2–0 lead is the worst lead
"2–0 lead is the worst lead" is a cliché used in sporting contests, to describe the situation in which one team is leading by a score of 2–0. The phrase is most common in association football, where it is sometimes applied only to the scoreline at half-time. It is sometimes also encountered in other sports where 2–0 is a moderately large lead, such as ice hockey.
The underlying concept is that, a team which is leading 2–0 will be complacent and have a 'false sense of security' in their lead. If the trailing team then scores to make it 2–1, the leading team can panic and concede further, resulting in a draw, or even a win for the other team. In contrast, a team which is leading 1–0 will tend to concentrate and play with intensity to protect or extend their narrow lead, whilst teams leading by three or more goals have a sufficiently large buffer that comebacks are unlikely.
The cliché may be invoked by coaches to encourage their players to maintain effort levels after obtaining a two-goal lead. It can also be used in broadcasting, such as by a commentator or studio pundit, to suggest that the final result is still in doubt, thereby maintaining audience interest in a game.
There is little evidence that 2–0 is the worst lead in practice. In football, a team leading 2–0 at half-time only goes on to lose the game in about 2% of cases. In ice hockey, statistics show that if a team builds a two-goal advantage, they go on to win the game in the majority of instances, and that a one-goal lead is far more dangerous. As a result, the cliché is often used in full knowledge that 2–0 is not in fact the worst possible lead.
Examples of usage
The cliché was popularized by Czech football coach and television commentator Josef Csaplár in the Czech football community. His use of the term suggested that a 2–0 half-time lead could only end in a defeat and the cliché is known in the Czech Republic as Csaplár's trap (Czech: Csaplárova past).
Television pundit and former England international footballer Gary Lineker questioned the cliché's veracity during a 2016 match between Bournemouth and Liverpool while the latter were 2–0 ahead. On that occasion, Liverpool did in fact surrender the lead to lose 4–3.
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- Mangan, Patrick (2010). Offsider - a Memoir: How a Scrawny Pommy Kid Learned to Love the Socceroos. Australia: Melbourne University Publishing. p. 207. ISBN 978-0522857214.
At some stage in the previous twenty minutes, in the TV gantry not far of us, Johnny Warren no doubt uttered one of his favourite truisms: that a 2-0 is a dangerous lead. It breeds complacency, he liked to say. The Socceroos didn't needed reminding - now.
- @GaryLineker (4 December 2016). "When did 2-0 up become a dangerous score? Hear it so often now. Would like to know percentage of games lost from there? Suspect not high" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Bournemouth 4-3 Liverpool". BBC Sport. 4 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.