Continuing to follow the World Cup in South Africa, I wanted to know how teams tend to do in group play. Not individual teams, but as a confederation. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at World Cup performances in the group stage by confederation as it may provide some insight into how teams might perform in the knockout round. Therefore, I took a look at World Cup group play results from 1994 onward and compared how teams from UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, AFC, CAF, and OFC fared against one another. I did not include games in which teams from the same confederation played each other (for example, Germany vs. Spain). And although it is expected that teams from CONMEBOL and UEFA are expected to dominate, you may find the information below both interesting and useful. Please note all records are in the following format, Wins-Losses-Draws.
Starting with the UEFA, in interconfederation World Cup group play their overall record is 65-38-41 from 1994 onward. This gives UEFA teams an overall winning percentage of 45.1% in World Cup group play. UEFA teams tend to perform well against CONCACAF teams in group play (12-4-11), AFC teams (18-9-5), and CAF teams (22-9-11). Interestingly, against OFC teams, UEFA teams have only mustered a 0-0-3 record. And interestingly, UEFA teams have a slight losing record against CONMEBOL teams (13-16-11).
Speaking of CONMEBOL, unarguably CONMEBOL teams tend to dominate World Cup group play. CONMEBOL teams have an overall record of 39-15-16 in interconfederation World Cup group play since 1994, giving them a winning percentage of 55.7%. CONMEBOL teams have a winning record against every confederation in group play. CONMEBOL teams are undefeated against AFC, CAF, and OFC teams in group play (8-0-1, 8-0-3, and 1-0-1 records respectively), perform well against CONCACAF opponents (6-2-0), and as previously mentioned, hold a slight edge against UEFA teams in World Cup group play.
CONCACAF teams tend to have trouble with CONMEBOL teams (2-6-0) and UEFA teams (4-12-11) in interconfederation World Cup group play. CONCACAF teams are about even with CAF teams (1-1-2) and tend to do well against AFC teams (4-1-1). Their overall record in World Cup group play since 1994 is 11-21-14 giving them a winning percentage of about 23.9%. And unless I’m mistaken, CONCACAF teams have not played an OFC team in group play since 1994.
With AFC and CAF teams, I’ve already mentioned how, like CONCACAF teams, these teams have trouble with CONEMBOL and UEFA teams. And of these two confederations, the AFC has trouble with CONCACAF teams (1-4-1). When playing each other, AFC teams hold a slight edge over CAF teams with a record of 4-2-5. Overall, AFC World Cup teams have a record of 14-33-12 (23.7%) in interconfederation group play and CAF teams have a record of 12-35-21 (17.6%). The CAF has not played a group match against an OFC team however the OFC, with an overall record of 1-1-4, has its sole World Cup group play win coming against an AFC team.
To summarize, since 1994 CONMEBOL teams have the highest World Cup interconfederation winning percentage at 55.7%. They are followed by UEFA teams with a winning percentage of 45.1%. CONCACAF teams come next, with a winning percentage of 23.9% in World Cup group play. AFC teams follow closely at 23.7% with CAF teams coming next at 17.6%. Finally OFC teams have a winning percentage of 16.7% in World Cup group play.