France’s overall attack play was predicated upon a cohesive defensive shape that then gave them opportunities to attack centrally, should the opponent leave gaps, or to attack the flanks on the weak side should they pin an opponent to one side.
When starting play France were quite direct, often using a long chipped ball from Blanc into Loko & then work off a second ball through Djorkaeff or Zidane.
Angloma & Lizarazu each had a very attacking role in transition, carrying the ball forward when in possession or making supporting runs to augment the attack when out of possession.
Guerin & Karembeu served as central midfielders in some defensive phases, yet pressed the flanks like traditional wingers in others. In attack each supported the movements of the attacking midfielder on their side (Djorkaeff or Zidane), with forward penetrative runs or overlaps. Deschamps would provide quick switches of play, but was also comfortable making forward runs himself.
Both Djorkaeff and Zidane started in central areas yet had the freedom to be creative in the final third and find the best spaces available to initiate attacks on goal. Each did so slightly differently, but they are such a pivotal part of the teams attacking intent and also work to compliment each other so well. As the central striker Loko looked a little out of place at times, but linked the play well when required and worked hard to stretch the Spanish defense by making penetrative movements.
France Starting X1
Spain were very direct in this match, using Caminero to flick on the ball to Alfonso, or having Alfonso challenge the center back & crowding the supporting three of Luis Enrique, Caminero & Amavisca underneath him.
Alkorta joined Hierro in center mid, more for defensive purposes, but both would pull wide to open up the central channel when building from the back.
Luis Enrique would again make lots of inside movements, allowing Otero to overlap on the outside.
Amavisca would perform a similar interior role on the left wing, but was equally happy going wide with Sergi balancing by making an inside run.
Spain Attacking Structure
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS TELL US?
Value of Chances
As good an example of a tension filled match as you’ll see, with both sides favoring defensive solidity first and looking to capitalize upon a mistake should one present itself. Spain’s first attack of note is in the 35th minute, and would do little in the match that showed any sign of this changing. France were perhaps more fruitful in front of goal, however they will no doubt feel disappointed to only come away with a point.
This game would see one of the lowest ranking expected goals returns of the group stage, however this said more about each teams style & strategy than a tale of poor finishing. We didn’t see any big chances in the match, neither were there any attacks higher than a 20% probability, however the match still a good contest & one that would keep you engaged throughout.
Type of Chances Created
Spain would create only 1 of their 8 attacks in the match from build up, which illustrates their departure from a patient build up game to one that often bypassed the large central congregation of players. Spain encountered two center backs (Desailly & Blanc) that were far superior in the air than any attacker they faced, so Spain resorted to picking up the second balls from France’s subsequent clearances, which Spain would capitalize upon through their use of counter attacks.
France would create only 1 more attack than Spain (9) yet in a similar vein they too would use counter attacks to create much of their attack play. Deschamps, Guerin & Karembeu are all midfielders with terrific tenacity & positional sense, therefore we would see them frequently step in to disposses their opponent & use that moment of transition to attack. From here they would feed the trio of Loko, Djorkaeff & Zidane, who would work together to create attacking actions in & around the box.
Where Chances are Created
There are very marginal differences in the either sides attacking data, with both recording a similar amount of shots inside the box, similar amount on target, and even down to the preference of attack location, which show both slightly favor their left wing/inside left channel. Stripping the data back we must then consider more emotive means of evaluation, namely the momentum that France had during the 2nd half. They looked thoroughly in control at 1-0 and very much in the ascendency for the last 30 minutes, yet would only create 1 more attack than Spain (5 in the second half versus 4 for Spain). The small cluster of chances France have actually trick us into thinking they have a better chance, as Spain who staggered their attacks would record a similar overall xG in the second half. When we see games that are so close we try and rationalize probability with what we see, which in most cases helps us better understand, but in this instance there really wasn’t much separating these two.
Who Created Chances
A tip of the hat goes to Zidane & Loko who were solid performers in the match. Zidane’s four attacks were solid, as were the three attacks that Loko would create. The winner of the best statistical attacker has to go to Youri Djorkaeff who would score the goal that almost sealed the win, added to this was his return of 0.25 xG (25% probability) from his attacks on goal.
There wasn’t a genuinely top statistical performer for Spain, therefore I am going to give this award Luis Enrique as his overall play brought about a personal expected goals value of 0.21. His quality is evident as is his movement to find the right spaces in attack.
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.
The draw takes the win! Hardly surprising given how close the match was statistically, not enough sizable chances to massively swing it in either teams favor. Credit has to be given to Spain for getting out of the game with a point, conversely while the data points to an even score line France can’t help but feel disappointed to lose their winning position.