Stroke, shock and dead sugar: World Cup 2022 according to the numbers so far |  WC 2022

Stroke, shock and dead sugar: World Cup 2022 according to the numbers so far | WC 2022

Morocco’s capital, Rabat, is more than 7,000 km from Doha, but that hasn’t stopped the Atlas Lions from settling down. “We feel like we are at home,” said their coach, Walid Regragui, after the match point against Croatia. “And I’m happy to be in Qatar. The Moroccan and Arab fans in the stands supported us and gave us strength when we felt tired.

It was a similar story 24 hours earlier after Tunisia also secured a 0-0 draw in their opening game against Denmark in front of a packed crowd dominated by their supporters. “The fan factor was very positive for us,” said their coach, Jalel Kadri. “It gave us a big boost mentally and we look forward to seeing the fans continue to do that for us.”

Saudi Arabia had, of course, led the way in a historic victory against Argentina met with jubilant scenes in the stands and beyond. “The number of fans was big, but I hope it will be even bigger,” Hervé Renard said in anticipation of Saturday’s meeting with Poland.

This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

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This is a World Cup like no other. For the past 12 years, the Guardian has reported on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is brought together on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football website for those who want to delve deeper into the issues off the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

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Of all the trends in the first round of matches at the 2022 World Cup, the brilliant start made by the Arab nations – apart from Qatar – was the most striking. Roared on by passionate supporters and in conditions many of the players are more used to, there has been a marked improvement in results compared to previous World Cups, particularly Russia 2018. Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 drubbing of the hosts in the opening match there set the tone, with Tunisia and Morocco who lost to England and Iran respectively before failing to get through the group stage.

While Renard may feel confident of matching Saudi Arabia’s best World Cup performance, when they reached the last 16 in 1994, Regragui’s and Kadri’s side still have a lot to do after the death – two of a record four 0-0 draws in the first . match round.

At this rate, Qatar 2022 is on course to surpass the all-time high of seven, which has occurred on four previous occasions: 1982, 2006, 2010 and 2014. By contrast, none of the first 16 matches at Russia 2018 produced goalless draws. , with just one during the tournament.

Andre Ayew celebrates scoring for Ghana
André Ayew (right) ended Africa’s long wait for a first-round goal when he scored for Ghana. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

That by no means means it has been a boring World Cup – there were 41 goals in the first round at an average of 2.56 per game compared to 38 four years ago. Twenty-five of the goals in Qatar came in four games.

Deciphering trends in a World Cup can be confusing. How have the first 16 games in Qatar yielded no own goals when, for example, there were four in 2018 at the same stage? The all-time high of nine own goals in Russia looks unlikely to be surpassed.

The absence of red cards during the first round of group matches in Qatar was the first time no player has been sent off since 1986, perhaps surprisingly given the introduction of VAR. Unfortunately for Wayne Hennessey, the clean slate did not last long. In the meantime, there must be an explanation as to why there were no goals from direct free kicks in the first round of matches.

It’s fair to say that some trends are more predictable, such as Uruguay’s formidable defensive record at the World Cup. They have gone 465 minutes without conceding a goal in the group stage since Wayne Rooney’s equalizer for England 15 minutes from time in São Paulo in 2014. Uruguay’s opening match with South Korea featured one shot on target, the lowest since 1986 when Denmark and Scotland registered . one shot in the match.

Elsewhere, André Ayew’s goal for Ghana against Portugal finally ended Africa’s long wait for a goal in the first round of matches and Japan bucked a trend by recording their first comeback win at the World Cup, against Germany at the ninth attempt, with the winner the goal scorer. , Takuma Asano, saying they had been inspired by Saudi Arabia’s success. “We watched the Saudi game and thought we can do it – then we did it today,” he said.

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