World Cup 2018, Day 11 Review: Defenders lead the way

Day 11 saw the second round of group games draw to a close, and it did so with a bevy of goals. The top points scorer on the day was England’s hat-trick hero, Harry Kane. Yet as he scored two goals from the penalty spot and knew nothing about his third, it doesn’t feel right to overly highlight his contribution here.

The next in line was also an Englishman though: John Stones.

As well as scoring two goals from set-plays, Stones also won a penalty (though it could’ve been given for fouls on him or Kane, in truth), and he also made a ‘spine’ of important defensive contributions as we can see in the chart.

The third top points gatherer on Sunday was Colombia’s Juan Cuadrado, who scored the final goal in their 3-0 win over Poland. Yet I’m going to highlight one of the Poles here, and perhaps surprisingly it’s a defender: Jan Bednarek, of Southampton.

Confession time: I didn’t see this match. But I’ve also never seen a Twelve dashboard with as many defensive actions as this. And his team lost 3-0! Looking at the data, he made 13 ball recoveries, blocked three shots (including one on the goal line) and six clearances.

While none of his passes were creative (though that’s not unusual for a centre-back) he also attempted and completed the most passes for Poland too. Bednarek may have finished Sunday’s rankings in fourth place, but he was the day’s top performer for both defensive and off ball actions. Too bad for him that Poland became the first European side to be knocked out of this World Cup.

The middle game of the day was also it’s closest contest, as Japan and Senegal drew 2-2. Each side’s top performer were just one point apart, so let’s take a quick look at both. Firstly, Senegal defender Salif SanĂ©.

As you can see, he had a similar day to Bednarek, albeit he managed to make one incisive pass to the edge of the box too. Here’s Japan’s top performer, an attacking midfielder called Takashi Inui.

Inui is certainly a worthy representative here, as he scored the best goal of the game and also assisted Japan’s second equaliser. As they finish with a match against a Poland side with nothing to play for, the Japanese have a real opportunity to qualify for the last 16 for the third time in their history.

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