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Opta Event Definitions


Globally Consistent Definitions

Opta data’s key strength is the ability to provide in-depth, accessible data that is consistent across the globe. Without this certainty, our player and team statistics can be far less valuable and there would be a danger that different leagues would be analysed in conflicting ways, rendering proper player comparison invalid.

To avoid this, Opta have a long-established, consistent list of ‘Event Definitions’ in football that are adhered to across all data collection centres.

Goals & Shots

Attributing a Goal to the Goal scoring player, or in the case of an Own Goal, to the defending player.

Given any contention around assigning a Goal to an appropriate player, Opta will apply their own rules, and when applicable will align decisions to the relevant official competition, governing body  

A deliberate attempt to score that misses the target, without contact from a player diverting the ball from on target to off target.

A shot hitting the frame of the Goal is classified as a Shot Off Target unless the ball subsequently enters the net. A Blocked Shot is not classified as a Shot Off Target.

Also see Shot on Target.’ 

A calculation of goals scored divided by shots attempted (excluding blocked attempts and own goals).

Set Piece goals/attempts are those where the ball starts from a dead ball situation such as a corner, a free kick, a penalty or a Throw-in and results in a shot before the phase of play has broken down into open play.

There are seven patterns of play, one of which must be assigned to each attempt.

  • Regular – an attempt created from an open play attack
  • Set piece – an attempt created where the ball starts from an indirect free kick dead ball situation
  • Throw in – an attempt created from a throw in
  • Direct free kick – an attempt created from a direct free kick situation
  • Direct corner – a goal scored directly from the cornerCorner – an attempt created from a corner situation
  • Fast break – an attempt created after the defensive quickly turn defence into attack winning the ball in their own half (counter attack)
  • Penalty – The penalty attempt itself, any follow up shot would be classed as set piece. Passed penalties are also counted as ‘Penalty’ pattern of play.

The relevant pattern of play is assigned to a shot before the phase of play has broken down into open play.

The exact point at which it becomes open play is usually clear but set pieces and corners which are cleared and then the ball is put straight back into the penalty area are still deemed to be part of the set play as the defending team is still positioned to deal with the set play. This rule includes the free kicks, corners, throw ins and penalties.

A big chance opportunity when the player does not get a shot away, typically given for big chance attempts where the player shooting completely misses the ball (air shot) but can also be given when the player has a big chance opportunity to shoot and decides not to, resulting in no attempt occurring in that attack.

Attributing a Goal or shot event to the following four body parts:

  • Right Foot.
  • Left Foot.
  • Head.
  • Other.

‘Foot’ includes any connection with the leg.

The final touch from a teammate, which leads to the recipient of the ball scoring a Goal. If the assist is deflected by an opposition player, it must be deemed as travelling to the Goal-scorer irrespective of the deflection. In the event of an own Goal, direct free kick Goal and direct corner Goal, an assist will not be awarded. This same rule applies to penalties unless the penalty taker chooses to pass the ball for another player to score. Also see ‘Fantasy Assist.’ 

A pass/cross that is instrumental in creating a goal-scoring opportunity, for example a corner or free-kick to a player who then assists an attempt, a chance-creating through ball or cross into a dangerous position.

A deliberate attempt to score that is on target. Includes all Goals being scored and shots on target saved by the Goalkeeper.

It also includes shots on target that are Blocked by a last line defending player, preventing the ball from entering the Goal.

Also See ‘Shot Off Target.’

A Blocked Shot is defined as an attempt to score including:

  • An attempt on target Blocked by an outfield player, where other defenders or a Goalkeeper are behind the Blocker.
  • Incorporates shots Blocked unintentionally by the shooter’s own teammate.
  • Clearances off the line by an opposition player (last line Blocks) are classified as Shots on Target and not as a Blocked Shot. 

A calculation of Shots on target divided by all shots (excluding blocked attempts and own goals).

A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one on one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter. Penalties are always considered big chances.

Direct free kick shots are any attempts on Goal created directly from the free kick itself. 

The position of the ball when the shot is taken (shot origin). Any event originating on a line, will be collected as inside that area. For example, a shot on the 18-yard line will count as being inside the box.

