Spain vs USA

Spain vs USA Preview: Will Spanish Chance Quality Prevent An Upset?

By the time the Round of 16 is reached in a knockout tournament, you can usually have a good sense of what to expect from a team in terms of line-up and tactics. Neither Spain nor the USA have given much of an indication what they deem their best XI to be.

Of course, short tournaments require careful squad management and, in the case of the USA, that is likely what we are seeing. For Spain, though, there is more of an uncertainty about how they should set up their team.

We have already talked about the Spanish team’s woes in front of goal. These woes have continued throughout the group stages. According to Michael Caley’s Expected Goals model, Spain have picked up one non-penalty goal from 5.7 xG in their first three games. Read More

China vs Spain

China vs Spain Preview: Chance for both teams to reach the last 16

As we enter the final match day of the group stage, China vs Spain, a group B encounter which takes place at Le Havre, will decide who will join likely group winners Germany in the knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup.

Looking at the current standings, La Roja are second on virtue of a better goal difference and a draw on Monday will be enough for them to go through. From China’s viewpoint, by knowing that the four best third-placed teams will also reach the last-16, they may qualify even if they don’t beat Spain.

Currently, they are second in the best-ranked third-placed teams and a point is enough for them to contest a potential last-16 match against possible group D winners England or Group C winners Italy. With the qualifying scenarios put aside, let us take a look at how the two sets of players have performed so far. Read More

Germany vs Spain

Germany vs Spain Preview: Unproductive vs Misfiring?

On the face of it, the World Cup is going swimmingly for those two European footballing powerhouses, Germany and Spain. With a win under their belt after their opening fixtures, both teams look to be on target for a comfortable progression into the knock-out round of the competition.

Although they face one another on Wednesday in what should be the deciding match for the group winner, a final group match against South Africa for Germany and China for Spain would suggest that both of these sides would make it through to the Round of 16.

But scorelines can be deceiving. On Saturday, Germany struggled to a 1-0 win over China in a match that China will have been disappointed to have come out of without at least a point. As Michael Caley’s xG map of the game shows, while Germany maintained pressure throughout the game, they did not translate their control into good chances. China, on the other hand, although they gave up possession and looked to counter-attack their opponents, ended up running out with the best chances in the game. Read More

Spain vs South Africa Preview

Spain vs South Africa Preview: The moment of truth for Banyana Banyana

26 years and one week after playing their very first official match, South Africa’s women’s national team will, for the first time, realise a dream only five other African nations have realised – playing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

It has been a long and painful journey for women’s football in South Africa, but one that has grown and strengthened the beautiful game in the republic.

Banyana Banyana, as they are fondly known, have fallen agonisingly short of reaching the promised land on a number of occasions, most recently in 2014 where they lost to the Ivory Coast in the third and fourth place playoff of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, subsequently losing out on a spot in the showpiece alongside Nigeria and Cameroon.

The team has, however, tasted international football of the highest quality, with their involvement in the 2012 London Olympics under local man Joseph Mkhonza and the 2016 Rio Olympics under Dutch coach Vera Pauw. Read More

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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Spain’s and Iniesta’s exit signals time to break the mould

For too many times over the entire 120 minutes, that familiar arc in front of Russia’s box showed up from Jordi Alba to Nacho (Dani Carvajal replaced him in the 70th minute) via the supremely talented midfielders; the ball shifting from one Spanish boot to another.

That Spain raked in 1029 passes would not have been entirely surprising, this was a team ingrained with the culture of passing teams to submission. They had been very successful with it at the Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, so it was only logical when Fernando Hierro at his first news conference as the coach of Spain said he was going to change as little as possible.

How much could he realistically change? He had only come in to the side on the eve of the World Cup after Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales sacked Julen Lopetegui two days before the opening game against Portugal.

The Spanish team did not hit the pre-tournament height that was expected with their assortment of well-blended technicians. The exciting opening game draw against Portugal showed cracks in the side, the suspect defending and disappointing goalkeeping.

The win against Iran was labored and the goal was as ‘Unspainly’ as ever; a clearance that went in off Diego Costa. It took a bit of VAR magic for the side to battle to a draw against Morocco. The signs were there.

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Spain 1-1 Russia (3-4 pens): Form Loses to Essence as Hosts Shock La Roja

If football is more than merely a sport – art or even a way of life – then a philosophical description of the match at Luzhniki between Spain and Russia is befitting.  

Aristotle and Plato were the first ones to touch on the subject of essence, which in philosophical terms is the property that makes substance what it is in it’s fundamental core, compared to form which in the simplest of terms is a reflection of essence.

Apply it to the match in which the host nation of the World Cup successfully eliminated one of the remaining favourites to lift the title and you’ll see a victory of essence over form in a dramatic penalty shootout. Read More

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 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.

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Cristiano’s best performance with Portugal

Let’s keep it simple: Cristiano Ronaldo has had some special days with Portugal – July 10th 2016, for example – but this was his best performance for the country. In the most important tournament, against one of the best teams in the world.

Cristiano needed only one game in Russia to score as many goals he had scored in three previous World Cups, and became the oldest player to score a hat-trick at the tournament. He has now scored in four World Cups, something only Uwe Seeler, Pelé and Miroslav Klose can also say.

But there’s more: he now has 84 goals for Portugal and equalled Ferenc Puskas in 2nd place of national teams’ all-time goalscorers, only behind Iran’s former star Ali Daei (109 goals). Tremendous!

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