2018 World Cup diving wrap up

2018-07-19

The World Cup came and went with lots of excitement, great games and unexpected results. There were also dives happening and this is the first time we all get to know exactly how much it happened and the impact those dives had on the matches.

During the World Cup’s month we worked very hard analysing 1,777 plays from the 64 games. Here we share the preliminary results. Besides interrupting the natural flow of matches and in many cases causing changes of ball possession (which we did not attempt to track), diving was observed to cause concrete impact.

Diving happened all across the tournament. Here's a timeline of diving events (in blue) and concrete impact generate by those dives (in red) at every match in the World Cup:

Timeline of dives and impact caused in each match of the World Cup

Unfair impact is encoded in letters:

  • C = Card shown 
  • G = Goal scored as the result of a dive
  • A = Advantage change, i.e., the diving team improved its position from losing to drawing or from drawing to winning

On the positive side, we saw 71% less impact in the World Cup (0.36 per match) than in a sample of Champions League games (1.25 per match) we analysed earlier in the year. We attribute this improvement to VAR and players being cognizant that they will be reviewed in real time. We also saw 3 times more dives happening in the World Cup (14.3 per match) than in the Champions League games (4.5 per match). This discrepancy, less impact but more dives, could be explained as stakes being higher in the World Cup encouraging players to dive more but VAR safeguarding fairness in the game. Another positive was that no unfair red cards were given in the World Cup vs. 2 given in our Champions League match sample.

Champions League vs World Cup diving behaviour

While diving continues happening we are happy to see technology is helping reduce material impact and creating a more fair game. That said, we continue to think that real change should come from the players embracing high standards of honour and integrity and becoming true positive role models for youngsters.

On that note, we also saw incidents where players could have dived and didn't do it, we celebrate the example given by them in those instances, here are two examples:

1) Harry Maguire tripping in the box and instantly signaling the referee not to call a foul.

2) Eden Hazard getting repeatedly hit and held, and continuing playing nonetheless.

Parting thoughts

We’re very happy we did this exercise and enabled the world to see diving through the lens of metrics. Now we know how much diving happens!

If you’re interested in looking at the data and run your own analysis we are sharing it here under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Please share your findings with us and with the rest of the world.

We will continue to promote honour and honesty among professional players, asking fans to demand that from their favourite players and encouraging the continued measurement of diving. Please help us promote this cause and share our petition through your networks.

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