Sometimes a contrast is drawn in football between passion and statistics. We are told we can’t capture the commitment of players by numbers alone.
When we see a player like Andreas Granqvist run out to represent his nation, this narrative is easy to understand. The Swedish captain made his presence felt from the start, pushing his team forward after a nervous first 15 minutes.
But in this case, the passion generated the performance. Granqvist was outstanding. From ball recoveries, to clearances and blocked shots, he made a total of 7 defensive contributions from within the box.
But his contribution was much more than simply defensive. During a 15 minute period towards the end of the first half, Granqvist stepped in to an attacking role. The most remarkable sequence started with him passing the ball in to the box and creating a chance for Marcus Berg. Then, after the striker missed, Granqvist recovered the ball from the clearance (three times in short succession) and started a new attack that almost set up Ola Toivonen. When the corner resulting from this new attack came in and a scramble ensued in the box, it was Granqvist who finally got the shot on goal (an 0.1 expected goal chance).
So when on the 64th minute “Granen” stood, trying to clear his mind, with the ball lying on the penalty spot in front of him, he had both the passion and the numbers in his favour. He placed the penalty calmly and precisely and a VAR assisted victory was his and Swedens.
Even without the goal, Granqvist would have ranked as Sweden’s top player. Marcus Berg was another player who stood out, with three good chances, of which two were high expected goals shots from almost the same spot.
Berg had both these chances stopped and the crowd (in the Tele2 arena where I was watching) sighed in frustration. But it is here that statistics are important. The fact that Berg was well positioned and got in to these situations bodes well for the matches against Germany and Mexico. There could be more to come from Sweden.