Find out who the oldest player was at the World Cup; which team picked up the most bookings and which country’s defence was the most watertight
No team worked the ball in closer before shooting than Algeria, whose shots averaged 13.2 yards in length, and they were rewarded with the second best shot conversion rate at the finals. On average it took them just 4.6 shots to score each goal, which was bettered only by Colombia.
The runners-up boasted the second tightest defence after Costa Rica, conceding just 0.47 goals per 90 minutes and going 518 minutes without letting in a goal before Germany’s late winner in the final. Coach Alejandro Sabella did not put much faith in youth though: they were the only team not to field a player under 24 years of age.
For all their Tim Cahill-driven heroics, Australia’s defence conceded at the second highest rate in Brazil, shipping an average of 2.8 goals per 90 minutes. This was largely due to their difficulty in keeping opponents out of their penalty area: no team allowed a larger percentage of shots from inside their box than the Aussies’ 73 per cent.
The Belgians were fond of using the flanks, with only three teams playing a greater proportion of passes to wide positions than their 33.7 per cent. The ball back in was not always well timed however, with only Italy being caught offside more often than their 3.5 times per 90 minutes. Along with England, they forced corners the most frequently - an average of 6.9 per 90 minutes - and like Roy Hodgson’s men were unable to make a single one count.
Unlucky not to prolong their stay in Brazil beyond the group stage, Bosnia-Herzegovina were the best team at keeping opponents out of their penalty area, with 68.8 per cent of the shots they faced coming from outside the box. They were not fond of using the wings, playing a greater share of their passes - 77 per cent - from the middle of the pitch than any other side.
The hosts conceded more goals at the tournament than any other team, with half of the 14 they shipped coming in the historic 7-1 defeat to eventual winners Germany. This certainly was not a classic Brazil side: only Cameroon attempted challenges more frequently than their 24.7 per 90 minutes, although they were jointly the top scorers from outside the box with three goals.
Despite attempting challenges at a higher rate than any other side - 25.4 per 90 minutes - Cameroon finished the tournament with the leakiest defence with regards goals per game. The average of 2.85 goals they conceded for every 90 minutes played was not compensated for by their attack, which was the most wasteful at the finals with just one goal to show for their 32 shots.
The Chilean defence allowed a greater proportion of their opponents’ shots from inside their six-yard box than any other finalist - 16 per cent - which resulted in them being one of two teams to concede three goals from this distance. They were however the best team in the tournament when it came to intercepting passes, receiving 18 per cent of the balls played by their opponents.
By bringing on veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon - aged 43 years and three days - for the last 10 minutes of their win over Japan, Colombia set a new record for the oldest player to play at a World Cup. At the other end of the pitch they were irresistible, needing fewer shots to score each goal than any other team - just 4.1 on average - and averaging the most goals per 90 minutes: 2.3.
The defensive organisation of the World Cup’s surprise package was incredible: they caught an average of 6.8 players offside every 90 minutes, which was more than double the next highest. Combined with Keylor Navas’ heroics, this gave them the best defensive record at the finals, conceding just two goals. Going forward they loved to get the ball in the air: dispatching a tournament-leading 31.4 per cent of their goal attempts via headers.
Although the Croatians failed to get out of their group, they scored at the tournament’s third-highest rate of 1.89 goals per 90 minutes. No team were better at steering their shots away from the goalkeeper, with just 31 per cent of their shots on target being saved. Unfortunately they conceded as many as they scored, and were one of just three teams to let in more than one shot from outside the box.
Ecuador were the close-range kings, with the three goals they scored from inside the six-yard box the tournament’s joint-highest with Germany, despite them playing only 40 per cent as many minutes as the eventual champions. No team was more reliant on the aerial route - just as in qualifying - with 67 per cent of their goals coming from headers. Much of this service came from the flanks, from which they played a greater share of their passes - 36 per cent - than any other finalist.
By handing a start to Luke Shaw in their dead rubber against Costa Rica, England fielded the only player aged under 19 at the finals. Despite winning corners at the joint-highest rate of 6.9 per 90 minutes, England took the smallest share of efforts on goal from headers - just one of their 38 attempts. Their meek return of two goals from three matches resulted from being effectively kept at bay by their opponents - their average shot was 21 yards from goal: the third longest at the tournament.
While France acquitted themselves well in Brazil, they had a smattering of good fortune along the way: benefiting from two of the five own goals scored at the tournament. The goal from a free-kick that knocked them out was no coincidence however: they conceded the second greatest percentage of goals from set-pieces - 67 per cent - and were one of only two sides to concede more than once from free-kick situations.
The new world champions outpassed all of their 31 challengers, completing an average of 461 passes per match, and scored goals at a higher rate than everyone except Colombia, with 2.23 per 90 minutes. Despite none of the 36 goals they scored during qualifying coming from the air, they were the only team to score three headers at the finals.
The Ghanaians loved a through ball in Brazil, with the greatest share of passes into space - 3.7 per cent - of any finalist. This direct approach generated plenty of goalmouth action, with no side shooting more frequently than Ghana’s 15.8 efforts per 90 minutes. This haste made for plenty of waste however: only two teams got a smaller proportion of their attempts on target than their 39 per cent.
