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2–0 lead is the worst lead

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"2–0 lead is the worst lead" is a cliché[1] used in sporting contests,[2][3] to describe the situation in which one team is leading by a score of 2–0, causing them to become complacent.[4] 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[5] and have a 'false sense of security' in their lead.[6] 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.[7] 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 association football, a team leading 2–0 at half-time only goes on to lose the game in about 2% of cases.[8] 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.[9] As a result, the cliché is often used in full knowledge that 2–0 is not in fact the worst possible lead.[10][11]

Examples of usage[edit]

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).[12][13]

In Serbia, the cliché is known for being used by manager and former player Milan Živadinović.[14]

The cliché was also used by Australian former player and TV broadcaster Johnny Warren.[15]

In Poland, the cliché 2-0 to niebezpieczny wynik (Polish: 2-0 is a dangerous result) has been popularized by coach Czesław Michniewicz since at least 2005. In 2022 media used this cliché in connection to a game that Poland national football team, managed by Michniewicz, failed to win despite leading 2–0 against Netherlands national football team.[16]

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.[17] On that occasion, Liverpool did surrender both a 2–0 and 3–1 lead to lose 4–3.[18]


  1. ^ "Proof 2-0 is a most dangerous lead". ABC News. 22 May 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  2. ^ Popik, Barry. "The worst lead in hockey is a two-goal lead". Barrypopik.com. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  3. ^ "4 Reasons Why a 2-0 Lead is Ice Hockey's Worst Lead". LinkedIn. 9 December 2016.
  4. ^ "2:0 - TheNH most dangerous score in the game". Goalden. 10 June 2010. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  5. ^ M, Alex (22 June 2007). "Kicker Conspiracy: The most dangerous lead". Kicker Conspiracy. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  6. ^ "2–0, the cliché goes, is the most dangerous scoreline". Montreal Impact. 9 December 2016.
  7. ^ "The Most Dangerous Lead in Soccer: 2–0". Soccer Classroom. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  8. ^ "OptaJoe on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  9. ^ ""The Most Dangerous Lead in Hockey" – Fact or Myth?". PuckScene.com. 19 August 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  10. ^ Taylor, Mark (6 March 2016). "The Power of Goals.: "Martinez Blows Most Dangerous of Leads"!". The Power of Goals. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  11. ^ "Debunking the myth of the 'dangerous two-nil lead'". The World Game. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Csaplár efekt se nepotvrdil, Francie volá národní tým!". O2 Sport (in Czech). 7 September 2015. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  13. ^ "Bednář a Lafata si překáželi. Plzeň skřípla Csaplárova past". Aktuálně.cz. 2 September 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  14. ^ Mozzart Sport (4 March 2016). "Kako ono reče Živa – 2:0 je najopasniji rezultat" (in Serbian). Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  15. ^ 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 from us, Johnny Warren had no doubt uttered one of his favourite truisms: that 2-0 is a dangerous lead. It breeds complacency, he liked to say. The Socceroos didn't need reminding - now.
  16. ^ Przegląd Sportowy (11 June 2022). "Klątwa Czesława Michniewicza dopadła go w reprezentacji. "2:0 to niebezpieczny wynik"" (in Polish). Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  17. ^ @GaryLineker (4 December 2016). "When did 2-0 up become a dangerous score? Hear it so often now. Would like to know the percentage of games lost from there? The suspect is not high" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  18. ^ "Bournemouth 4-3 Liverpool". BBC Sport. 4 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.