After four days of action in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, every team has one match in the books. What have we learned? Which teams surprised? Below is a superlative-based analytics breakdown of the first set of matches.
Best game: Sweden vs. Nigeria. From an excitement level, nothing can beat the match between Sweden and Nigeria. The game seemed to be heading in the direction most expected after Sweden jumped out to an early lead. According to ESPN’s win probability model, Sweden had a 92 percent chance to win, 7 percent chance to draw and 1 percent chance to lose as it took a 2-0 lead into halftime.
Then, early in the second half, Nigeria scored two goals in three minutes and increased its chances for a draw to 50 percent. The momentum swung again as Sweden scored in the 60th minute, but Nigeria continued to create chances and ultimately scored the equalizer with three minutes left in normal time.
This game marked the fifth time in Women’s World Cup history that both teams scored at least three goals, and according to ESPN’s expected goals model, there was just a 2.7 percent chance for that outcome to occur.
Most unlikely result: Spain vs. Costa Rica. Although Spain and Costa Rica were both participating in their first-ever Women’s World Cup matches, the gap between the two teams was significant. Spain ranks 23 spots ahead of Costa Rica in the FIFA World Rankings, and again, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Women’s Soccer Power Index projections, La Roja had about a 2-in-3 chance to win the match. Spain had 16 more shots and 231 more completed passes than Costa Rica but could not pull out the victory, and the match ended 1-1. Based on the pregame projections, this was the most unlikely outcome (20 percent likely) of the first four days.
Most unlikely score: Germany vs. Ivory Coast. There were more than a few surprising final scores in the first few days of action, including Cameroon’s 6-0 win over Ecuador and Sweden’s 3-3 draw against Nigeria. It should not be surprising, though, that the most unlikely final score was Germany’s 10-0 victory over Ivory Coast.
Yes, Germany had scored 10 goals in a Women’s World Cup match before, and, yes, Ivory Coast was making its World Cup debut, but even the most apt soccer observers would not expect a 10-0 game. According to ESPN’s expected goals model, which is built off FiveThirtyEight’s WSPI, there was a 0.1 percent chance of Germany scoring 10 or more goals in that game.
Most important win for advancement: Cameroon vs. Ecuador. While much of the world was watching the United States take on Australia, Cameroon was quietly piling up goals against Ecuador in its 6-0 win. After that victory, Cameroon’s chances of advancing to the round of 16 rose from 74 percent to more than 99 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight. Cameroon is currently one of five teams with at least a 99.5 percent chance to advance. (The others are Germany, Norway, Japan and Brazil.)
Although picking up three points was significant, Cameroon’s plus-six goal differential may prove to be even more important if it finishes third in Group C, because that stat is used to determine which third-place teams advance.
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Image courtesy ESPNBreaking Down The Stats on the 2015 Women's World Cup by Omonaija