In their group stage opener, the Netherlands came from behind to beat reigning world champions Spain, 5-1.
Their equalizer was scored just before halftime by Robin van Persie and many commentators agreed after the game that this had been a key factor — scoring so close to half time had given them vital “momentum” to go on to clinch victory in the second half.
But does the data support this theory?
2013-14 Season — Top 5 European Leagues
The 21st Club looked at every game that was level at halftime. Last season there were 736 such matches.
They split these matches into two groups — those that were 0-0 at halftime or where there was no goal scored in the period just before halftime (40 to 45 minutes) and those where there was a goal scored between 40 and 45 minutes.
The results can be seen below:
There were 660 games that were either 0-0 at halftime or didn’t have a goal in the last five minutes of the half. In these games the home team won 40 percent, 34 percent were drawn and 26 percent were won by the away team (broadly in line with what we would expect given home advantage).
Forty times the away team equalized between 40 and 45 minutes. In these games they went on to achieve an average of 1.18 points per match — only very slightly higher than the average of 1.13 they achieved in scenario 1.
On 36 occasions, the home team equalized just before halftime. In these games the home side only went on to achieve an average of 1.28 points per game — this is actually even lower than the average of 1.53 points per game when the game was either 0-0 or didn’t have a late equalizer.
Information courtesy of goaldifference.com