1996 European Championships
Semi Final 2
England 1 – 1 Germany (Germany win 6-5 on Penalties)
Wembley Stadium, London
Wednesday 26th 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
- Terry Venables was without Gary Neville for this match, so altered his shape to a 352/3232 system of play.
- The returning Paul Ince would join David Platt in the center of midfield, both serving as a double pivot in possession, but also protecting the back line in defensive transition.
- This coverage afforded Gascoigne more license to break forward on the dribble, or run beyond the opposition midfield once he had played a penetrative pass to the wingers, or used combination play with either striker.
- Anderton worked more as a traditional wing back, making wide runs and serving crosses when attacking, but also tracking the movements of Christian Ziege when defending.
- McManaman would make more lateral movements and diagonal dribbles, all with the intent of pentrating the space behind Freund & Reuter.
- Sheringham would also drop into the midfield to create central overloads and link the play forward. Where as Shearer would pull out onto Thomas Helmer and attempt to bully him physically through lots of direct aerial challenges, flicking the ball on with his head or setting the ball back for a midfielder underneath.
Germany Attacking Structure
- Germany continued with the system that has served them so well this tournament, however they now carry the battle scars of a number of injuries within the squad, so are forced to rotate some positions.
- Sammer & Eilts would continue their excellent central partnership, which saw Eilts drop to cover the forward movements of Sammer, who in periods of build up wanted to sprint forward and attack space behind England’s midfield, thus creating the spare man should an England attacker not track his run.
- Ziege continued as the more attacking of the wing backs, with Reuter delivering more deeper crosses and helping Freund to lock down McManaman on the England left wing.
- Moller was Germany’s major threat in transition, looking to carry the ball forward and either link with Scholl, who frequently dropped deep to connect attacks, or find a penetrative pass to Kuntz who much preferred to run in behind his opponent and stretch the space.
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS TELL US?
Value of Chances
While England’s timeline would jump in front of Germany after 27 minutes, and remain there for the rest of the match, we can see that this was an even encounter. While England were marginally the more consistent attackers, and would go on to record more attacks overall, even when accounting for the slight dry periods for Germany this was a match very much on a knife edge that either side could have won in regulation time or extra time.
Both sides would record two “Big Chances” each in the match (Opta Def: 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) which is indicative of the quality both have in attack, but also the level of invention both sides showed when attempting to break each other down. Each teams strategy would eventually mirror each other, therefore it would test the individual quality to the maximum. Germany had a higher number of upticks in their xG timeline, which shows us they were more efficient in attack, completing more high quality actions on goal in fewer attempts. The opposite could be said of England, who used slightly more attacks but were more forceful in creating similar types of attacking play (Crosses into the box), in the hope that it could provide a variety of different scoring opportunities closer to their opponents goal.
Type of Chances Created
In studying the Key Pass locations we can see that England’s attack play not only gained more traction from the right wing, but also from crosses by Darren Anderton (7 crosses in total, with 5 key passes from Anderton). Germany for sure focused much of their defensive coverage on England’s left (McManaman the target), which perhaps opened up more space for Anderton, but we also saw lots of direct balls into Shearer who frequently pulled onto Helmer (Germany’s left center back) which triggered movements around this zone from his England teammates to work from the second ball. While there were moments of direct play, England also showed a patience in their build up switching the ball from wing to wing via Platt and Ince, thus creating attacking opportunities from their opponents weak side. Unfortunately for England all of their 7 Build Up play attacks would result in attempts that didn’t work the keeper, their three attacks which did register a shot on goal came from a corner and two counter attacks.
In a similar vein to England, the Germans would also favor the same wing in attacking, this time being their left side, however there was a greater variance in the players who delivered the key passes. Helmer would top the attack assists charts with 4, two of which resulting in a shot on target, which for a left center back is impressive that he’d get himself into those positions on the left wing. This was best illustrated in Germany’s equalizing goal, as Helmer moved to break England’s back line after a through pass from Moller, and coolly slipped a cross over to Kuntz to apply the finish.
8 of Germany’s attacks would come from Build Up play, showing us that they favored a more patient approach, looking to pull England out of position before springing an off the ball movement to break pressure. Sammer’s forward movement is a good example of this, as he often attempted to thwart the defensive structure Ince and Platt had created, as they were unable to track his run as they each had a mark of their own to handle. Only two of Germany’s 8 build up attacks would end up on target, but the equalizing goal clearly showed their intent was there as was the quality should they get the timing right.
Where Chances are Created
First of all lets consider that England would have 5 more attacks than Germany in the match (16 attacks and 11 attacks respectively), yet Germany would record a higher xG than the hosts. Added to that Germany would score a higher xG on target value than England, with 30% of their attack value testing the keeper versus England only doing so with 19% of theirs. What makes these numbers more interesting is that Germany would have 6 attacks inside the Golden Zone (Central portion of the 18 yard box) where as England would have 7, which lead me to question how these chances were created and why their value would be so imbalanced?
When breaking down the golden zone chances further I noticed that of England’s 7 attacks from this region, 4 were headed efforts and 3 from the strikers feet. Conversely, of Germany’s 6 golden zone attacks only 2 were headed and 4 were from the strikers feet. While both teams outcomes are largely the same, what differentiates the outcome is how they created them as it directly affects the chances of them resulting in a goal.
England’s approach play was a little more varied than Germany, in that they quite often relied on their strikers creativity and ability to be agile in the face of reacting to what happened when Shearer won his aerial duel, however even with that element of chaos that their attack play brings, their attacking performance at this tournament has been exceptional. They exit the tournament as the side who (at this stage) are ranked highest in attacks created (74 in total). They also have the highest conversion rate of “Big Chances” with them scoring from 6 of their 8 opportunities, and also boast the highest xG on target left in the tournament, which when weighted by minutes played (xGOT per 90) they come out on top with 0.71. Everything points to England being a side that statistically were equipped to win this competition, but the fine margins of tournament football were just step too far on this occasion.
Germany on the other hand were more methodical in their approach play in this game, as they were without their traditional target strikers in Bobic & Bierhoff. Kuntz had to work harder to create openings, especially as Scholl was more of an attacking midfielder and offered little in terms of a true strike partnership. What’s been most impressive about Germany is that despite being forced into altering their strikers throughout the tournament, and having missed the influential Hassler for two matches now, they continue to excel in creating and converting chances inside Golden Zone area of the box. It would suggest that while England have relied heavily on the performances of their strike partnership, Germany have found a varitey of ways to score but that is only capable with the quality of their approach play from the supporting cast around them.
Who Created Chances
Alan Shearer was again England’s best statistical attacker, recording 4 shots on goal with an xG return of 0.45. His second attack would result in England’s opening goal, and later he would go on to create two more attacks for his teammates.
Stefan Kuntz would win the award for best Germany statistical attacker. Like Shearer he would grab the opening goal for his team, however he would record 3 attacks, two of which landing on target for an xG score of 0.36.
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.
This outcome is very surprising, especially given all the evidence to suggest Germany may come out on top should this match be replayed. Unfortunately for England the two Gascoigne attacks inside the box that he wasn’t able to connect with aren’t weighted in this calculation, however the Anderton attack that hit the post is, so it would appear that his chance has swayed the predictor in their favor.