Belgium 2-0 England: Quality Beats Quantity

England Belgium World CupFor the second time in this World Cup, Belgium beat England in a match which didn’t matter a huge amount to anybody. Unlike in the first meeting, the Three Lions had more shots and more on target than their opponents in St. Petersburg on Saturday, but it was Roberto Martinez’ side who amassed more expected goals both times.

And when it comes to chances, quality is always more valuable than quantity. Still, England did at least muster five shots on target in open play, which was significantly better than they managed to in their first six matches in Russia.

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World Cup 2018, Last 16 Review

While we had been producing daily reviews during the group stage, in the first knock-out round we had writers covering every match so it wasn’t necessary. You can find our ‘Round of 16’ collection here, and we’ll just take a quick look at some of the overall top performers here.

The Sergios dominated at the top of the charts; Ramos of Spain earned the most points in total, whereas Aguero of Argentina topped the points per minute ladder.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed something in Ramos’ dashboard – namely a penalty scored in the shootout. These go into the players’ tallies, so anyone whose side didn’t settle their tie in 120 minutes can have a bit of an advantage here.

Unless they miss that is. Right, Jordan?

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World Cup 2018, Day 14 Review: Deutschland viertes? Mein Gott!

Hmm, where shall we start today? How about with Germany’s worst World Cup performance since 1938, would that interest you?

Before we look at today’s game specifically, consider this: Germany’s expected goal difference in their three games (in order) has been +0.51, +0.80 and a remarkable +1.91 today. Three games is a small sample, and clearly finishing has torpedoed Germany here. Never has that been reflected more than in their game with Korea Republic.

Our man of the match for the game was Mats Hummels, and that feels a choice which passes the eye test. However, the biggest portion of his points tally came from shots.

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World Cup 2018, Day 13 Review: Rojo saves the day

There were four more games at the World Cup today, and some of them even had something happen in them. Denmark vs France, however, was not one of them. The Danes had just four shots, with none in the box, and Didier Deschamps’ side’s three shots on target were all from over the hill and far away (or outside the penalty area, in other words).

Raphael Varane was the man of the match, but he did that with the second lowest points tally of an ‘MOTM’ at the tournament so far. While France had already qualified, they still put out a strong XI, but it made little difference.

The likes of Griezmann and Giroud picked up fewer attacking points than Kasper Schmeichel, which probably says a lot. As does the fact that none of the top 11 performers in the match picked up any points for shots.

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World Cup 2018, Day 12 Review: Saudi Arabia’s unlikely star


While eight teams were playing today, only one was starting outside the top two in their group but still able to qualify: Iran. We’ll have a full article looking at Portugal’s performance, but let’s take a quick look at the Iranians. Their top player saved a penalty, the runner-up scored one, but the third placed man could’ve sent Iran through and put Portugal out.

Mehdi Tahremi is a wide midfielder, yet as you can see his main contributions were defensive. His injury time shot went the wrong side of the post, but had it gone in, you’d still be feeling the reverberations around the world now.

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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. Read More

World Cup 2018, Day 10 Review: Kroos Control

After we saw a five goal game to open the tournament, and a six goal classic the following day, the goals had dried up a little at the 2018 World Cup. Belgium and Tunisia sorted that out though, by scoring seven between them in the first match on day 10.

Eden Hazard was our man of the match in Belgium’s 3-0 win over Panama, and he repeated the trick here. What made it more remarkable was that he only played 67 minutes, yet logged the third best match performance at this World Cup.

You get an indication from the chart here of how he and his colleagues had Tunisia penned back during his time in the match. Yet his replacement, Michy Batshuayi, did even better on a points-per-minute basis. Read More

World Cup 2018, Day 9 Review: Granit Xhakattack

For the first time in this World Cup, we have an expert view on all three of a day’s matches, with Brazil (here), Nigeria and Serbia (here) covered at length. So we’ll take a brief look at the other three sides from day nine here.

Costa Rica nearly, nearly kept Brazil at bay for the duration of their match, but the Seleção finally broke through in stoppage time, and added a second goal for good measure shortly afterwards. That the Ticos got so close was thanks in no small part to their goalkeeper, Keylor Navas.

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World Cup 2018, Day 8 Review: Rampant Rakitic

As the days and games tick by, we continue to see teams sent home from the tournament. Thursday’s casualties were Peru, who followed their defeat to Denmark on Saturday with a 1-0 loss to France.

It was perhaps a little surprising they bit the dust so early. Many people had thought they could be dark horses at the tournament and do reasonably well, but for most that was probably based entirely on this clip rather than anything more concrete.

That goal was against Croatia too, but more on them shortly. Kylian Mbappe scored the goal which put Peru out, and he was the game’s top performer in our view. But to my mind it was Paul Pogba who deserves the accolades, as he had a key creative role in France’s two top quality chances.

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