Mailvox: statistics are racist

An English reader reviews the penalties of past tournaments. It would be interesting to review the data of the French, Germand, and Dutch teams to see if a similar dichotomy is revealed or if it is a statistical outlier peculiar to the English team. 

Your posts about the Euro final and black players not being composed under pressure got me thinking about historical penalty results for England.  I went back to the 1996 Euro and compiled the data for their eight shootouts since that tournament.  

  • 1996 Euro vs Spain (W)- whites 4/4, blacks N/A
  • 1996 Euro vs Germany (L)- whites 5/6, blacks N/A
  • 1998 WC vs Argentina (L)- whites 3/4, blacks 0/1
  • 2004 Euro vs Portugal (L)- whites 4/5, blacks 1/2
  • 2006 WC vs Portugal (L)- whites 1/4, blacks N/A
  • 2012 Euro vs Italy (L)- whites 2/2, blacks 0/2
  • 2018 WC vs Colombia (W)- whites 3/4, blacks 1/1
  • 2021 Euro vs Italy (L)- whites 2/2, blacks 0/3

Total: whites 24/31 (77{cc08d85cfa54367952ab9c6bd910a003a6c2c0c101231e44cdffb103f39b73a6}) vs blacks 2/9 (22{cc08d85cfa54367952ab9c6bd910a003a6c2c0c101231e44cdffb103f39b73a6}).  

In other words, blacks playing for England would have to make 22 straight penalties to have the same conversion percentage as English whites.  That’s one of the craziest sports stats I’ve ever seen.  Also, one could make the case that black underperformance directly cost England victories in at least two, and potentially four, big games. Diversity is a strength?

A substantial point against this observation is the famous penalty shootout that settled the 2012 Zambia vs Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations final, in which the first 14 shooters all hit their penalties. My conclusion is that the sample size is too small to be significant. We don’t have sufficient data to have an opinion. However, it is possible that the English managers are so eager to be not-racist that they are selecting inferior penalty-takers on the basis of their race.