Brazilian football has a reputation for playing “the beautiful game.” Brazilian teams of past World Cups were famous for exciting attacking play.
Does the current Brazil team live up to these expectations? Do they play ‘beautifully’? Or does manager Luis Felipe Scolari prefer a more pragmatic style?
The data says that there is evidence in favour of both arguments.
The Data — the Negative
Recent Brazil teams are not as attacking as famous teams of the past.
The average number of goals scored by Brazil teams at previous World Cups was:
1958: 2.7 goals per match (Tournament Winners – Brazil)
1962: 2.3 goals per match (Tournament Winners – Brazil)
1970: 3.2 goals per match (Tournament Winners – Brazil)
1982: 3.0 goals per match (Tournament Winners – Italy average goals scored 1.7 goals per match)
In contrast in the more recent era the average goals scored by Brazil teams has reduced:
1990 – 2010: 1.9 goals scored per match
Although in 3 out of the last 6 World Cups this would actually have been more goals than the eventual tournament winners scored.
Average goals scored by tournament winners 1990-2010:
2.1 (1990), 1.6 (1994), 2.1 (1998), 2.6 (2002), 1.7 (2006), 1.1 (2010)
The current Brazil squad often play a strong physical style. For example:
At World Cup 2010 Brazil averaged 15.4 fouls committed per game.
(Comparison: Spain=11.0, Germany=10.7, Uruguay=13.5, Argentina=13.0)
At the 2013 Confederations Cup Brazil committed more fouls per 90 minutes (21.4) than any other team. (Comparison: Spain=10.9)
The current Brazil squad appears to have less goal scoring firepower than many of its rival teams. The data below is how many goals the selected players scored for their clubs in the 2013/14 season:
Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg): 17 goals in 1,954 minutes (0.78 goals per 90 mins)
Neymar (FC Barcelona): 9 goals in 1,734 minutes (0.47 goals per 90 mins)
Fred (Fluminense): 5 goals in 1,115 minutes (0.38 goals per 90 mins)
Jo (Atletico Mineiro): 6 goals in 1,617 minutes (0.33 goals per 90 mins)
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona): 28 goals in 2,501 minutes (1.01 goals per 90 mins)
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City): 17 goals in 1,528 minutes (1.00 goals per 90 mins)
Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli): 17 goals in 2,409 minutes (0.64 goals per 90 mins)
Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan): 17 goals in 3,166 minutes (0.48 goals per 90 minutes)
Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid): 27 goals in 2,948 minutes (0.82 goals per 90 mins)
Pedro (FC Barcelona): 15 goals in 2,349 minutes (0.57 goals per 90 mins)
David Villa (Atletico Madrid): 13 goals in 2,375 minutes (0.49 goals per 90 mins)
Fernando Torres (Chelsea): 5 goals in 1,574 minutes (0.29 goals per 90 minutes)
[source: 21st Club]
The Data — The Positive
At the World Cups from 1990 to 2010 Brazil averaged 1.9 goals scored per match. The breakdown by year is as follows:
1990: 1.0 goals per match
1994: 1.6 goals per match
1998: 2.0 goals per match
2002: 2.6 goals per match
2006: 2.0 goals per match
2010: 1.8 goals per match
The highest scoring tournament in the recent history was in 2002 — the previous time Luis Felipe Scolari was the manager of Brazil.
Since Scolari returned as manager of Brazil (November 2012) they have a very strong record:
Played: 23 Won: 17 Drawn: 4 Lost: 2
Goals Scored: 62 goals in 23 matches (an average of 2.7 goals scored per match)
[source: 21st Club]
At the most recent tournaments they have played the created a lot of goal scoring opportunities:
World Cup 2010: Brazil averaged 14.6 shots attempted per match (1st out of 32 teams)
Confederations Cup 2013: Brazil averaged 14.6 shots attempted per match (2nd only to Spain)
Star player Neymar has a far superior goal scoring record for Brazil than for Barcelona
Barcelona (2013-14): 9 goals in 1,734 minutes (0.47 goals per 90 mins)
Brazil (August 2010-present): 31 goals in 4,117 minutes (0.68 goals per 90 mins)
Information courtesy of goaldifference.com