Attributing a collection of assist events outside the conventional categorisation of Goal Assist. Classifies the final touch from a player on the scoring team as a Fantasy Assist, despite:

  • A heavily deflected pass or cross.
  • Shot on Target saved, rebound scored.
  • Blocked Shot, rebound scored.
  • Shot hit woodwork, rebound scored.
  • Shot off Target, remains in play, rebound scored.
  • Penalty won.
  • Free kick won by foul.
  • Free kick or penalty won from a handball.
  • Event preceding an own Goal (usually shot/pass/cross).


The final pass from a player to their teammate who then makes an attempt on Goal without scoring. 

The attempted delivery of the ball from one player to another player on the same team. A player can use any part of their body (permitted in the laws of the game), to execute a pass. Event categorisation includes open play passes, Goal kicks, corners and free kicks played as a pass. Crosses, keeper throws, and throw ins do not count as a pass. Opta adds a whole range of qualifiers to each pass event, so that various things can be measured.

  • Chipped Pass – A lofted ball with an intended recipient. Must be over shoulder height and using the passes height to avoid opposition players.
  • Headed Pass – A header when there is an intended recipient.
  • Launch – A long high ball into space or an area for players to chase or challenge for the ball.
  • Flick-On – A glancing pass with head or foot onto a teammate when the ball is helped on in the same general direction.
  • Pull back – A pass inside the penalty area which is pulled back.
  • Lay-Off – A first time pass away from Goal when there is pressure on the passer (typically played by a forward) with one touch when they have their back to Goal from the Goal-line to the centre of the penalty area.
  • Through Ball – A pass splitting the defence for a team mate to run on to.
  • Tap Pass – A short pass after a dead ball situation which cannot have a lost outcome.

Each pass is logged with X and Y co-ordinates for its point of origin and destination.

This allows Opta to log the following:

  • Passes broken down by area of the pitch for example, as own half/opposition half or defensive/middle/final third or left/right/centre.
  • Passes broken down by half, for example short/long, short medium/long.
  • Pass direction, for example backwards/sideways/forwards.

In summation the event-based nature of the data is such that you can calculate any combination. For example, a chipped pass over 20 yards, in the final third, that goes sideways.

This is simply a formula where successful passes are divided by total attempted passes in whichever combination of passes is selected. Usually, pass completion excludes crosses.
Crosses are usually treated separately and crossing success is the percentage of successful crosses out of the total attempted.

A completed pass is a pass which goes to a team mate directly without a touch from an opposition player.

A cumulative total of ‘Assists’ and ‘Key Passes’ Also see Assists and Key Passes.’ 

A ball played from a wide position targeting a teammate(s) in a central area within proximity to the Goal. The delivery must have an element of lateral movement from a wider position to more central area in front of Goal. 


A sum of all events where a player touches the ball, so excludes things like Aerial lost or Challenge lost.

This is an attempt by a player to beat an opponent when they have possession of the ball. A successful dribble means the player beats the defender while retaining possession, unsuccessful ones are where the dribbler is tackled. Opta also collects attempted dribbles where the player overruns the ball with a heavy touch when trying to beat an opposition player.

This is where a player attempts to challenge for the ball and does not make it – it is calculated by adding fouls with an attempted tackle qualifier to the number of times a player is beaten by a dribble (challenge lost).

This is where a player reads an opponent’s pass and intercepts the ball by moving into the line of the intended pass.

When an outfield player Blocks an attempt on Goal from an opposition player. If the attempt is going wide of the Goal, then no Block is awarded. 

When the ball bounces off a player and there is no intentional pass, we award a touch. When a player mis-controls the ball with a poor touch, we award an unsuccessful touch. Also used for mishit shots which go backwards towards a player’s own goal.

A tackle is defined when a player connects with the ball in a legal, ground level challenge and successfully takes the ball away from the opposition player. The tackled player must be in controlled possession of the ball to be tackled by an opposition player.

  • A Tackle Won is deemed to be when the tackler or one of their teammates regains possession because of the challenge, or that the ball goes out of play and is safe.
  • A Tackle Lost is when a tackle is made but the ball goes to an opposition player.

Both are categorised as tackles, but the outcome of the tackle (won or lost) is different based on where the ball goes after the tackle.

