Monday, May 20, 2013

Lionel Messi's Recent Soccer Scoring Streak in Spain

Lionel (Leo) Messi, an Argentinian who plays in Spain for FC Barcelona in the Spanish football/soccer league ("La Liga"), had his 21-game goal-scoring streak ended on May 12. According to this article: "His streak of scoring in his last 21 consecutive league games started on 11th November last year, in an away league match against Mallorca, where he scored 2 goals. With no goal from Leo today, the longest-ever streak of scoring in a league ended."

The same article lists how many goals Messi scored in each of the 21 games during the streak. For the first six games of the streak, he scored two goals (known as a "brace") in each outing.  He scored one goal in each of the next four games, then erupted for four goals in a January 27 game against Osasuna. In the final 10 games of the streak, Messi scored a single goal seven times and a brace three times. All told, he scored 33 goals during the streak, 1.57 per game.

Probably like most U.S. sports fans, I get most of my exposure to international soccer through the quadrennial World Cup. I recall that the 2010 World Cup had many 1-0 scores, which made me wonder if goals were similarly rare in La Liga. If so, Messi would not only be a great soccer player, but also a miracle worker.

Looking at FC Barcelona's 2012-13 game-by-game log (with La Liga contests denoted by a color-wheel logo and the word "league"), the team has averaged 3.03 goals in league games, as of this writing (109 goals in 36 games). Thus, whether it's the relative abilities of offensive and defensive players or the style of play, La Liga appears much more conducive to scoring than World Cup competition.

Don't get me wrong. Even in an apparently offense-friendly league, what Messi has done is unprecedented -- by a wide margin, as the previous La Liga consecutive scoring record was 10 games. Also, as noted in the linked article in the previous paragraph, Messi also has set a scoring record when competing for Argentina in international play, so his scoring ability clearly transcends any particular league.

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