France vs Holland

Guus Hiddink would alter the shape of his Holland side in this match, reverting to a back four in defence presumably as a reaction to the humbling they received in the final group match from England.

Blind would be the player to step forward into the midfield to make the back line a diamond, connecting with Witschge and de Boer to help build up and break the French press. Witschge and de Boer continue to work within the inside channels, showing terrific control to turn under pressure and link with the forward players after the ball enters diagonally from full back or vertically from center back.

While Bogarde and Reiziger have license to attack forward, they are no where near as gung ho as they have been in previous matches. On this occasion compensating more for the quality France have going forward in transition.

Even with Cocu naturally left sided, his movements mirrored Jordi Cruyff on the right, both of whom wanted to attack by making diagonal movements and attacking centrally.

Kluivert offered something different in this match, often playing on the shoulder of the French defence and allowed Blind or de Kock to spring a fast attack through a simple long ball over the back line for him to run onto.

Bergkamp does his best work in this free role position, popping up to create chances for others, as well as being there to finish chances himself.

Holland Starting X1

France would continue on with a set up that had served them well in the group stages. They operate within a very conservative defend first mentality, using their structure to force the ball wide and cause a turn over before exploiting the spaces given to them on the counter.

Thuram and Lizarazu did their best work in moments of transition, but were also equally comfortable in carrying the ball into attack and using combinations to fashion a crossing opportunity.

Guerin and Karembeu attack both inside and outside channels when France break forward, each offering dynamic movements to create and assist in attacking play that moves forward at pace.

Zidane and Djorkaeff are the real creative force, capitalizing on second balls with strong dribbling quality to advance the ball and create chances, but also to shoot from distance & set pieces where required.

Loko would look to stretch the game by running the channels and exposing the spaces behind Holland’s back line where possible.

France Starting X1


Value of Chances

xG Timeline:

The early France chance established a marginal lead in terms of their control of the game but was followed up by a consistently solid attacking display for 70 minutes. The final 20 minutes saw their control dissipate as Holland would make a number of changes, albeit some downgrades in quality within that, but fortunately for them this control would return in the second half of extra time.

There was a period during the match where Holland would see their attack play flat line for almost 30 minutes, a period in which they weren’t punished, but has no doubt reduced their ability to progress during normal time.

Chance Quality:

Both teams shared 2 big chances a piece in this 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), each of which returning one of these chances on target. Holland would create the most high probability/xG attacks in the game, but ultimately it was each teams xG from on target attempts that would tell the real story of this match.

Type of Chances Created

For the first time in the tournament Holland’s opponent would create more attacking opportunities than them (France 18 vs Holland 13) yet it was Holland who would create their chances from the more advanced attacking positions. Holland’s approach play has been the strongest at the tournament thus far, with them seemingly breezing past opponents at will, finding passes between the lines and penetrating defenses with regularity. However, in contrast to this its their conversion of turning creation into attacks on target that’s been the thorn in their side. The most commonly used Key Pass came from a short pass (cut back/set back) which on 5 occasions returned 0 shots on target, as was the case in their conversion from crosses (0 out of 4 created).

France would serve Key Passes from a slightly longer distance than Holland, however had far better success with 4 of their 12 key passes resulting in a shot on goal. We saw that they favored the switch of play as the most used means of creating chances, 4 of their 12 key passes came from this, and two of which resulting in a shot on target. France did make better use of the counter attack in this match, with 2 of their 4 created resulting in a shot on target, a mechanism that has served them well in this tournament and throughout qualifying.

Where Chances are Created

We can see from France’s attack map that they favored the right side of the field, with Djorkaeff and Karembeu dominating their opponents on that particular side. The spattering of set pieces that they created shots from at the top of the box will be slightly disappointing reading for the French, especially given the quality they have at their disposal in Zidane and Djorkaeff. To miss the target from all 5 attempts, despite one being particularly close, is something they’ll be looking to rectify in the next match. Overall though France returning 0.40 xGOT from 1.62 xG will be a figure that worries France for the next round. While they have by no means been free flowing and high scorers of goals throughout this campaign, they are currently averaging only 50% of their xG hitting the target, which seems them one of the worst ranked converters of chances within those still in the competition at this stage. To create 1.62 xG in any match is impressive, let alone a quarter final of a major competition, but they’ll need to go some if they have aspirations of going all the way.

The running theme of Holland’s tournament has been their inability to finish despite continually creating a high volume of chance creation. They have created the most opprtunities at this stage in the competition, inside the box (39 in total across 4 games) along with the highest amount of attacks overall (74 in total across 4 games). Conversley they have one of the lowest shots on target percentages, turning only 33% of their efforts into attempts on goal. This match is the perfect illustration of their form, creating 6 chances inside the golden zone (the central portion inside the 18 yard box), with only one of them generating a shot on target. The chance which was saved, an effort by Clarence Seedorf just past the penalty spot in the 88th minute, was arguably the best of the game and there’s no question it served to invigorate France and knock the stuffing out of the Dutch.

Who Created Chances

Youri Djorkaeff would again turn in an impressive display for the French, and was their best statistical attacker. He would have 5 attacks of his own, of which 3 would land on target returning an xG of 0.38, while he would create a further 3 chances for his teammates.

In what was a very quiet performance for Holland’s predominant attackers, their best performer would be Philip Cocu. Still a relatively new face to the Dutch squad at this point, he would fill in at left wing and in doing so would create two attacks on target from the 4 he had, returning a respectable 0.31 xG, and would create one more attack for his teammates.

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:

This result is perhaps a little controversial for me, as I felt Holland had created attacks from better positions that on another day could have secured them the victory. With that said France did have more attacks overall, and within that had more on target to begin with, so all things considered this game really could have went either way. When a draw is getting higher than 25% it shows us the variance in probability, therefore underlining how close this one was.

About the Author

Picture of Alistair Bain

Alistair Bain

Alistair is a native of Hamilton, Scotland, and an A License qualified coach with vast experience in the football industry. Currently residing in Charlotte, North Carolina, Alistair's resume includes a variety of roles within football clubs in Scotland, England, and the United States.

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