Georgios Samaras’ audacious effort from the centre circle against Japan was the longest shot attempted in Brazil at 54.7 yards, but Greece were seldom this direct. No team played a greater proportion of their passes sideways than the Greeks’ 14 per cent, and they were also the most fouled side at the tournament, being sent sprawling an average of 16 times per 90 minutes.
The Dutch were the masters of leaving it late in Brazil, scoring an unmatched six goals in the last 15 minutes of matches. Daley Blind’s pinpoint delivery for Robin van Persie’s leaping header against Spain was typical of a side that averaged the longest passes at the finals: 19.8 yards. Holland were also the most accurate shooters at the finals, getting 67 per cent of their shots on target.
It was a forgettable tournament for the Hondurans: one of three sides to leave Brazil with a solitary goal to their name. This lack of end product was not helped by their tendency to shoot from distance: only Nigeria took a greater share of shots from outside the box than their 64 per cent. There was not much to cheer about at the back either, with the 2.5 goals they conceded per 90 minutes being the third highest at the finals.
Iran’s tournament was one of scarcity: no side completed fewer passes (146) or took fewer shots (5.3) per 90 minutes. While the 66 per cent of passes that they played forwards was the largest proportion at the finals, they were the least accurate passers overall: getting just 76 per cent to a team-mate. Their manager, Carlos Queiroz, appeared reluctant to change personnel in an effort to improve these numbers however: Iran used just 15 of their 23-man squad, the lowest of any finalist.
The Italians may have gone out in the group stage, but they were the most accurate passers at the tournament with 90 per cent of balls finding their target. This was achieved with a compact midfield - no team’s passes covered a shorter average distance than their 16.9 yards. Timing forward passes proved trickier though: they were caught offside more often than any other team at an average of 6.8 times per 90 minutes, which was almost double the next highest at the finals.
The Ivorians’ line-ups were the third oldest on average and they fielded the tournament’s oldest starting XI against Greece, with an average age of 30 years 37 days. This experience did not bring discipline though, as they racked up the highest average of 2.2 bookings per 90 minutes. They preferred not to use the wings, playing the smallest proportion of passes into wide areas at just 24 per cent.
The Japanese made errors in possession less frequently than all but one other finalist - just 11.3 per 90 minutes - but lacked a reliable final touch. Their average of 20.5 shots per goal scored made them the third most wasteful finishers at the tournament. Japan were lop-sided going forward, playing a lower percentage of their passes from the right - just 10 per cent - than any other team, but the third highest from the left at 19 per cent.
Mexico became renowned for their spirited defensive displays - notably in the 0-0 draw with Brazil - and cleared the ball more frequently than anyone else, with an average of 36.3 per 90 minutes. Unfortunately, 90 minutes was often too long for them to hold out, with all three of the goals they conceded coming in the final 15 minutes of matches.
Nigeria placed their faith in youth, with the third youngest line-up on average and fielding the tournament’s youngest starting XI in their group match against Iran, with an average age of 24 years 146 days: over five years younger than their opponents. Either inexperience or bad luck saw them caught out often from set-pieces though: they conceded the largest share of goals from dead-ball situations - 80 per cent - and were the only team to concede three times from a corner.
Pepe’s moment of madness against Germany was a rare lapse of Portuguese discipline, with no side picking up fewer yellow cards than their two. They will be wishing that their left-back picked up his man more frequently however, given that they conceded the largest proportion of goals from this flank: 57 per cent. Portugal also boasted the most trigger-happy forward in captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who attempted an average of 6.6 shots per 90 minutes - more than the entire Iranian or Costa Rican teams managed between them.
Fabio Capello’s Russia may have been the only squad comprised exclusively of home-based players, but they often appeared unfamiliar with each other, misplacing passes more regularly than any other side: an average of 75 every 90 minutes. Russian defenders were the most likely to stay on their feet when making a challenge, with 92 per cent of their challenges coming from a standing position.
South Korea had the youngest average starting line-up of any team at 25 years 146 days and were the only team not to use a player aged 30 or over. Their youthful side attacked tentatively, playing the lowest percentage of passes forwards - just 54 per cent - and the smallest share into space rather than directly at a team-mate: 1.4 per cent.
This was a tournament to forget for Spain, who committed more errors in possession than any other team at the finals: an average of 20.4 per 90 minutes. It was in defence where things went really wrong: their average of 3.3 shots faced for each goal they conceded was the lowest at the tournament and they were one of only two teams to concede more than one goal from a free-kick.
The Swiss were the only team apart from Argentina and Brazil to score more than once from outside the penalty area, and only eventual winners Germany took more shots from inside the six-yard box. Switzerland were also one of the cleanest teams at the tournament, with their average of 0.7 yellow cards per 90 minutes lower than every finalist except Portugal.
The Americans fielded the oldest average starting line-up at the tournament at 29 years 219 days, and they reaped the benefit of this experience with a lower error rate than any other side - an average of just 9.8 per 90 minutes. Tim Howard was kept busy in goal though: the average of 18 shots he faced every 90 minutes was higher than any other goalkeeper.
One of the more direct sides at the finals, Iran were the only team to play a smaller percentage of their passes backwards than Uruguay’s 26 per cent. This hastiness resulted in them registering a lower pass accuracy than all but three of their fellow finalists: just 80 per cent. Given that the Uruguayan defence was one of only two to concede three goals from inside their six-yard box, it is perhaps understandable that the ball was kept away from them.