World Cup 2014 – Possession with Purpose – Nearly done with Round 1…

Draws – bollocks – teams are out to score goals – 43 of them so far – and there are still two games left in Round 1 of Stage 1 – but are the teams scoring the most goals really that dominant?

For many that’s a silly question but seriously – are there trends behind all those goals that might point to who’s advancing to the Finals and who isn’t?

I’ll look to try and answer that and a few others things – for now here’s my traditional Attacking PWP Index racking and stacking the teams against each other.


Attacking PWP - Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Attacking PWP – Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Netherlands is up near the top but the most comprehensive attacking display rests with Argentina – why?

  • 60% possession
  • 90% passing accuracy
  • 12 % penetration (patience)
  • 20% shots taken per penetration
  • 17% shots on goal
  • 100% goals scored per shot on goal

Others near the top are Chile, Germany,  and France – interesting that only the Netherlands had less than 50% possession – critical counterattacking and almost demonic in shooting – 71% of their shots taken were on goal  and 50% of those shots went in – no team, so far, has been more brutally perfect in having shots taken hit the target.

Oddly enough the next team who was best in their brutal precision were the United States – converting 50% of their shots taken into shots on goal – pure purpose in penetration – especially when both the USA and Netherlands had less than 38% of the possession.

As for the Germans – a Red Card taints their statistical outputs a wee bit but really – can anyone not expect them to win their group – the Yanks will have something to say about that but their critical game comes next against Portugal… sadly a team more likely to bow out given injuries and Pepe’s head butt.

As for the early World Cup doormats – well Iran and Hondurus really hold up the bottom – Iran had just 29.75% possession with 72% passing accuracy while Hondurus had a startling 28.71% possession with just 8.25% of their total possession within the French final third – can you say Détruit?

In looking at the overall correlation, after most teams have completed their first games, of Attacking PWP to Points is (R2) .79; pretty strong after just one game; how that holds up is hard to say but it’s reasonable to begin with.

Before moving on – a comparison, if you will, 19 of 28 teams have exceeded 80% in passing accuracy so far – in MLS just seven of 19 teams average greater than 80% passing accuracy.

So not only are the skill levels higher than MLS (as expected) but they are higher by at least one to two orders of magnitude – and that should have been evident in the USA win against Ghana.

All told the USA are 3rd worst in passing accuracy across the entire pitch; and in the bottom half when it comes to penetration per possession.

As noted by Alexi Lalas after the game – it was beautiful – and he’s right – given the considerable difference in skill levels between the USA and Ghana it really was beautiful to see the Americans win…  now – can Klinsmann get that to happen again?

In looking to answer my initial question…

I’d offer that a strong trend exists where teams who pass well – win… 28 events so far (14 games) and only four teams with passing accuracy greater than 84% have lost, Nigeria drew and the others, all nine, won…

Unlike the MLS, at least for now, the greater the number of shots taken means the greater number of shots on goal and goals scored – but by a slim margin – of the top 14 teams in shots taken per penetration just seven of them have gone on to win their first game.

But the best indicator is Shots on goal versus shots taken – 10 of the 14 teams who did that the best won their first game; one team drew and three teams lost – so passing accuracy is not the best indicator at this time but it clearly shows relevance…

In case you were wondering the top 14 teams in passing accuracy within the Final Third have won nine times and lost 5 times – slighlty less effective as an indicator but almost as strong as overall passing accuracy.

Perhaps ESPN begins to offer up more individual and team data on passing accuracy as these games continue?

Moving on to the defending side of the pitch…

There’s a hard line to draw here on the defending side of the pitch – are the great defending statistics more a reflection on how big the skill gap is between one team and another or is it down to a smothering approach that shuts down the opponent?

I’ll try to answer that question but first here’s the overall Defending PWP Index…

Defendind PWP Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Defending PWP Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Somewhat deceptive to say the least – Nigeria are best at the moment but their opponent was Iran?  I didn’t watch the game but rumor had it they simply didn’t belong; still they got one point and Portugal didn’t…

That said a different twist on this one – to put this into perspective I have filtered out all the teams that were below 85% in passing accuracy to try and guage the best of the best – so-to-speak.

When doing that there are just 12 teams who faced opponents with >85% passing accuracy; of those 12 teams the one with the lowest DPWP Index was Germany at 1.9898.

Next up were Argentina, Italy, and the Netherlands, every other team who faced an opponent who exceeded 85% in passing accuracy lost!  So for me the high water mark of a top team is one who faces an opponent with > 85% passing accuracy and wins…  Germany, Argentina, Italy and the Netherlands.

To begin to compare other teams by this Index, at this time, would be speculation – the only other notable piece of info I see of value is looking at the teams who ceded possession and still won.

Of the 14 teams that all fell below 50% in possession four of them won – the Netherlands, the United States, Costa Rica and Columbia…  Kudo’s should go to the defensive coordinators for those teams – at least for now!

In closing…

Here’s the Composite PWP Index after last night’s games:

Composite PWP Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Composite PWP Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

As France sits atop the CPWP; Hondurus sits at the bottom – to say the least the French completely dominated Hondurus; to be blunt France more than doubled the output of Hondurus in every category, total passes (653 to 263), final third passes (190 to 47), shots taken (20 to 4), shots on goal (5 to 1) and goals scored (3 to 0)…

The Correlation of CPWP to Points (R2) so far .86; pretty strong – so we’ll see how well that holds up.

In considering early sleepers that many in the United States might overlook there is Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Ivory Coast, and Switzerland; still sleeping but ever dangerous are Brazil.

The odd ones out include England, Spain, Uruguay, and Portugal – wins in the second round of Stage 2 are must’s for those teams.

For me Bosnia-Herzegovina seems pretty dangerous as well.

I thought they played a very strong game against a very powerful Argentina – 85% passing accuracy, with roughly the same amount of penetration, speaks volumes for that team and given how poorly Nigeria played against Iran, it’s not unrealistic to see them progress out of the Group stages.

More to follow…

Best, Chris