by Alistair Bain (@allybain)
The end of Round 3 of matches brings a close to the Group Section phase, and with it the departure of half of the competing teams at the tournament. Some would do their best to meander through Round 3 with as little effort as possible, while others would go down in a blaze of glory. Let’s take a closer look at the attacking performances and assess where things currently stand.
After a swash buckling opening two games, and a performance in Round 2 that would see them finish as highest attackers, the Germans surprising bring up the rear at the end of Round 3. With 6 points already in the bag, they faced off against an Italy side desperate for victory yet not quite possessing the wherewithal to make it happen. As such Germany would soak up pressure for much of the match, in the hope of capitalizing on a breakaway, however when they were reduced to 10 men this very much averted their attention to defence and preventing the loss of any goals and points.
Germany’s strategy is best illustrated within their xG timeline. We can spot the large spells of the game where Germany simply don’t register an attack, handing the impetus to Italy and asking them to break them down. While this was by no means a vintage display from Germany, its clear they still have a few gears they can progress through as they enter the Quarter Final Stage.
Next up were Romania, a side who entered Round 3 already eliminated from the tournament, however they would do little to suggest that pride was at stake in this match or that they were ready to show their nation that they could let loose and claim victory.
Looking at this shot map we can see that Romania spent much of the game attempting to thwart their opponents (Spain) efforts on goal. With that said to record only 3 attacks in a match where they had set up so aggressively, and with a relatively strong line up, would suggest that the players had probably checked out by this stage. They have top end players who are more than capable of competing in the later stages of this tournament, so they will be no doubt disappoint to be leaving so early, however their biggest issue this tournament has been creating enough clear cut chances inside the 18 yard box. Their Key Passes Per 90 minutes (Passes that lead to a shot on goal) is the lowest in the competition at 5.33, and their attacks created per 90 is also the lowest in the tournament at 10.00. In addition to this they ranked second lowest in terms of shots inside the box, recording 9 across the three matches, with only 4 hitting the target. All of these point to a performance that simply didn’t generate enough threat, especially given the level of quality they have at their disposal.
After spending much of these analysis’ in the middle to bottom half of the rankings Scotland’s round 3 performance was certainly unexpected. They would finish with the highest shot count & highest xG score of the round, and in true Scotland fashion would miss out on qualification to the Quarters in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.
Even with so many opportunities in good areas inside the box, the Scots were unable to better Hollands goal difference and as such will exit the competition. Given their opening to the tournament this performance would no doubt be a welcome one for Head Coach Craig Brown, who had opted to alter his previously conservative strategy and simply go for it. The addition of McCoist no doubt helped, the iconic striker would finish the tournament with a personal xG of 0.98 from 107 minutes (90 of which were spent playing in this game) and it could be argued was unfortunate not to leave this match with more than a solitary goal.
On Target Analysis
The on target analysis is a more comprehensive data reference for me, as it allows us to contextualize performance by how effective and diligent each team is when going forward. We can see that England have ranked highly, which underlines how impressive their 4-1 display against the Dutch really was. If we consider this match purely from an attacks overall perspective we see that its fairly even, but when you layer in on target efforts and their goal return we very quickly are told a different story.
The old adage of taking your chances when they are presented to you have never been more applicable in this game, as England struck when it mattered and in contrast the Dutch floundered when being presented with similar level opportunities. Holland have continued to created lots of attacks each game but have only showed a genuine efficiency in one match so far, that being the game against the Swiss. With both sides progressing to the Quarters it will be interesting to see how their journeys move forward, as the stakes get higher as does the pressure on each attacker to score, something that England have excelled in thus far but the Dutch absolutely have not.