A defensive action when a player attempts to get the ball away from a dangerous zone on the pitch with no immediate target regarding a recipient for the ball. 

When a player tries to cut out an opposition pass by any means. Similar to an interception except there is much less reading of the pass.

Other Categories

This is where a player recovers the ball in a situation where neither team has possession or where the ball has been played directly to him by an opponent, thus securing possession for their team.

When a player makes an error, which leads to a goal or shot conceded. Also used for spills and attempted claims or saves by a goalkeeper which directly leads to a second attempt to score.

A Foul Conceded is defined as any infringement penalised as foul play by a referee that results in a free-kick or penalty event.

  • Offsides are not given as a foul conceded.
  • Incidents where a match official has played advantage and subsequently cautioned a player, do not contribute towards the total foul count for the player or team.

In these scenarios a free-kick or penalty event must occur for a foul to be awarded. 

Attributing a series of sequential penalty events to both appropriate team and player.

Collection comprising; Penalty Won, Penalty Conceded and Penalty Taken.

The deepest player in the defensive line when an offside has been given.

When the ball has left the field of play for a corner. A Corner Won is collected for the team awarded the corner, and Corner Lost to the team conceding the corner. A Corner Taken is recorded when the attacking team have (or attempted to), return the ball back into play from a corner event. Due to the difference in collection criteria between Corner Won/Lost and Corner Taken, it is possible their respective aggregate totals could differ.

When the referee restarts the game after a delay.

Cards are collected as yellow, 2nd yellow or red card. Where possible we cross-check cards against official (referee) reports to match the official statistics – unless these are clearly incorrect.

Sequences are defined as passages of play which belong to one team and are ended by defensive actions, stoppages in play or a shot.

  • Sequence Time: Time in seconds of a sequences
  • Passes: Number of passes in a sequence
  • Progress: Distance in metres the ball moved towards opponent goal line during the sequences
  • Length: Total distance in metres the ball travelled during the sequence
  • Speed: Length divided by sequence time (average speed of ball movement during sequence)
  • Direct Speed: Progress divided by sequence time (average speed of ball movement towards opponent goal line during sequence)
  • Width: Distance in metres between leftmost point in sequence and rightmost point in sequence
  • Absolute Width: Furthest distance in metres ball is away from centre of the pitch in a sequence
  • Involvement: Number of sequences that a player was involved in, involvement is defined as a player having at least one touch in the sequence

Defensive Coverage measures the area of defensive responsibility implied by a player’s defensive actions during a match. The corresponding output consists of a series of coordinates which define a polygon of the player’s defensive zone, as well as the area (in metres squared) of that zone.

Where a player shields the ball from an opponent and is successful in letting it run out of play. Can be offensive (to win a corner or throw in up field) or defensive (winning a throw in or goal kick).

When the ball hits any part of the Goal frame but does not enter the net as a direct consequence.

Any single attempt hitting the Goal frame multiple times (bar then post for example), will only count as hitting the woodwork once. ‘Hit Woodwork’ is only collected for the attacking team and can be attributed to any player on the pitch.

A Foul Won is defined when a player wins a free kick or penalty for their team after being fouled by an opposing player.

There are no fouls won for a handball, dive, back pass, illegal restart, dissent, GK 6-second violation or obstruction where a free kick is conceded.

  • Handball – A deliberate hand ball by an opposition player.
  • Dive – A deliberate attempt for an opposition player to deceive the referee and win a free kick.
  • Back pass – A pass picked up by a Goalkeeper when played from a teammate.
  • Illegal restart – An opposition player has consecutive touches directly after a dead ball situation.
  • Dissent – A player shows dissent towards a match official.
  • GK 6-second violation – A Goalkeeper picks up the ball and holds onto it longer than 6 seconds.
  • Obstruction – A player traps the ball between their legs to stop an opposition player from playing the ball.

An event attributed to the player deemed to be in an offside position when a free kick is awarded.

If two or more players are in an offside position when the ball is played, the player considered to be most actively involved is given offside. 

When the ball has left the field of play for a Goal kick or throw in.

Does not include corners. 

An event to capture when the referee stops the game. Typically, for a player to receive treatment for an injury, or if there is a VAR review underway and play is paused.

