This game would prove to be a real test of Berti Vogts managerial skill sets, both in how he managed this game tactically and maintained freshness within what was a squad carrying significant injuries.
Mehmet Scholl would come in to replace the injured Thomas Hassler in midfield, Stefan Reuter would come back in for Thomas Strunz and Markus Babbel reclaimed his place in the back three in place of Stefan Freund.
Sammer continued to defend in a deeper role, in much the same way we saw against Italy, however as the game wore on there was more onus placed on him to find spaces in the midfield from which to attack.
Ziege continued to take up very advanced positions, using his dribbling skills to advance the ball forward and create chances in the final third. Reuter favored a more direct approach, starting deeper than his left sided teammate, with the view to finding forward passes into target man Fredi Bobic or balls down the line for Klinsmann to run onto.
While Moller played underneath the strikers his positioning also took him into wide right, in what seemed to be an attempt to pull out a Croatian midfielder to allow Sammer to break forward. This also formed an overload around Croatian wing back Jarni, therefore pulling him out of the defensive shape and giving more space to the German strikers.
Scholl worked hard to defend and attack in equal measure, using his work rate to create chances and in moments of transition.
Germany Starting X1
After the rotation we saw in the last game of the group stage, Croatia returned to a line up that was more in-keeping with their strongest available team.
Croatia were still missing the creative force that was Prosinecki, so were more functional in their use of the 352 system. We saw lots of direct play into the forwards in an effort to stretch the game, but in Jarni they also had someone with the assets to carry the ball at speed and advance play down the flanks.
Boban and Asanovic sprayed the ball about the field in an effort to find weak side spaces, but also got forward to support the strikers when possible.
As we saw earlier in the tournament against Denmark, Stimac would again start lots of attacks by carrying the ball into the inside right channel, or moving forward to allow Stanic to position himself further up the field like a winger.
Suker & Vlaovic continued to work well together, with Suker often pulling wide or dropping deep to link the play, thus allowing Vloavic to penetrate in behind the defense.
Croatia Starting X1
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS TELL US?
Value of Chances
Despite Germany only registering 7 shots on goal in this match they remained in a competitive position throughout the match. Clearly their penalty kick has weighted their attack value, however whenever they did strike on goal it typically meant something. There were however large portions of the game, most notably the first half, where chances just simply didn’t happen for them. This has to be considered against the backdrop of losing both strikers to injury in the first half, however a team of Germany’s quality will be disappointed at how little they created.
Croatia would see their attack play form into small 10 minute bursts, which I think spoke more to how they built their attacks. In using more functional attack play, for example working play down one specific side and then trying to work off second balls, we saw chances that had smaller probabilities but overall more of them, with Croatia creating 16 attacks to Germany’s 7.
Germany were certainly more efficient in their chance creation, as they’d see 3 big chances come from only 7 attacks. Granted one of these big chances was from a penalty, and a slightly dubious one at that, but overall we’d see the Germans have decent spikes in their attack play which underlined how dangerous they can be even when performing below par.
Croatia would create two big chances in the game, but only one would hit the target and result in a goal. Overall they would see good value from their attacks, which could be argued came from so many attacks inside the box, however when a team uses crosses to create those chances they run the risk of coming up against a solid defence. Today Germany were so so at the back, but Croatia weren’t able to full capitalize upon the chances they created.
Type of Chances Created
In looking at Croatia’s build up we can see that all of their shots came from key passes. Quite often we’ll see teams have a chance or two from turnovers or a forward press, however in this instance there would always be a final pass before a shot. This is probably best evidenced through Vlaovic setting up Suker for their equalizing goal. Despite their loss the Croatians build up play really came to the fore in this match, recording a shot on target from all 8 of their crosses. Jarni, in particular, was a top performer for Croatia on the wing, aiming many of his crosses for the space just behind Sammer and in front of Helmer, for Suker to attack in the air. At this stage in the competition Croatia have created the most big chances in the tournament (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) recording 11 in total throughout their 4 matches. It’s evident that they have a belief and a clear understanding of how they are going to fashion chances for their forwards, ultimately it’s been their inability to convert these chances that’s been their undoing with them only scoring from 4 of the 11 big chances.
A surprisingly below par Germany performance in this match, perhaps illustrating a lack of overall depth to the squad or an inability to get the most from it’s starters who arent at peak fitness. What it does underline about this team is that they were still able to record a victory despite the circumstances. They missed the innovation and tenacity of Hassler in midfield, with Scholl failing to offer the same level of quality in progressing the ball forward. Losing both forwards to injury within the opening 45 minutes no doubt affected the rhythm of this game, as neither Kuntz nor Scholl, who had been converted into a striker in the second 45, could provide the same link up play and target man foil for the attacks that Bierhoff or Bobic could. With all of that considered the fact that Germany managed to score two goals in a match that they would create two attacks that ended up on target is remarkable. In 90 minutes they would fashion 1 open play attack on target, and 1 on target from a free kick, the remaining efforts were either off target or from the penalty spot. Germany will no doubt be looking to rectify their approach play headed into the Semi-Final, as they gear up to face an energized England side who themselves will be looking to move on from a disappointing quarter final display. For Germany to have created only 11 attacks in their last two games, despite creating 29 in their opening two games, there will be cause for concern as to how they build their attacks moving forward and who are the players they choose to do so given the injuries and suspensions they are facing.
Where Chances are Created
In looking at the shot map we can instantly see that both sides chance creation from inside the box was impressive, despite the relatively low number of attacks overall.
Croatia would hit 12 from inside the 18, 5 of which hit the target, while Germany would hit a similar percentage with 5 inside the box and 2 being on target.
Where each side will be kicking themselves is the amount of chances from inside the golden zone that miss the target completely. Both would see 3 efforts fail to work the keeper, which given the quality of players at their disposal will leave both coaches questioning what could have been.
Germany would be the more efficient in front of goal, which is of course weighted by their penalty goal, but overall their xG on target would come in at 68% of their chance creation, where as Croatia would only see 48% of their chance creation hit the target.
An interesting efficiency stat that I picked up while looking at this match came from each sides overall tournament numbers. Croatia would create 62 attacks overall at Euro 96, with 25 landing on target, therefore giving them a conversion rate of around 40%. Germany would create only 47 attacks thus far, with only 16 on target, therefore their conversion rate stands at 34%. The major difference however is that Croatia have managed to score 5 goals from their 62 efforts, where as Germany have scored 7 from their 47 attacks. Clinical finishing is critical at any tournament, and Germany are showing us how its done at the highest level.
Who Created Chances
Davor Suker was by far a standout performer in the match, and by some distance Croatia’s best statistical attacker. He registered 9 shots on goal, 6 of which were on target and returned a goal, all with an xG of 1.23. He’d also set up two more attacks for his teammates in the process.
Germany didn’t have any real standout performers, so I am going to award the best statistical attacker to Mattias Sammer, who from sweeper managed to score a goal from his only shot on goal and would set up another attack for his teammate later in the match.
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.
Given how few attacks Germany created I am surprised the predictor weighted them so highly, however the biggest thing to work in their favor has to be the award of a penalty kick. Croatia could and should have scored more in this match, especially given the circumstances that conspired to go against Germany in the first half, dodgy penalty award aside. Overall the stats show that this was an even game that really could have gone either way.