The most questionable score in football, at least when it comes to pleasing traditional American sports fans, is the 0-0 tie.
No goals means no action, right? It must be a boring game, yes?
It’s no wonder Americans haven’t fully adopted a sport where it’s impossible for anyone to score and nobody to win.
These are familiar talking points of the football-rejecting sports fan and pundit. Every four years when the entire planet is fixated on the World Cup, they are often reinforced. And I myself could have been caught repeating those feelings many moons ago, before I fell in love with the sport of soccer (which would quickly become my favorite and change my life – but that’s another story).
So I – a full-blooded, born and raised American sports fan – am here to tell you how and why you can absolutely still love a 0-0 draw in football.
A culture that is used to scoring
We Americans tend to love high scoring action in our sports. A 32-35 NFL game or a 52-14 college football blowout. The Warriors beat the Lakers 141-139. Those kind of things.
Football is a different animal by nature. Football goals are only worth one point. American football offers high scores, but the number of actual *scoring plays* in a game is not that different. Most common final score in NFL history is 20-17. If you divide those scores by the number of points a touchdown is worth (let’s assume they make the extra point), it comes out to 2.8-2.4. Not so different from football, right?
Funnily enough, the NFL is the only American professional sport where a 0-0 tie is a possible outcome (since the NHL abolished ties in the mid-2000s). But that hasn’t really happened since 1943. Baseball may seem like a slightly higher scoring game, but in 2022 average points scored per game ranged from about 3.5 for the worst teams to just over 5 for the best.
Football is a sport that pretty much requires you to pay attention to it all the time. A game lasts 90 minutes.
It could easily be a blink-and-miss-you proposition.
There are no commercial breaks, no pauses between each pitch, nothing like that. There really aren’t many opportunities to ignore and tune into what you might consider a “boring” game. So much of the joy in “the beautiful game” comes from and builds between goals.
Lots of things to love
While a single basket in an NBA game is routine and a touchdown or home run is expected, a goal in football is not a given. The near misses, corners and free kicks, shots hitting the woodwork – they all add to the experience. A brilliant game of seven passes that connect to create a scoring opportunity – but don’t deliver any – can be more satisfying than a regular touchdown in the NFL.
The escalating tension, atmosphere, anxiety, nervousness – these are the things that can make a low scoring football game an experience like no other. Imagine the drama of a winning last-minute field goal, or a buzzer hitting a 3-pointer. Now extend that nail-biting, butterflies-in-your-gut feeling over an entire game. This is how a 0-0 football match can be.
That feeling is why even a shabby goal, one that blasts through the penalty area before entering through the back of the keeper, can be just as thrilling as a perfectly hit golazo from 35 yards out. Just one moment of brilliance – or luck – can result in a release of excitement and passion unparalleled in the world of sports.
But sometimes that release never comes for both parties. Sometimes no one really deserves to win a match. Similarly, no one deserves to lose often. So a draw and sharing the points is usually a fair result. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that particular game wasn’t exciting.
A 0-0 draw, say a World Cup group game where you only need one point in the standings to go through (such as the 2022 World Cup Croatia-Belgium match), can be just as satisfying as a 5-0 victory. Even in a run-of-the-mill early season league game, not conceding a goal and escaping with a draw can mean the difference between glory and failure later in the season when the table is added up.
A scoreless draw can make it easier to appreciate the nuances of the game. Great saves and defenses, display of dribbling and passing skills, mere inches that decide the fate of a match. It can amplify bad (or good) performance.
A 0-0 result may seem like the worst of the game on the surface. But it can very easily deliver the best football has to offer. Are there occasional 0-0 snooze fests? Naturally. But more often than not, these matches are full of intrigue and drama. Far from being a negative aspect of the sport, the low-scoring or goalless game is one of the things that gives soccer its unique flavor.
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