I just read that the 1962 FIFA World Cup was the first edition of the tournament where the average number of goals per match dropped below 3 (at that point, 32 years had already passed since the first staging of the Cup). And just to cite an example, an average of 4.67 goals per match were scored at the 1938 FIFA World Cup, which grew even more to the crazy number of 5.38 goals per match in 1954.

Indeed, the group stage of the 1954 FIFA World Cup kind of looks unreal (Hungary 9-0 South Korea; Hungary 8-3 West Germany; West Germany 7-2 Turkey; Uruguay 7-0 Scotland; Austria 7-5 Switzerland).

Is there a reason why national teams used to score so much in the past? Has something changed in the way people play football?

  • Could be that teams have learnt to defend better nowadays. Or it could be that teams nowadays are far more afraid of losing and hence are less likely to overcommit themselves to attacking in case they get caught out by a counterattack. In recent FIFA tournaments it is noticeable that more goals are scored in the group stages than in the knockout stages, where the cost of defeat is much higher. Results in knockout games tend to be much tighter – though there can be freak exceptions like Germany’s 7–1 semifinal win against Brazil.
    – George Law
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 21:52

2 Answers 2


In the beginings of soccer football formations were 2-3-5 and formations with few defenders and many fowards/strikers. Since most of the team were comitted to score goals than defending, and there were more space to play and less pressure from the players to the oponent players, more goals were scored. Later, formations changed to 4-2-4 , 4-3-3, 4-4-2 , 4-5-1 , etc meaning more players were comitted to defending than attacking . Nowadays teams with less skilled players place 2 defensive lines of 4 players (technically, 4 o 5 defenders and other 4 or 3 midfielders committed in defensive, pressure and recovering balls duties) and 1 or 2 strikers, and sometimes they regroup in 30 metres which makes very difficult to reach to the goalkeeper to shoot and score a goal. Those are the mainly reasons, but there might be others such as the better physical conditions players have to run over the field to recover balls and defend his own team


My personal opinion is that the level of football has risen dramitaccly since those days. At that time, even with football being a popular sport it did not rake in as much money as it did today. With the millions being thrown around, the expectation of the players are through the roof.

This results in only the best of the best being able to compete for places in the national team and astronommical losses like those in previous years is not justifible these days even to the lower teams.

P.S : not forgetting the level of technology and refreeing standards are so high today that mistaken goals are usu

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.