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.

Read More

World Cup 2018, Day 7 Review: Narrow wins all round

Morocco are out of the World Cup, but they’ve impressed a lot of people along the way. They lost 1-0 to Portugal in the first match today but it wasn’t for a lack of trying; they had 15 shots, with 11 from within the Portuguese penalty area.

But oh how they need a good striker. Hakim Ziyech amassed their most shot points, but even he only got 172. Divide that by his four attempts, and on average they each only had around a four percent chance of being scored. However, the Ajax man had a decent game overall, playing several excellent passes and making a whopping seven ball recoveries in Portugal’s half of the field. Ziyech definitely looks destined for bigger and better things.

Read More

World Cup 2018, Day 6 Review: Lack of Lewandowski costs Poland

We’ve now seen every team appear at least once at the 2018 World Cup, and it could be argued that England have been the best so far. Weird eh?

Anyway, the last teams to join the party in Russia make up Group H. There’s an article on Colombia’s performance here, so we’ll just take a quick look at Japan.

It’s never easy to play with 10 men, let alone for 87 minutes, yet Colombia were perhaps the better side in the opening 45 minutes. The fact that Eiji Kawashima, the Japanese goalkeeper, was the top defensive performer in the first half is evidence enough of that.

Football makes fools of us all, but no sooner had the BBC commentators berated the performance of Yuya Osako then he became the game’s key player. He scored the winner, but also made a vital defensive block too. Osako also created a couple of chances, and was a worthy man of the match.


Read More

Tunisia 1-2 England: Kane the hero, but Henderson the heartbeat

England are up and running at the 2018 World Cup, but only just. Well, not exactly. Yes they left it incredibly late to score the winner, but they had already had the best collection of chances any team has mustered in Russia this week.

Harry Kane was the hero as he scored both goals, but that aside he did very little. That’s the life of an elite goalscorer I suppose, but without the points from his brace he’d be lurking in mid-table on our rankings chart for the match.


Read More

World Cup 2018, Day 5 Review: Hazard shines in sluggish Belgium display

Our review today will be brief, as we’ll have full length articles on both Sweden and England elsewhere on the site. As the whole of the core Twelve team supports one of those nations, you can rest assured they will be well covered here.

Sweden got the day underway with a 1-0 win over Korea Republic. Our main review of the match is here and it focusses on the victors, so we’ll take a quick look at the Asian side. They were fairly disappointing, and it’s never a great sign when your goalkeeper is one of your top performers. Cho Hyun-Woo made multiple key defensive actions, and none more so than a saving Marcus Berg’s clear-cut chance.

Read More

World Cup 2018, Day 4 Review: Mexico stunned the holders

Day three (which we reviewed here) was notable for the fact five penalties were awarded. There were only four goals in total on Sunday, but there was still plenty of quality on display and a very notable result.

There’s only one place to start, and that’s with Mexico’s 1-0 win over Germany. Juan Carlos Osorio’s team fully deserved their victory, but the top performer on our system was Toni Kroos.

While the Real Madrid man made some impressive attacking passes, his defensive work was arguably more notable. He made 10 ball recoveries, which would be a lot anyway, but when your side has 67 percent of the possession, it’s colossal.

Read More

World Cup 2018, Day 3 Review: Penalties Galore!

After day two featured plenty of late goals (and you can read more about that here), the theme of day three was penalties. All four matches featured at least one, and there were two in the opening game between France and Australia.

VAR played a part in some of the decisions, and five penalties across four games is absurdly high; for context, there were six penalties in the last six weeks of the 2017/18 Premier League season, or 0.1 per game.

However, despite Griezmann and Jedinak both slotting home their penalties, it was Paul Pogba who Twelve rated as the best player in the opening match on Saturday.

Read More

World Cup 2018, Day 2 Review: The Cristiano Ronaldo Show

The 2018 World Cup began with Russia’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia (which we reviewed here), but Friday was when the action really got going with three matches, and a clash of two of the big guns.

