Decisive goals are scored in the end of the match

These days there is a talk about the reasons why more goals are being scored in the end of the matches, and often right in the extra minutes. This seems to be a novelty brought about by having lengthened match duration. In reality, this phenomenon has always been present in soccer. As early as 40 years ago, Desmond Morris, famous anthropologist and soccer enthusiast, wrote in his book “The Soccer Tribe” that when he analyzed the 9,000 goals scored between April 1978 and November 1980 in English league and cup matches, the frequency of goals increased as time went on. There were about 5,000 that were scored in the second half, of which 1,800 were scored in the last 15 minutes of the match, showing overall that the probability of scoring increased as the match progressed.

Therefore, if the winning mentality must be maintained throughout the entire match, it seems equally clear that there are key moments during the 90 minutes + recovery when a particularly effective level of focus is needed and that a team must train to avoid drops in concentration and confidence.

To test the validity of the results noted by Morris more than 10 years ago I recorded for three consecutive years from 2006 to 2009 when goals were being scored not only in Serie A but also in Spain, England and Holland. The results confirmed this trend. The overall trend in Serie A goals in the three seasons shows an upward trend from the initial stage of the game to the final stage. It can be seen that the smallest number of goals is scored in the first half hour of the game (12 percent), after that the percentage grows keeping constant from the 31st to the 75th minutes (about 17 percent) and then peaks in the last 15 minutes (24.5 percent).

Similar results are found in the three European leagues. In the first 15 minutes about 10% of the goals are scored, which increases in the following period, varying between 14% and 15.7%. Between the 31st and 75th minutes there are variations between 15% and 18%, while as in the Italian league the greatest number of goals are scored in the last 15 minutes, varying between 24% and 26%.

Moreover, the last period of the game is the one in which the decisive goals are scored whatever the final result with 44.2% of goals. The other period with the highest frequency of goals is the one immediately preceding with 24.6%. The last half hour of the match is the most important in terms of the number of goals scored accounting for 68.8% of the goals. Only 16.3% of the decisive goals are scored in the first half, this figure is very close to the percentage of goals scored in the first 15 minutes of the second half (14.7%).

It seems clear to me that increasing the playing time after the 90th minute represents an additional opportunity to score decisive goals. Increasing even by 5 minutes the average duration of the second half, compared to the last 15 minutes of the match, means increasing by a quarter the time available for teams to score the goals that can determine the final result.

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