Statistically the greatest World Cup?

Tim Cahill scores for Australia against the Netherlands

Lots of football fans have been saying that this World Cup is the most exciting they have seen - and stats from the group stage suggest they are correct, writes Wesley Stephenson of BBC radio's More or Less programme.

The brilliance of Messi, that diving header from Van Persie and Tim Cahill's left foot screamer. They all sent a shiver down the spine. But let's look at the numbers.

Goals. We want goals. And we're getting them. In the group stage of this World Cup the average goals per game is 2.83. That's huge. You have to go back to 1958 to find more goals per game in the group stage.

Graphic showing goals per game

Last-minute winners. There's little better than a game that goes to the death. Manchester United in the Nou Camp in 1999 - who can forget that? In the group stage in Brazil, seven matches have been decided in the last five minutes - more than in most other World Cups.

More or Less: Behind the stats

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Goals scored by both sides. High-scoring games may be entertaining but not if one side is just getting tonked. "The average over the past 10 World Cups of games where both teams have scored is 47%, with a low of 38% in 2006 and 1974, and a high of 56% in 1982," says Paul Wainwright, an Aussie who's crunched some of the numbers for Australian website The Roar. This World Cup matches 1982 on 56%.

Close Games. "We're seeing more exciting games with both teams in it right until the end," says Wainwright. Forty-four per cent of the games have ended with a one-goal margin. This equals the previous high of 44% in 1990. The low was 17% in 1974.

Games with a winner. Before this world cup the highest percentage of games that ended in a win (not a draw) was 78% - a figure achieved in 1990 and 1994. So far in 2014, a record 83% of games have ended in a result.

Graphic showing the number of games ending in a result

"We're seeing many more results, more goals, more per-team scoring and a fine margin," says Wainwright.

While this World Cup is equal with others on some measures, what makes it unusual is that it ranks highly across a broad range of parameters. So statistically this really is the best World Cup ever. Well, so far anyway.

Tell us what numerical measure you would use to judge the excitement of the World Cup, using the form on the right hand side of this article.

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