1938 – ended this way after 90 minutes, while so too did the iconic 1966 showpiece game between England and West Germany, as well as 2018 – when France outclassed Croatia.

Three scorelines are tied for second place, with 1-0, 2-1, and 3-1 all occurring three times since 1930. Elsewhere, there have been two finals that ended 3-2 (1954 and 1986), while the remaining scores, which all occurred once, were 0-0, 1-1, 4-1, 5-2 and 3-3. It is important to note that some of the final scorelines mentioned came after periods of extra time, which has been required eight times in World Cup Finals.

Highest-scoring FIFA World Cup Finals

World CupHost countryFinalistsFinal scoreScorers
1958SwedenBrazil v Sweden5-2Vava (2), Pele (2), Zagallo, Liedholm, Simonsson
1930UruguayUruguay v Argentina4-2Dorado, Cea, Iriarte, Casto, Peucelle, Stabile
1938FranceItaly v Hungary4-2Colaussi (2), Piola (2), Titkos, Sarosi
1966EnglandEngland v Germany4-2 (AET)Hurst (3), Peters, Haller, Weber
2018RussiaFrance v Croatia4-2Mandzukic (OG +1), Griezmann, Pogba, Mbappe, Perisic
2022QatarArgentina v France3-3 (AET)Messi (2), Di Maria, Mbappe (3)

UEFA European Championships

european championship trophy close upIn the case of the UEFA European Championships, or ‘Euros’ for the sake of brevity, the sample size is even smaller given that the first edition didn’t take place until 1960. However, one scoreline is a clear winner in terms of common final outcomes. The score 2-1 has occurred five times in Euros Final history, far more than any other. Indeed, the first two Euros Finals saw the USSR and Spain win 2-1 respectively, with West Germany also winning by that scoreline on two occasions (in 1980 and 1996).

The second most common is a tie between 1-0 and 2-0, which occurred three times since 1960. The most recent final, 2020, saw Italy and England level at 1-1 after extra-time, which was the second time in Euros history that a final had ended in such a way after the famous 1968 edition which had to be decided by the toss of a coin (Italy getting the rub of the green that day against the USSR). The scores 2-2, 3-0 and 4-0 have all been recorded once in European Championship Final history.

UEFA European Cup/Champions League

champions league and logo close up on official ballLet us now switch our attention to the club game, and specifically, the most prestigious club competition of them all – the UEFA Champions League. Beginning in 1955, we’ve seen numerous final scores down the years, with some of the most dramatic matches in football history coming in the showpiece tie.

It might not come as much of a surprise, but 1-0 is actually by far the most common scoreline from UCL Finals. A grand total of 17 have occurred since the very first in 1964-65, where Inter Milan beat Benfica. And yet, the most remarkable stat pertaining to the Champions League and the 1-0 final scoreline, is that between 1978 and 1983, every single European Cup Final ended in such a way. Several more would be recorded through the 1990s, while the three most recent finals (2020, 2021 and 2022) have also ended 1-0. Is this the best example yet of fear paralysing teams into playing defensively in the Champions League Final? The data would seem to suggest so.

The distant second most common scoreline in European Cup/UCL history is that of 2-1, which has occurred eight times in total. However, despite being a very common final score across all of football, we haven’t actually seen a Champions League Final end this way since 2012/2013, when Bayern Munich dramatically beat Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-1 thanks to a late Arjun Robben winner at Wembley. In addition, while still scarce, the hated 0-0 draw has been recorded four times in total, with three of them coming between 1985 and 1991. Draw your own conclusions from that.

UEFA Europa League

football with european flags as panels eurosAs a bonus, let us also look at the Champions League’s sister competition, the UEFA Europa League. Formerly known as the UEFA Cup, this competition gives us a very deep pool of data given that finals were two-legged affairs up until 1996/97. In a similar vein as the Champions League, its clear that the 1-0 final result is the most common – at least in the UEFA Cup era. While there was just one in the Europa League era (2010-present day), there were 13 in the UEFA Cup between 1971 and 2009. Interestingly, 3-0 was the second most common (10) in the UEFA Cup, perhaps signalling a quality gulf between the two finalists on those occasions.

In more recent times, there has been a greater split between the scorelines. Indeed, since the Europa League was formulated for the 2009/10 season, there have been three 1-1 and 3-1 final results. Most curiously of all, the three most recent finals – 2021, 2022 and 2023 – have all ended 1-1 after 120 minutes, meaning the ties had to be settled on penalties. In each instance, the games were close, competitive and tense, with there being very little to separate the two finalists.

