Holland vs England – Data Analysis

1996 European Championships

Group A – Match Round 3

Holland 1 – 4 England

Wembley Stadium, London

Tuesday 18th June 1996

By Alistair Bain (@allybain)


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

England Attacking Structure

  • England’s pregame lineup was listed as a flat 442, however as the game got underway it morphed into more of a diamond midfield, as England sought to get to grips with the Dutch midfield diamond.  
  • England’s build up play was more deliberate coming out of the back, with midfielders constrantly dropping toward Adams and Southgate, in an attempt to open a pocket for Sheringham or Shearer to pick up the ball between the lines.
  • Gascoigne would take up the deepest position in midfield, but was given license to break forward and would be replaced by Southgate stepping out of the back line when required.
  • Neville and Pearce were given license to attack the wide areas and provide support for the central midfielders.
  • McManaman would drift between central and wide areas, trying to create overloads where possible.
  • Like McManaman Anderton wouldn’t have a true set position, and would endeavor to support the strikers wherever the best space available was to do so.
  • Sheringham and Shearer performed well as a pair, each of them given license to drop into pockets to pick up the ball while the other stretched spaces in behind.

Holland Attacking Structure

  • Holland once again used a 343 diamond system to start, which utilized short build up play to move the ball into the inside channels of the midfield, and then penetrative passes were played into the striker or wingers depending on where the opposition back line moved to.
  • Reiziger was given the freedom to provide width like a traditional full back on the overlap, working forward to combine with Jordi Cruyff when possible.
  • Cryuff’s movement off the right wing was to cut inside and attack the space infront of Southgate and Pearce. Hoekstra continued in a more traditional winger role, attacking the left flank and crossing from the end line.
  • Seedorf again worked at the base of the diamond and would drop back further into the defensive line during periods of build up, which allowed him more time and space to play forward passes. 
  • Bergkamp, de Boer & Winter all combined well to rotate vertically (One going high, two coming to the ball) and disrupt England’s defensive structure. Bergkamp’s threat in the game was significant both in finishing and creating attacks, and was able to find spaces consistently throughout the game.

WHAT DO THE NUMBERS TELL US?

Value of Chances

xG Timeline:

Despite there being 10 attacks of a difference in the match (Holland recording 21 and England 11) this was an incredibly even game from a chance creation perspective. We can see there were periods in the match that England were marginally in front in terms of attack value, yet were to be out of sight in terms of actual goals, which makes this Holland performance all the more remarkable.

Chance Quality:

England’s xG is naturally impacted by their 1st half penalty, however they would embark upon an attacking performance that is undoubtedly one of the most impressive of the tournament so far. Not only did England excel in the amount of goals they’d score, but also in the frequency of high quality chances and their regularity. While Holland would burrow away England would land big punch after big punch.

We’ll get into the details of Holland’s general attacking performance soon, but in terms of pure xG this was a solid attacking performance given the resounding defeat they have suffered. Holland would create 2 big chances in the match, one of which was on target but didn’t return a goal, yet it almost sought to spur them on to create more attacks.  

Type of Chances Created

As has been the case in all of their matches Holland would continue to show a solid return from their build up play, recording 10 of their 21 attacks from moves that built progressively up the field and finished with a shot on goal. Yet what has also become a feature in this tournament is their inability to truly take advantage of this quality build up play, as evidenced by the fact that only 1 of their 10 build up play attacks would finish with a shot on target. Holland would cross more in the game, 4 in total, and unsurprising favored a short pass when creating shots, 5 in total, however the most damning statistic of the game has to be Hollands key passes to shots on target ratio. They would create 14 attacks through key passes, with only 2 of them finishing with a shot on target. For a side with this much quality its simply baffling.

England would again see solid success from attacks created via crosses. 5 in total would take place throughout the match, 2 of them resulting in a shot on target, both of which generated a goal. While England were happy to sit off Holland and try pick off the spaces given to them, England’s most attacking threat in the game came from their build up play. We’d see 6 build up play attacks in total during the game, 4 of which resulting in a shot on target and two of these four brought England’s remaining two goals. Overall this is a magnificent display by England, which showed a clinical edge to their game that we hadn’t saw thus far in the tournament.

Where Chances are Created

If you wanted a more perfect illustration of one team dominating the other through attack play, this shot plot graph is probably up their with the best. England were absolutely clinical in their attack play inside the box, especially so inside the golden zone (central portion of 18 yard box). Of their 11 attacks 8 would take place in the golden zone, with 5 of these attemps on target then returning all 4 goals. The stat that best illustrates England’s clinical finishing lies in their big chance completion, they would have 3 big chances in the match (opta definition: 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) all of which would result in a goal.

In complete contrast Holland’s fortunes in front of goal are probably best evidenced in their shots on target, as they’d only test the keeper with 4 shots from 21. Their xG of 2.34 is impressive, as it shows they continually put themselves in good attacking positions, especially in a match where they have been beaten so heavily, however their xG on target paints a completely different picture. We’d see an xGOT of only 0.40, which tells us that only 17% of their xG actually ended up testing David Seaman in the England goal. Clearly on another day this could have been a different story for Holland, who despite their in ability to finish would continue to create numerous big chances at critical times in the match. The only slender positive from the match has to be the late sub in Patrick Kluivert, who’s 78th minute goal would seal them progression to the quarter finals.

Who Created Chances

England’s best statistical attacker was a very close run race, with Alan Shearer just falling short despite a true coming of age England performance. The winner however has to be Teddy Sheringham, who from 3 attacks, all of which on target, would return two goals and an xG of 0.50. He’d also provide two key passes which resulted in shots on target, one of which was an assist for Shearer’s second goal of the match.

Holland’s best statistical performer has to be Dennis Bergkamp. While there were chances I’m sure on another day he would have scored, he continued to pose a threat throughout the match and would eventually create an unbelieviable assist for Kluivert’s goal. He’d have 8 attacks of his own, two of which hitting the target, and would return an xG of 1.16, just under Holland’s overall xG.

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:

On first glance it’s hard not to assume that England were somehow lucky in this match, but it simply wasn’t the case. Holland got themselves into great positions but simply didn’t do enough in front of goal, whereas England were lethal when creating almost half of the number of opportunities as the Dutch. With that said playing this game over 1000 times as our predictor does, then perhaps we can see that the outcomes may begin to even themselves out over time.   

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

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