How Often Do Teams Go Two Goals Ahead in World Cup Games?

two nil score wooden blocks on football pitchThe World Cup is always a big spectacle when it rolls around. Thisnext tournament will kick off in June 2026 in North America. It’s likely to be as successful as previous editions, despite negative press around it. Not everyone is happy with it taking place with 50% more teams. Yet it will doubtless proceed in grandeur and style, as it always the case.

The competition is so high in the World Cup that viewers often get to see marvels happening on the pitch. Teams can fight back from being severe underdogs to defeat huge favourites. While some big nations have suffered humiliating knockouts early on in the tournament. It happened to Portugal in 2014. The team failed to get out of the group stage following a big 4-0 defeat to Germany.

That defeat by Germany was an example of a team going two goals up and winning but the question we wanted to ask is how frequent is it that a team goes two goals up in a World Cup match? Further to this, is it common for a team to always win if they’re two goals up at any point during a football match? How often do the teams lose if they achieve a two-goal lead? We’ll be looking into any statistics surrounding these points. Also, regardless of the final score, do teams often get two-goal leads on their opponents?

The Truth About a Two Goal Advantage

two nil scoreline on score board world cup football match

There is a certain sense of security that a football team will get from a two-goal advantage. Having a single goal advantage means that the opposition only has to score one to equalise. Two goals put more pressure on the losing side, whereas the team ahead are able to relax a little.

Various online sportsbooks will provide promotions surrounding this type of event, too. This sees them provide bettors with an early payout if a chosen team goes two goals ahead at any point. There is an common thought that this won’t happen so often, though. After all, bookmakers don’t like having to pay out when they don’t have to.

In that case, why would they provide an offer if it wasn’t going to be more beneficial for them? Do teams often find themselves two goals ahead of their opponents in the World Cup?

Well, there isn’t a huge amount of data relating to this situation in the World Cup. But the competition level of that tournament is at least on a par with the English Premier League. Figures for this are actually available. Take a look at data from the beginning of the Premier League through to the end of the 2016/17 season.

This shows that a team took a two-goal advantage on more than 2,700 occasions. Of those instances, about 90% of the time, the team taking the lead came out with the victory by full time. About 7.5% of the matches ended in a tie result. While only 2.5% of them saw the team that was losing fight back and claim the win.

Yet many have said that a two-goal lead by one team over another is a dangerous advantage. This, people say, is especially true if it is a 2-0 score at any point during the game. Yet that isn’t the truth at all. Matches are far more likely to see an own-goal scored, rather than a team throwing away a two-goal lead.

We can also take a look at figures relating to five of the most recently completed seasons. The data comes from the 2015/16 season through to the 2019/20 season. In that timeframe, teams took a two-goal lead 947 times. The matches that this occurred in saw the team win on 887 of those occasions. A draw result came about on 40 occasions and losses happened on 20 of them.

The chances are that the same sort of stats will be seen in the World Cup. Competition levels are high, due to the fact that only the best countries make it through. Thus, the tournament usually sees a plethora of goals scored. The likelihood is that those teams in the World Cup securing a two goal lead also win their matches. Of course, that’s not a 100% guarantee, but is more likely to be the case than not.  Roughly 9 out of 10 matches where a team attain a two goal lead will see them go on to win the game.

Teams Do Fight Back To Draw Or Win

score draw football 4-4Football teams aren’t down and out if a two-goal advantage occurs, though. You only need to look back at some instances in World Cup history to see this. In 2014, Germany went up up against Sweden in a qualifier match. By half time, Germany, held a huge 4-0 lead over their Scandinavian opponents. While all would seem lost in such circumstances, the Swedes came out fighting in the second half.

Led by Zlatan Ibrahimović, the team went on to score three goals before the 90-minute mark. Yet it was Rasmus Elm who picked up the equaliser in the 93rd minute. That proved to be a great spectacle for the fans.

Back in 1966, nobody would have predicted Portugal being in such a state, either. During that World Cup tournament, the team faced off against North Korea. It was in the quarterfinals that Portugal was looking at a three-goal deficit. Nobody could believe what they were witnessing.

Again, a 3-0 advantage is a nice situation to be in. Yet Portugal fought back, thanks to the efforts of star player Eusébio. The striker came out and secured four goals for Portugal in the 27th, 43rd, 56th and 59th minutes. Two of those were penalties. A fifth was then scored by José Augusto in the 80th minute to secure Portugal the victory.

In the more recent World Cup of 2018, Belgium saw themselves 2-0 down to Japan. During their knockout round game, it seemed like the Belgians would be going home. The first goal in that game didn’t come until the 48th minute. Genki Haraguchi would claim the first for Japan, followed by a second from Takashi Inui at 52 minutes.