Sevilla, the most successful Europa League side of all time, who have won a combined seven times between the UEFA Cup and Europa League, have a wide spread of winning margins. In just the Europa League, they have won 3-2 twice, 3-1, and twice on penalties – having been held 0-0 and 1-1 in 2014 and 2023 respectively.

Europa League vs UEFA Cup Data

Most common UEFA Cup Final scoresPercentage of all UEFA Cup Finals
1-0 (13)10%
3-0 (10)8%
1-1 (8)6%
2-0 (7)5.5%
2-1 (4)3%
Most common Europa League Final scoresPercentage of all Europa League Finals
1-1, 3-1 (3)19%
3-0, 3-2, 2-1 (2)12.5%
 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 4-1 (1)6%

FA Cup (post WW2)

fa cup final most common scorelines post wwii pie chart

We’ve already looked at some of the FA Cup Finals and the goal frequency in each. However, for the sake of consistency, in this section, we will only be looking at FA Cup Finals post-WW2 and up to the present day. This will hopefully give us a more accurate representation of common scorelines, and it means we can directly compare it to that of the World Cup, Euros and the Champions League – which are nowhere near as old as the FA Cup.

What we discover when looking at every FA Cup final between 1946 and 2022, is that 1-0 is the most common scoreline – and by a clear margin. There have been 24 in total, with the second highest being 2-1, which has been produced 15 times in total. Below that we see that 11 finals have finished 2-0, with there being eight 3-2s. Interestingly, there have been as many 3-3s and 0-0s (two) and just one 6-0 result, which came in 2021 as Manchester City blew away Watford. That one-sided final remains something of an anomaly for the modern era, however, as since the year 2000 nine FA Cup Finals have ended 1-0, while two ended 0-0 and went to penalties.

By contrast, the most goal-rich period was very much between 1984 and 1994, as that 10-year period produced a 3-3 result (1990), three 3-2 results, and a 4-0 win for Manchester United over Brighton and Hove Albion. The 10-year period immediately after the Second World War was equally high-scoring, producing final scorelines of 4-3, 4-1, 4-2, 3-2 and three 3-1 wins.

The most one-sided period in FA Cup history came between 1994 and 2004, perhaps because of the frequent quality gap between the two finalists. In that time period, just one final saw both sides score. And even in that case, which was the 2001 Final between Liverpool and Arsenal, the Gunners were by far the better side, dominating their opponents until a late Michael Owen double flipped the game completely on its head. What’s also notable is that Manchester United, the most dominant side of the era, won the cup four times between 1994 and 2004, while the second most dominant, Arsenal, lifted it on three occasions – potentially accounting for the lop-sided nature of these FA Cup Finals.

CompetitionMost common scoreline(s)Most common scoreline %Total number of FinalsSecond most common scoreline(s)
FA Cup (Post WW2)1-0 (24)32%762-1 (16)
European Cup/Champions League1-0 (17)25%682-1 (10)
UEFA Cup/Europa League1-0 (15)29%143 (Including both legs)3-0 (12)
FIFA World Cup4-2 (4)18%221-0, 2-1, 3-1 (3)
UEFA Euro Championships2-1 (5)31.25%161-0, 2-0 (3)

Football finals at the elite level always have a different feel to your average match. The occasion can get the better of some players, while others take their game to new heights on the biggest of stages. Through the ages, we’ve seen some classics and some absolute snooze fests, but it’s long been speculated that the latter outcome is far more likely. Indeed, with so much at stake, many onlookers have a perception that the high-stakes nature of a final paralyses players and managers, generally leading to cagey, low-scoring affairs.

But is this actually the reality? Well, in order to find out definitively, we have parsed through the data, stretching back decades, to establish what the most common football scores are in notable finals.


one nil most common score shown in balloonsAs we’ve shown, competitions vary greatly in terms of common final scores generated. However, we can certainly observe some interesting trends across different competitions, such as the prevalence of the 1-0 result. The sheer fact that 1-0 is the most common score in FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League Finals does seem to give credence to the stereotype of finals being close and cagey – at least in club football.

By contrast, there seems to be a much greater degree of randomness to international finals, with 4-2 quite remarkably being the most common score across all World Cup Finals. The main reason for this is possibly because international managers have much less time to tactically drill their players, and as such, defensive game plans are harder to master on the training ground. So just bare that in mind the next time you’re betting on a low-scoring World Cup or Euros Final.