Costa Rica vs Serbia Preview: Helping Mladen Krstajic Solve Selection Dilemmas

There is a football-related saying in Serbia which is a neat illustration of how the beautiful game we all love and cherish is perceived in this Balkan country from an international standpoint.

“Serbia boasts a population of 7 million people and the same number of national team managers.”

With such a grandiose managerial pool getting ready to pelt Mladen Krstajic with rotten tomatoes at the slightest notion of a selection hiccup against Costa Rica, I am glad Twelve is here to provide me with a strong argument to support my own managerial credentials.

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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.
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Belgium and Spain are strongest sides as World Cup starts

With the World Cup underway, and the first really big clash between Spain and Portugal taking place this evening, I thought I’d run a player ranking over all International friendlies leading up to the World Cup. Which players and teams do we expect to light up Russia?

The answer, it seems is Belgium and Spain. With the notable exception of Lionel Messi (of course) most of the highest per minute point players come from these two nations. Lukaku tops the chart due to his goal-scoring spree in the run up to the tournament.

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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.
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Using Twelve to follow your team’s progress during the World Cup

During the World Cup we are making our analysis tool available, so you can better understand how your team is playing. Andrew will be doing a daily round-up of the action using Twelve and we will have guest writers from various nations blogging about their teams.

I made a short video explaining how to use Twelve ‘player ranking’ analytics, taking England as an example.

We want you to play about and learn things yourself. And this video should give you everything you need to know. Start using the player evaluation system today and get sharing on Facebook, Twitter and maybe in a blog post.

If you find out something interesting using the analytics tool and would like to share it on the Twelve blog, the person to contact is Andrew ( Tell him your idea, link to your previous writing and he’ll tell you if it works for us. We pay all our blog writers, because we think it is fair to reward to reward the fans who take the time to help us develop.

Introducing our World Cup editor: Andrew Beasley

Andrew Beasley was a big part of getting me in to the online world of football analytics. I first joined Twitter shortly after I finished writing Soccermatics, in September 2015, and I soon found Andrew’s account. I am a Liverpool fan and Andrew was doing some great Liverpool stat stuff. I followed him and was very pleased when he followed me back. He was also the first ‘big’ Twitter personality to retweet one of my Tweets: a heat map comparing Rodgers and Klopp’s press.

Twitter and other social media allow us to share our observations, ideas and opinions with each other. When we designed Twelve, we saw sharing and talking about football as the key. We have created tools that allow you to share every pass, shot, block and header your favourite players have made during a match and discuss them with friends. Our idea is that the fans should drive the discussion around the numbers.


So it is with great pleasure that I can announce that Andrew will be Twelve’s World Cup editor. He will be writing about the matches for the blog, editing contributions by guest writers and interacting with other fans on Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to ask him anything stat related, and he’ll do his best to answer.

I caught up with Andrew and asked him a few questions before he gets going.

David: How did you get in to football stats?

Andrew: I’ve always had an interest in football trivia, and I’m numerically minded, so when early stats started to come in around 2010 I took an interest. Noticing in the summer of 2011 that Liverpool were signing all the players who topped the chance creation table for the previous season started connecting dots in my mind.

David: What matches in the World Cup are you most looking forward to?

Andrew: The obvious group stage ones are Portugal vs Spain, and England vs Belgium. It will also be interesting to see how Iceland fare against Lionel Messi et al.

David: Who are the players to look out for that we don’t usually talk about and why?

Andrew: I wouldn’t say we don’t usually talk about him, but I think Leroy Sané could light up this World Cup given the chance. I’m also interested to see how Kelechi Iheanacho gets on – he has 8 goals in 15 caps, and Nigeria could get through their group.

(I ran a comparison of these two in Twelve over the last six matches of the premier league. They are both on great form.)

David: Do you think England have any chance at all of winning? And who do you think will win?

Andrew: No – they’re seventh in the betting, which feels about right. They have talented players, but not much experience at this level. I’m afraid I’m not as passionate about the national team as I once was, but I still want them to do well.

In terms of who will win, European teams usually win it when it’s held in Europe, and I like the look of France. If only England had that much quality!

Andrew is a stats expert, but more than anything he is a massive football fan. And it is that quality that we hope will characterise Twelve going forwards: we are doing sophisticated player evaluations, but we are doing them for the fans.