The day began with a battle of Liverpool heroes present and past, as Mohamed Salah’s Egypt took on Luis Suárez’ Uruguay. Or at least it would have, had Salah been fit enough to take part. As it was, he spent the entire game on the bench.

After a fairly even start, it was Suárez who had the first clear-cut chance of the match. It came from a corner, which wouldn’t have surprised anyone who saw Uruguay in qualifying.

But Suárez put the chance wide of the post, and he also missed the first big opportunity of the second half too. The Barcelona forward was only the eighth best player in the match overall.
Read More

World Cup 2018, Day 1 Review: Russia thrash sorry Saudis

The World Cup is finally here! We’ll be posting daily articles rounding up the action, as well as detailed analyses from expert writers from the countries involved, and don’t forget we have an explanatory video on how to follow your team’s progress during the World Cup too. With the action getting underway today, who among us was not drooling with anticipation at the thought of Russia vs Saudi Arabia?

Okay, perhaps not. Even the fans of those two countries won’t have been expecting too much entertainment from the opening game of the 2018 World Cup finals. However, while it wasn’t the highest quality game you’ll ever see, it was not short on brilliant moments.
Read More

England 2-1 Nigeria: Match Review

England began their World Cup preparations with a 2-1 win over Nigeria at Wembley. But the visitors are off to Russia shortly too, so the match was just as important to them, and both sides will have taken some important learning points from the encounter.

Gary Cahill was the official man of the match, and the BBC agreed, but far more important than either of those is the Twelve award. Fortunately for the Chelsea man, he came out on top in our rankings too.

With 1,000 points awarded for a goal, it’s no surprise to see the game’s three scorers taking the top three slots here, as that can often happen. However, you can see from the blue bars in the chart that if we were to exclude goals out of interest, Cahill was still the second best performer in the match, and only a shade behind Kieran Trippier.

The Spurs’ wing back had a good match, assisting the opening goal from a corner. This played a huge part in Trippier amassing the most attacking points of any player.

This illustrates how Twelve rates players on more than chances created when it comes to their attacking output. While Trippier created two chances, his Spurs teammate Dele Alli set up four, but the latter was only fifth in the attacking rankings for this match. The quality of a chance created is usually far more important than the total number of them.

The same appears to be true when it comes to tackles in the defensive stats. Jesse Lingard was on the field for 66 minutes, and in that time he made a remarkable seven tackles. Time for a little context: the most consistently frequent tacklers tend to average around four for every 90 minutes they play. Extrapolate Lingard’s figures to a full match, and you get to 9.5 tackles. He’d struggle to make half a tackle, but you take the point.

But this was also a game in which his side dominated the ball, to the tune of having 59% of the possession. Factor that in to the equation, and it implies the Manchester United man would’ve made 13 tackles in a full match if the possession split was even. Such numberwanging is all hypothetical of course, but it shows the work Lingard was putting in, and England will need that sort of endeavour in Russia if they are to succeed.

However, with tackles carrying a light weighting in the Twelve system, Lingard only ranked 13th for defensive points. The real star in this category was Brighton’s new signing, Leon Balogun. He only played the first half, and as his side were 2-0 down at the break, you may wonder how he amassed the second most defensive points in the match (behind Cahill) and the most on a points per minute basis. But he did.

Balogun’s key contribution was a clearance in the 30th minute, which was worth 138 points. That tally alone would’ve been enough for eighth place in the defensive rankings.

A word also for Francis Uzoho, the young Nigerian goalkeeper. He may have been at fault for Harry Kane’s goal, and was penalised with a defensive error by Opta in their stats, but his overall performance on Twelve’s ratings was strong. The highlight was saving an (Opta-defined) clear-cut chance from Lingard in the 29th minute, which was worth a stunning 745 points.

It may seem odd to end with a negative note on Harry Kane, as he ultimately scored the winning goal, but it was his only shot of the match. Gareth Southgate’s England side have scored 14 goals in matches featuring Kane, and the Tottenham talisman has scored eight of them and assisted another.

The Three Lions understandably rely on him, but his shot numbers have been lower since he last returned from injury. If England are to make a serious impact in Russia, they will need more from their main man.