England vs Switzerland – Data Analysis

1996 European Championships

Group A – Match Round 1

England 1 – 1 Switzerland

Wembley Stadium, London

Saturday 8th June 1996

By Alistair Bain (@allybain)


To give us some context on the data here is a quick tactical overview of each team:

England Attacking Structure

  • England used a 442 set up, which at times would look asymmetrical with one side narrowing on the wings and the other stretching high and wide.
  • England began the match favoring the left wing, using McManaman in a traditional wide role, being supported behind by Pearce and inside by Gascoigne.
  • Ince would serve as the central pivot, with Anderton narrowing from outside to in on the right. Neville would advance forward on the overlap to offer width during switches of play.
  • Sheringham would look to drop into the spaces between the lines to link with the midfielders, but his understanding with Shearer worked well as the two would often alternate who dropped & who stretched.

Switzerland Attack Play

  • Switzerland utilized a 4312 system, which remained defensively compact when forcing the ball into wide areas, but also gave them lots of forward passing options to play with in transition.
  • Vogel and Sforza both played a box to box role, staying compact to intercept or make tackles, but then carry the ball forward to attack or sprint forward to support the strikers in attack.
  • Bonvin moved between the lines during the attacking/defensive phases of the match, but served as a foil to add a 2nd layer to Switzerland’s attack play and allow either striker to run in behind as a 3rd man.
  • Grassi & Turkyilmaz spilt the field in half and worked either side like a true target man, with Turkyilmaz the more dynamic of the two thus having more to offer by running into channels and crossing.

WHAT DO THE NUMBERS TELL US?

Value of Chances

xG Timeline (Graphic Above):

The phrase “A game of two halves” applies to this match, with England creating far more chances in the first half and Switzerland following suit in the second. England’s goal came at a very good time, right in the middle of a run of attacks, and can perhaps think themselves unlucky not to go in 2-0 up at half time. Similarly Switzerland will be ruing the fact they weren’t able to take three points, with them creating two big chances in the match (Opta def: A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score) with one from the penalty spot and the other from inside the 6 yard box.

Chance Quality (From Graphic Above):

Switzerland expected goals value is skewed by the penalty kick value, however if we evaluate the remaining attacks from the game we can see they will be happy with their return. Two solid chances inside the golden zone (Central area of the 18 yard box) that were valued well, and they continued at a decent pace in the second half with their probes on goal.

England will be delighted with their 1st half chance creation, with some terrific attack play to create clear sight chances on goal. They just simply didn’t create anywhere near enough in the 2nd half to build on any of that momentum and were reduced to low probability efforts from distance, likely succumbing to an increased anticipation that they had to score to give themselves a cushion as Switzerland ramped up their attacks. This is best illustrated by England’s 1.70 xG from 16 attacks, where as Switzerland would score 2.00 xG from 13 attacks (albeit 0.76 of which came from their penalty).

Type of Chances Created

If we evaluate the key pass locations for each team first, we see that Switzerland did a better job at penetrating England’s box when creating attacks on goal. From this we can also see that Switzerland were able to play low whipped crosses or cut backs for their attackers to shoot, where as England’s wide play saw them cross the ball into the air for their attackers to challenge. Both are very acceptable ways of attacking, however Switzerland’s chance creation techniques, on average, tend to bring about better results.

Lots of the attacks in this game originated from turn overs in possession, from here both teams were well set up to defend counter attacks, so it became a real chess match in who could slow down their attack play and still be effective. Gascoigne (for England) & Vogel (for Switzerland) were instrumental in progressively building play forward through the middle of the field, with each running beyond the line of the ball to link with the attackers, but also breaking pressure with direct balls into more advanced players feet.

England’s wide players were required to move into central areas in the defensive phases of the game, which now changed how they were able to build and attack forward. Traditional wingers such as McManaman and Anderton were now given license to advance through the inside channels more frequently, giving the full backs (Pearce & Neville) the opportunity to provide the width in the game. Ultimately this lead to many direct crosses from Neville and Pearce, simply because this was the most viable space to penetrate forward from.

Switzerland chose a slightly different tact, often using Turkyilmaz pace to get in behind England’s back four, via a clipped ball over the back line, and then allow his fellow attackers to move forward from deep to support his cut backs or crosses.

Where Chances are Created

England would divide their 16 attacks evenly in their location, with 8 inside and 8 outside the box. Further to this, 6 of the 8 England box shots would take place in the golden zone (Central region of the 18 yard box). On a surface level many teams would be delighted with so many shots from inside the box, however as we mentioned earlier all of these golden zone attacks took place in the first half. Furthermore only 42% of England’s expected goals (The value of their attacks) came from open play. This leads me to evaluate that they have to do more to break down their opponents when creating attacks in order to sustain a more prolonged run in the tournament. Either that or become far more proficient from set plays, as our stats show us that their goal probability (expected goals) from a set play was around 30%.

I think on the whole Switzerland will be happy with the outcome of this match, however when evaluating their data performance it paints a different picture. If we remove the penalty action from the numbers (a removal of 0.76 from the expected goals) we can see that from their remaining 1.24 expected goals, just under 30% of that value comes from attacks which actually landed on target. Expected goals values the attack from its location, not where it ends up, so it shows us that they are getting into good positions but not finishing as well as they could. The Grassi miss in the 1st half is a terrific illustration of this, as it sways things massively should it go in. Further to this, Switzerland’s shot locations show us that their shooting from distance has to increase for the next game. Of their 5 attacks inside the box 3 were on target, which is healthy, however from their 8 attacks from outside the box all were either blocked or missed the target completely.

Who Created Chances

England had a few contenders for best statistical attacker, however the award goes to Alan Shearer. He would have four attacks in the game, with which would return an individual xG rating of 0.28 (28% chance of scoring), however with that considered he would score the opening goal and break his streak of not scoring for his country.

Switzerland’s best statistical attacker was Kubilay Turkyilmaz. He would be involved in 5 attacks overall, taking four on himself and creating 1 more for a teammate. He would return 2 attacks on target as well as slotting home the pressure penalty, giving him an xG score of 0.95 (almost 50% of his teams overall score).

Match Predictor

Using our very own Retro Football Analysis Match Simulator, we use the probability rating of each attack to calculate the odds of the matches outcome. Here are the results we got back.

Our verdict:

Very interesting analysis from the RFA predictor. Personally, I felt that this game was a missed opportunity from England, as they failed to build on what was a solid foundation in the first half. Switzerland would strengthen in the second half, which given they created two “big chances”, one of which being a penalty, this looks to have augmented their win % from our predictor.


Be sure to follow all of our as live coverage of Euro 96 on our twitter page (@analysisretro)

Why not check out the Full Match Report from this match? CLICK HERE to do so.

%d bloggers like this: