The 2022 FIFA World Cup is well underway, and so far there has been plenty to discuss. Prior to the tournament, oddschecker, which compares World Cup odds and offers, had made Argentina the second favorites for the trophy. Following on from their Copa America success last summer, that seemed to be a wise choice. However, Lionel Messi and co. were stunned in their opening game by 33/1 underdogs Saudi Arabia. Argentina did get their campaign underway in their second group game against Mexico however, with Messi on the scoresheet in a comfortable 2-0 victory.
Then there was Germany. Die Mannschaft exited the World Cup four years ago at the group stage despite entering the tournament as reigning champions. Defeats against Mexico and South Korea saw them finish bottom of their group for the first time in the history of the tournament. They headed to Qatar looking to put those memories firmly in the rearview mirror. However, a 2-1 defeat against Japan in their opening game made a second consecutive group stage exit a distinct possibility.
But there has been one strange phenomenon that has brought itself to the fore, much to the disappointment of the billions watching around the world. The goalless draws.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup has seen a record-breaking five goalless draws already. To put that into context, the 2018 World Cup in Russia had just one 0-0 draw in the entirety of the tournament, and that came on day 12. At the time of writing, we are barely a week into the current competition and there have already been five matches ending that way.
The record amount of goalless draws at any World Cup is seven, which has happened at four separate editions of the tournament. But with well over half of the current games still yet to be played, that unwanted record looks set to be smashed in Qatar.
As everyone is aware by now, the current World Cup is the first in the tournament’s history to be played during the middle of the European season. The competition is usually played in the months of June and July. But courtesy of the soaring temperatures in Qatar – which can reach upwards of 50 degrees in the summer months – the tournament had to be rescheduled to the winter.
The Arabian Gulf State still has temperatures well in excess of 30 degrees even in November and December, but those are, admittedly, much more manageable.
The problem with scheduling the tournament in its current slot is the influx of fixtures into the footballing calendar. Take Virgil Van Dijk for example. The Liverpool center-back has featured in every game for the Reds so far this season, including eight matches in the 33 days prior to the midseason break. Now, should the Dutch reach the December 18th final at the Lusail Stadium, he could potentially feature in a further seven games in just 28 days .
Such a run of fixtures will tire out any athlete. That could be one of the reasons why there have been so many goalless draws so far. Players simply don’t have the energy required to try and find a late winner in games.
A new style of play
Ever since Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona burst onto the scene over a decade ago with their tiki-taka style of play, football has changed. The game has moved away from a high-octane, fast-paced, more direct style, toward a slower, possession-based game. And when performed to a high level, possession football can be invigorating and beautiful. But when things aren’t going correctly, it can result in drab and boring affairs.
When the ball is being passed around the defense without any urgency, it’s easy for opposition defenders to simply put 10 men behind the ball and play for a point. If a team is without players of the caliber that Guardiola had all those years ago, such as Xavi, Iniesta, and of course, Lionel Messi, then a goal is going to be hard to come by. As such, goalless draws are to be expected.