Westfield Soccer Association

7 soccer myths busted (or not)

Weekly Coaches' Email 11/19/2014



I’m sure many of you have heard that scoring just before the end of the first half is very advantageous for a team or if you get fouled in the box and are awarded a penalty kick you shouldn’t take the kick yourself.


Over the last 2 decades most, if not all, professional organizations have started to keep track of different stats involving games, teams and players. After the success of the Oakland A’s with Billy Beane in baseball almost all well respected professional soccer club has decided to follow this trend. This is all done to help them to decide which players to bring in to the club, which players need to start and when it might be time to get rid of a player (rumor has it that Alex Ferguson sold Jaap Stam from Manchester United to Lazio, because he had information that Jaap Stam didn't tackle as much as he used to). 


Thanks to modern day technology and all the data/information available to us we are actually able to confirm whether or not some of the myths involved with soccer are actually true.


Below 7 well known myths going around in soccer for many years that might not be true.


Myth 1 - Never Change a Winning Team

A winning team should always play the next game with the same starting 11. Given the information from over 2000 games, the team playing in the exact same lineup as the previous game won 36% of the time. However, the team that won the previous game and changed it's personnel also wins about 36% of the time.


Myth 2 - Nothing should be left to chance

Soccer is a fluent game and the chances are that a weird deflection or a rebound on the post have more influence on the game that we would like to.

One research showed,after examining more than 12,000 contacts made with the ball, that about 1/3 of them are made by chance. This makes soccer very unpredictable and is 1 of the reasons that it is harder to predict a winner in a soccer game than in any other team sport. 


The team marked as the favorite going in to the game only wins a little more than 50% of the time. This is probably also due to the fact that chance has such an influence on the end result of each game ( a weird bounce, a strange deflection, questionable call of a referee, mistake by a goalkeeper, etc.).


Myth 3 - We need to practice corner kicks every week

Many of us consider corner kicks to be a valuable opportunity to score a goal. Based on data gathered over the years in the English premier league it looks that only 1 in every 5 corner kicks leads to a shot on goal. A shot on goal itself is great, but supposedly only every 1 out of 9 shots on goal out of a corner kick leads to a goal. So all by all every corner kick is worth about 0.022 goals. Given the amount of corner kicks taken on average by the teams in the premier league they will score about once every 10 games out of a corner kick.


Let's say the data would apply to our youth soccer teams. We play a total of 10 games every season and only have 3-4.5 hours each week to practice. It can be very useful to explain to our players how to line up on a corner kick, but we can't forget that we actually have to teach our players how to create scoring opportunities to be able to score goals in the limited amount of time given to us.


Myth 4 - The player fouled should not take the penalty kick

Many believe that this is actually a golden rule. I actually have used this unwritten rule in the past to make certain players would not take the kick. A fouled player scores 75% of the penalty kicks and the stats say the chances are the same when we have another player step up to take the given penalty kick.


Myth 5 - Replacing the coach brings back success

Winning in professional soccer is a must and many coaches have been fired over the years because of a very poor run with the team. It turns out that replacing the coach with somebody else doesn't lead to better results both in the short and long term.


Keep in mind that this is all based on information gathered from different professional soccer leagues in Europe and this probably doesn’t apply to youth soccer. Our emphasis is on the development of youth soccer players. As trainers/coaches we have to make sure our players are given the opportunity to develop.


Myth 6 - Goals scored before the half time cause psychological damage

We have all heard the statement that scoring a goal when the first half is about to end can have a huge influence on the outcome of the game. Assuming that this does some psychological damage to the opposing team. An university in England, a few years back, examined 3,500 games in the English premier league to find out if this is indeed true. They were unable to find any evidence that there is a correlation between time of the goal scored against, during the first half, and the final outcome of the game.


Myth 7 - Women do not understand soccer

All men will love the outcome of this 1. The research doesn't prove that this applies to all countries world wide, as the results for this one are based on research done in Ireland. They asked a 1,000 men and women to explain the offside rule. 53% of men were able to explain the offside rule correctly, compared to 68% of women.


Hopefully this proves you all that we are unable to control the outcome of a game completely. Chance plays a huge part and because soccer is so unpredictable people around the world love the beautiful game. We just have to make sure we prepare our players as good as we can so they can adjust to the constant changing game situations they face when they are out on the field. Sometimes you play really well, but it is possible to loose a game even though you have had the majority of possession and/or out shoot your opponents 10-1.


FYI - It might be good to know that Alex Ferguson later realized that Jaap Stam had gained so much experience over the years, playing as a defender, that he did not need to make a tackle the majority of the time to stop the opponent from scoring. Jaap stam ended up playing really well for his new club, eventually made a transfer to AC Milan and was still very successful well into his thirties. 

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Ruben Vloedgraven
Director of Coaching - Westfield Soccer Association