Underdogs Shine In Qatar But What Is The Lowest xG A Winning Team Has Had in Football History?

Saudi Arabia beat Argentina at 2022 World Cup - xG article
Saudi Arabia beat Argentina at 2022 World Cup - xG article
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After Costa Rica stunned Japan and Morocco beat Belgium yesterday to follow Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Argentina in the 2022 Qatar World cup, we explore the lowest xG stats a team have produced.

Saudi Arabia’s xG in their famous 2-1 win over Argentina was just 0.15 but that was ‘outdone’ by Costa Rica who had just one shot on target in their 1-0 win over Japan, resulting in an xG of just 0.11! Here are some other xG stats from recent history and whether or not teams won with less xG than their opponents.

xG And It’s Meaning

If you don’t know by now, the term xG in football means expected goals. Put simply, the idea of xG is to determine how likely it is that a goal is scored from a particular shot attempt or any other scoring opportunity.

One of the men who is responsible for the development of this relatively new statistic is Michael Caley. He has defined the expected goals stat as:

“The idea is to quantify the likelihood of a goal being scored from a particular shot attempt (or other scoring chance). This is an idea that I think is quite intuitive. ‘We need to create better scoring chances’ is something managers have said forever, and xG is basically just a quantification of that notion.

“The broad concept has probably been around for a long time in football – Charles Reep’s notion that ‘one of every nine shots is scored’ is a sort of early version of xG.”

Now, as we have alluded to already, Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina by beating them 2-1 in the opening Group C game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The xG stat for Saudi Arabia was just 0.15, whereas Argentina’s was 2.30.

Costa Rica were always likely to be cautious in their tactics against Japan after being hammered 7-0 by Spain in their opening game. But to come away with a 1-0 win after managing an xG of just 0.11 is quite incredible!

The CONCACAF side had four shot in the match, one was blocked, two were off target and the other one went in – although Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda will admit that he should have saved Keysher Fuller’s looping effort.

This shows that despite statistics being a good way of painting a picture of a game without actually watching it, that they really only tell half the story and that sometimes statistics are a complete contrast to the the only real stat that matters – the scoreline.

What Determines An Expected Goal (xG)?

Distance from goal: Was it a long-range chance or was it a sitter?

What it a one-on-one chance?: Did the player just have the keeper to beat?

The assist: Was it a cross, a cut-back, a through-ball, a long-ball?

The angle of the cross: Was it a tight angle or did the player have a clear sight at goal and have both sides of the net to aim at?

The type of chance: Was it at the players feet, was it a header, was it on the volley?

Passage of play: Eg. open play, free-kick, corner, penalty etc.

Had the player just beaten his opponent?: This helps determine whether the player would have been under pressure

Was it a rebound?: This helps determine how prepared the player would be before taking the shot

Lowest xG-scoring Wins In Football History

Here are a few examples of the lowest xG-scoring wins in football history. Of course, Saudi Arabia’s shock win earlier today against Lionel Messi’s Argentina is up there, as are some other shock results in recent memory.

Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia

This one is the freshest in our memory. One of the pre-tournament favourites at the 2022 World Cup, Argentina, kicked their campaign off as they played the 51st ranked team in the official FIFA World Rankings, Saudi Arabia.

Argentina were unbeaten in 36 games and had Lionel Messi, one of the greatest footballers of all time, leading the line against a nation who aren’t exactly famous for football. On paper, this was a routine victory for Argentina, and when they went 1-0 inside the opening ten minutes, everyone probably thought the game was over.

However, thanks to two quickfire goals early in the second half, Saudi Arabia came from behind to win 2-1 and claim their first ever win in World Cup history. What makes this game even more bizarre is the fact that Argentina’s xG was 2.30, and Saudi’s was just 0.15.

Messi’s men had 14 attempts on target and enjoyed 69% possession, with Saudi Arabia having just three goal attempts. Yes, you’re right to think these stats simply don’t add up but this just goes to show how xG isn’t the be-all and end-all!

Saudi Arabia Shock Argentina
Saudi Arabia shock Argentina with 2-1 win in World Cup opener despite just 0.15 xG

Japan 0-1 Costa Rica

Japan produced a sublime performance to shock four-time World Cup winners Germany with a 2-1 comeback win in their opening fixture in Group E, so when they met Costa Rica, who had just been humbled 7-0 by Spain, Nippon fans would have been forgive for expecting a relatively routine win.

But nothing could have been further from reality. In what was in truth a pretty dire affair, neither team showed much cutting edge. Despite Japan looking far more likely to score, they couldn’t bread the deadlock.

Yet with the match looking to be destined for another goalless draw, Tico wingback Keysher Fuller took a speculative shot from the edge of the area which somehow deceived Japan’s goalkeeper. Shuichi Gonda got his gloves to the ball but had jumped too early and couldn’t prevent it dropping into the net.

The shot was from the corner of the penalty area meaning it’s xG was minimal and in addition to Costa Rica’s two other off target shots, it meant a total xG of just 0.11! As far as we can tell that is the lowest winning xG in World Cup history.

Cardiff City 1-2 Burnley

This one is actually quite a funny one, of course that is unless you are a Cardiff City fan. Burnley travelled to Wales in September 2018 and claimed all three points in the Premier League with a 2-1 win at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Despite winning the game and scoring two goals, Burnley’s xG was just a staggering 0.11. Burnley had just two attempts on target the whole game, and both resulted in goals for Sean Dyche’s men.

Neil Warnock was the manager at the time at Cardiff, and his side had 19 attempts on goal, scoring just one of them and losing the game. Talk about a ‘smash and grab’ for Burnley.

As far as we are aware, this is the the lowest xG-scoring win for a team in history on record. There are probably more that we are unaware of, but this one between Cardiff and Burnley was quite staggering. Just 0.11 xG for the claret and blues but they won 2-1, incredible!

Temperley 1-0 San Martín de San Juan

Despite having just 36% possession, Temperley beat San Martín de San Juan 1-0 back in November 2017 in the Argentinian Primera Division with an expected goals (xG) tally of just 0.17.

This is the lowest xG on record, and this match broke the record for having the lowest xG total too. There were 12 shots on goal in the whole match, with just one of these attempts being on target. Of course, that one shot on target resulted in a goal for Temperley, but talk about a dull game of football!

On record, there have only been seven matches in history that have finished with a total combined xG of less than 0.51. This game was the lowest of them all, with a combined xG of just 0.33.

Talk about a boring game of football!


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