Evaluating surprising results

Wednesday 15 February 2023 - by

As a low-scoring game, football can produce match results that may seem surprising. Not only the strongest team on paper may lose, but the strongest team on the pitch may also lose. 

Each football weekend carries its load of surprises, big or small. In this post, we'll try to quantify how much of a surprise a given match outcome could represent.

Of all the surprising match results - and in this article, we'll be discussing "outcomes" (like a win or a draw) as opposed to results with a specific scoreline - some can be deemed more surprising than others. 

If we were to calculate how much of a surprise a given match outcome could represent, we'll have to come up with a set of criteria.

Choosing the criteria

Let's say we want to come up with a value representing the "surprise-level" of a particular outcome. To calculate such value, we'll be taking into account the same type of indicators covered in other articles in this blog related to team performance evaluation: home and away Points Per Game (PPG).

The goal is not to obtain a value that would absolutely evaluate with a number what we call a "surprise", as a "surprise" is mainly a feeling and will always be subjective to some degree.

To a fan of the winning team, the "surprising" outcome may represent less of a surprise than to a fan of the high-profile team that just got defeated. 

The idea is to compare matches with each other, so that we can calculate values by which we could say something like: "According to these criteria, the outcome of this match is more surprising than the outcome of that match."

Outlining a formula

In line with the Run-in analysis (reviewed in the Relative Performance blog article), where we use the opponents' Points Per Game value to evaluate how much of a performance a win could represent, we will determine the outcome surprise-level for a given match based on the teams' Points Per Game

We will be using two separate formulas: 
  • one to evaluate a win (used for both home wins and away wins)
  • and one specifically for draws. 

In both formulas, we will only be using the home PPG of the local team and the away PPG of the visiting team.

Outcome surprise-level (win)

To evaluate how "surprising" a win could be considered, we use the following formula:
(Losing team PPG / Total PPG of both teams) x 100

Outcome surprise-level (draw)

Draws are evaluated according to the following formula:
(PPG difference between both teams / Total PPG of both teams) x 100

Reasons for using such formulas

There could probably be many different ways to evaluate such type of "surprise" values. The formulas above have the advantage of considering the following conditions:
  • the higher the PPG of the losing team (relative to the PPG of the winning team), the higher the surprise-level value
  • the higher the difference in PPG between both teams, the higher the surprise-level value if the match ended in a draw


You can view an example of the Outcome surprise-level table for matches of the Serie B or the Bundesliga. provides football statistics, results and blog articles on national and international soccer competitions worldwide.

Football fans can keep a tab on stats related to their favourite team or leagues of interest, and access a wide range of team performance data analytics and league standings, not only on the world's most famous professional leagues, but also on amateur and regional leagues over the world.

Example of soccer statistics include league standings, form tables, top goal scorers, scoring stats, statistical previews and goal timing statistics.

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