Things may have looked bleak for Belgium at first. Yet Jan Vertonghen scored in the 69th minute, while Marouane Fellaini garnered another in the 74th. Belgium clawed it back with a third goal to secure the win at 94 minutes.

It’s difficult to find precise information about teams that have lost decent leads. Data companies don’t tend to have that sort of information to hand. From what is available, it is possible to tell you the following:

If a team scores the first goal, there is a 71% chance that they will then go on to win the match. That percentage bases itself on results from the 2011/12 Premier League season. As noted earlier, World Cup data on this topic is quite scarce.

In December of 2016, Gary Lineker inserted himself into this conversation. He Tweeted out the idea of the 2-0 lead being dangerous. Then, he questioned how many times teams had taken such a lead only to throw it away by full time. A response came from the Opta Joe statistical analysis account. Data suggests that a 2-0 lead by half time in the Premier League has occurred 1,061 times. Only 22 times has a team lost the game by full time from that position.

That information relates to half-time leads, of course. Plus, it once again refers to the English Premier League. But the figures aren’t likely to be different in a vast way when it comes to the World Cup, either. Yes, as noted, there have been some specific instances where teams have clawed it back. Yet a majority of the time, this is not the outcome.

One other story relates to this year’s World Cup. Or rather, the qualifiers for the tournament. In November of 2021, the Netherlands faced Montenegro. Memphis Depay scored twice for the Dutch team, giving them a 2-0 lead. With eight minutes to go, it seemed like Holland would be a shoe-in as qualifiers.

Yet Ilija Vukotić claimed a goal at 82 minutes for Montengro. His goal was then backed up by a second from Nikola Vujnović at the 86th minute. In the end, the Netherlands had to claim a 2-0 victory over Norway one week later to qualify. Montenegro ended up not qualifying after a loss to Turkey.

Where Did The Dangerous Scoreline Idea Come From?

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How did it come to be that people determined the 2-0 lead to be a dangerous scoreline? Well, many people believe it to be down to Czech television presenter, Josef Csaplár. The former football coach used to state it on a regular basis that it became its own expression. It was even given the name of Csaplár’s Trap. Of course, this is all speculation. Other countries tend to have their own ideas of where the expression came from.

In Australia, people believe that Johnny Warren was the one to utilise the saying first. Meanwhile, Serbians suggest that Milan Živadinović is the one responsible for it. Yet another common thought on it is just that it stands out as being dangerous. Various famous examples of a team being ahead and then losing the match exist. These circumstances stand out a lot more because they’re less common than a team winning from such a lead.

It’s not a new phenomenon, either. Several instances from way back when of football teams losing such advantages are on record. Hungary faced off against West Germany in the World Cup Final of 1954. Back then, the Hungarian football team was one of the best in the world. The team never lost a match between May 1950 and February 1956. Apart from, that is, the World Cup Final in question. This was even though they took a 2-0 lead with goals from Ferenc Puskás and Zoltán Czibor.

West Germany had lost 8-3 to Hungary during the group stage of the tournament, too. Yet this didn’t stop them. The Germans fought back to secure a 3-2 win over Hungary, claiming their first World Cup. Hungary has never managed to lift the trophy.

Teams will very rarely lose when they are two goals ahead. This relates to all leagues and competitions. A two-goal lead is not dangerous to the team ahead, but more so to the team behind. There is a lot more work to do to equalise and then claim a victory in those circumstances. Comebacks from teams at a disadvantage are not altogether so common.

Look at the Premier League stats from earlier, though. There have been many matches played in that league since it started. A lot more matches have occurred than the 2,700 times that a two-goal advantage came about. Thus, it’s not all that common for these instances to crop up, be that in the Premier League or World Cup.

Are Two Goals Ahead Early Payouts Worth It?

football goal ball made of country flagsIf you are backing a team to win and the odds are the same, or roughly the same, at two different sportsbooks but one is offering you an early payout if the team goes two goals ahead then it is certainly worth taking the offer.

While the scenario is likely to happen less than 10% of the time it still gives you more long term value if you use the offer.  If you place 100 bets on a team to win it is likely that in more than one of those bets you will benefit from the two goal advantage early payout when the team you back doesn’t win the match in the end.

Of course, this is only if the odds are fairly equal.  If the odds are different you need to make the decision as to whether it is better to take the bigger odds, so if you win you get a higher return, or bet with the bookie with the two goal lead offer giving you some insurance if the team goes two-nil up and then draws or loses after 90 minutes.

Why do bookies even offer this?  Well, it’s not a con, they are simply doing it to attract your custom.  In reality it doesn’t cost the bookies too much as it only happens for less than 10% of match result bets placed on average but it can mean they can generate customer loyalty, which is more valuable to them in the long term.

Our advice is, therefore, utilise the 2-0 lead offers for match result betting unless you can get much better odds without the offer.

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