MONEYBALL COMES TO THE WORLD CUP. I only watch soccer during the World Cup. I remember from eight or maybe twelve years ago, the attacks based on crosses, in which a player to the side of the goal lofts a kick across the front of the goal he is attacking. Teams would have one or two tall and strong strikers who would try to head the ball in by out jumping the defense. I remember that England and Germany were teams that used the tactic.
Jonathan Clegg has an article in the Wall Street Journal (June 6) about the effects on soccer tactics of statistical studies from the last ten years. Statistical studies indicate that crossing is a terrible tactic. A study from 2010 showed that only one out of 92 crosses produces a goal. Worse, a study by a finance professor shows that crosses by an average team in the English Premier League cost the team about half a goal a game because the team usually loses possession of the ball. Probably because of these statistics, Clegg can itemize several soccer powers in the World Cup who are using crosses much less than they did four or eight years ago.