Fell into historical trap of so many others
17 March ~ It wasn't Wigan or Barcelona who ruined Manchester City's "quadruple" bid this season. For the morbidly fatalistic – those of us who dread cup ties against lower-league opposition or "leading too early" – it's obvious City were scoring far too many goals. Seven past Norwich was dangerous, 11 over two games against Spurs asking for trouble; but reaching a century by mid-January was sheer negligence. It's not how many but when you score them. This summer we will hear endless accounts of history's most notorious over-scorers.
In the final round group stage which decided the 1950 World Cup, hosts Brazil hammered seven past Sweden, six past Spain; Uruguay won 3-2 against the former, drew 2-2 with the latter. In the final match, requiring only a draw to lift the Jules Rimet trophy, Brazil scored first against Uruguay but lost 2-1. Four years later Hungary became the highest scorers in finals history but lost the final itself to a West Germany team they had trounced 8-3 in the group stage.
Superstition aside, there's genuine concern when a team scores abundantly. Too many easy wins causes defensive rustiness, often exposed by sharper opponents. Only three times has the World Cup's outright top-scorer collected a winner's medal. French striker Just Fontaine's 13 goals in 1958 remains a record. France netted 15 altogether before their semi-final 5-2 defeat to eventual champions Brazil. Remembering 1950, Pelé and co kept their powder dry with the World Cup finals' first ever 0-0 draw, against England in their group, before edging Wales 1-0 in the quarters.
Experienced fans are often wary when their team are going well – we'll relax when the trophy's lifted, thanks. It's not always the case, though, that champions show more pragmatism than flair. Italy famously won the 1982 World Cup after scoring just twice in three boring group-stage draws, but they dazzled in the latter stages. Some of us simply have a masochistic need for major achievements to be tortuously difficult. If each contributing victory is terrifyingly tight then optimism is safely contained. Supporting Spain looks like bliss but in winning their first World Cup, in 2010, la Roja scored fewer goals than any previous champions, stretching eight across seven games. Their fans earned their hangovers.
However, history's greatest minimalists come from Milan. Helenio Herrera's Inter defended their 1-0 lead and Catenaccio principles until the bitter end of the 1965 European Cup final – at their home ground, against a Benfica so injury-ravaged their goalie had to move outfield. Greater still is the Milan of 1993-94, who won Serie A by scoring an incredible 36 goals in 34 games (Manchester City hit this season's 100 after 34 matches in all competitions). They then played the Champions League final against Barcelona's "dream team" – Romário and Hristo Stoichkov up front – without suspended defensive bulwarks Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta. Milan went all-out attack and won 4-0, thoroughly spoiling an otherwise perfect season. Alex Anderson