Declaration of the amount of injury time added at the end of each period, as announced pitch-side by the fourth official.

For Opta Discipline tables, we award one point per foul conceded, three points per yellow card and six per red card. For Referees’ tables we also add three points per penalty awarded.

Possessions are defined as one or more sequences in a row belonging to the same team. A possession is ended by the opposition gaining control of the ball.

Events that are overturned by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be deleted from collection or amended. This includes events coming after an infringement in the lead up to a Goal, should a VAR review overturn the Goal award. Event deletion could, however, exclude a yellow or red card. 


A duel is an 50-50 contest between two players of opposing sides in the match. For every Duel Won there is a corresponding Duel Lost depending on the outcome of the contest.

The player who has been beaten is given a Challenge lost if they do not win the ball.

A goalkeeper who comes out and claims the ball at the feet of a forward gets a smother, similar to a tackle, however, the keeper must hold onto the ball to award a smother.

This is where two players challenge in the air against each other. The player that wins the ball is deemed to have won the duel. When more than two players are involved the player closest to the duel winner is given an Aerial Duel lost.

A tackle is awarded if a player wins the ball from another player who is in possession. If he is attempting to beat the tackler, the other player will get an unsuccessful Take-on. If he is in possession but not attempting to “beat” his man, then he will get a dispossessed.

The player winning the foul is deemed to have won the duel and the player committing the foul having lost the duel. Collection of the two foul events is subject to the referee awarding a free kick or penalty and not the taking of either.


A Goalkeeper preventing the ball from entering the Goal with any part of their body when facing an intentional attempt from an opposition player.

Saves have the following attributes:

  • Body part – Hands/Feet/Body/Fist.
  • Save type – Caught/Collected/Parried Safe/Parried Danger/Fumble/Fingertip.
  • Goalkeeper movement – Diving/Standing/Sliding/Reaching/Stooping.

This includes:

  • This includes unintentional or misplaced efforts on target from a Goalkeeper’s own teammates, but only if the intervention is not perceived to be a routine collection of the ball.
  • If after a Goalkeeper’s intervention, a more prominent defensive action from a teammate prevents the ball from entering the Goal, this will be categorised as a Block for the teammate, not a Save for the Goalkeeper.
  • If the ball goes behind the Goal because of a Goalkeeper intervention, the match officials must award a corner for it to be recognised as a Save.

An event which categorises Goalkeeper movement when facing a penalty taken.

  • Diving left.
  • Diving right.
  • Standing.

Collection also incorporates the outcome of penalty which comprises:

  • Scored.
  • Saved.
  • Hit woodwork.
  • Passed.
  • Missed.

A high ball that is punched clear by the goalkeeper. The keeper must have a clenched fist and attempting to clear the high ball rather than claim it.

When a goalkeeper comes off their goal line to claim a high ball (attempting a catch) and misses the ball.

A keeper sweeper is given anytime a goalkeeper anticipates danger and rushes off their line to try to either cut out an attacking pass (in a race with the opposition player) or to close-down an opposition player.

A keeper sweeper is defined if:

  • The keeper rushes out to at least the edge of their area.
  • There must be at least some pressure from the opposition forward racing to the ball
  • The keeper reacts quickly and reads the play

A player or team who does not concede a goal for the full match.

A high ball played into the penalty area that is caught by the goalkeeper.

A high ball where the goalkeeper tries to catch the ball, they gets their hands on the ball but it drops from their grasp.

The percentage of high balls played into penalty area, that a goalkeeper tries to deal with where they are successful – Catches + Punches divided by total high balls he came for.

When the goal keeper picks up the ball and their side regain possession, similar to recovery, however, the goal keeper picks the ball up.

Expected Goals & Expected Assists

Expected Goals (xG) measures the quality of a shot based on several variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from Goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance. Adding up a player or team’s expected Goals can give us an indication of how many Goals a player or team should have scored on average, given the shots they have taken. 

Expected assists (xA) measures the likelihood that a completed pass will become a goal assist. It considers several factors including the type of pass and end-point and length of pass. Adding up a player or team’s expected assists gives us an indication of how many assists a player of team should have had based on their build up and attacking play.