World Cup 2014 – Group Stages Completed; Who’s leading the PWP Pack?

No more draws… you’re out you’re out.  The true brutality of the game begins; if you’re faint of heart and don’t want to know how well the USA stacks up against the rest of the World in Possession with Purpose don’t read on.

I’ll lightly touch on my Attacking PWP to set the stage and then the reality of the Defending PWP and finally – the Composite PWP – it aint pretty if you fancy the United States…

To begin…

APWP INDEX GROUP STAGES COMPLETED
APWP INDEX GROUP STAGES COMPLETED

I walked through some major details on APWP in my last post so I won’t tarry here too long… a couple of things that stand out to me…

Only six teams fall below the pack of green bars up top – not a complete match but good enough when considering the ‘end state’ of PWP – come close to matching the League Table ‘without’ tracking wins, draws, and losses.

From an attacking standpoint there’s pretty solid evidence to support the USA being in a “group of death”; they ended up with the worst APWP in their group yet got through.

Not to be outdone though – there are the Greeks – they too finished lower than Colombia, Ivory Coast, and Japan.

Is the difference between this Index output and Results in the Group Stages a measurement of luck?

I don’t know but the outputs from the Index seem pretty compelling after just three games.

Now for the Defending PWP Index…

DPWP INDEX GROUP STAGES COMPLETED
DPWP INDEX GROUP STAGES COMPLETED

In short – the DPWP Index looks to have been much more accurate than the APWP Index; correctly ranking the top teams with just four exceptions.

For me that continues to reinforce that Defending (preventing the opponent from scoring) has more overall value than just scoring.

So how about some info behind the Index number; here’s the details on the differences between teams that advanced and teams that didn’t.

Opponent Possession: (PWP data point)

  • Teams not making the round of 16 who were in the top ten were Spain, Japan, Italy, Ivory Coast and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • Teams making the round of 16 who were in the bottom ten were Netherlands, United States, Greece, Algeria, Costa Rica, and Colombia.
  • Bottom line here; any approach with respect to possession can work provided the Head Coach has the right mix of players to execute that approach.

Opponent Passing Accuracy Entire Pitch: (PWP data point)

  • Opponents of the United States were the most accurate passers in the World Cup so far (87.33% accurate); perhaps another piece of objective evidence supporting how talented that Group was?
  • Other teams who faced opponents with high levels of passing accuracy, that made the round of 16, were Greece, Netherlands, Germany, Colombia, and Costa Rica.
  • The teams making the round of 16 that played against opponents with lower passing accuracy included Chile (lowest opponent passing accuracy – 76%), Brazil, Argentina, France, and Belgium.
  • Those teams “not” making the round of 16. that played against opponents with lower passing accuracy. included Japan, Spain, England, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Opponent Passing Accuracy within the Final Third: (Supplemental PWP data point)

  • Opponents of the United States were also the most accurate passers in the Final Third (76.33%); perhaps??? another piece of objective evidence supporting how talented that Group was?
  • Greece remains a bed-fellow in this category as well – opponents of Greece were also 76.33% accurate within the Greece defending Final Third.
  • Both teams were the worst in this category; and were the only two teams, in the worst top ten, to make the round of 16.
  • Might this be a good “team” indicator on how effective those team defenses were in communicating and executing their roles?  Or was it good luck or great goalkeeping?
  • On the flip side Spain, England and Ivory Coast faced opponents with the lowest averages of passing accuracy in the defending Final Third.
  • Those three teams were also in the top ten ‘best’ for this category; and the only three teams in that ‘best ten’ that didn’t make the round of 16.
  • Might this also be a good “team” indicator on how poorly those team defenses communicated and executed their roles?  Or was it bad luck or bad goalkeeping?
  • I’m not sure about the answers, to those questions, but it certainly might be a good place to start as England and Spain lick their wounds and prepare for Euro2016…

Percentage of Opponent Passes within the Final Third: (PWP data point)

  • The easiest teams to penetrate against, so far, have been Colombia, Greece, and the United States.
  • All three have seen their opponents penetrate their defending third more than 28% of the time given total possession of the ball.
  • Those three, plus Switzerland, also made the round of 16, all the other teams in the worst ten, for this category, are going home.
  • In looking at the teams with the least amount of penetration per possession we have France leading the pack at just 13.98%; with Netherlands next at 15.96%.
  • What is interesting about Holland is that their opponents possessed the ball (overall) third most (60.95%).
  • Truly amazing that with over 60% of possession their opponents penetrated just 16% of the time – can you say high pressure that was extremely well organized?
  • As for those who didn’t advance; Spain, England, Australia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were in the top ten for being stingy; the rest advanced.

Percentage of Opponent Shots Taken per Completed Pass in the Final Third: (PWP data point)

  • Algeria was the top team in preventing shots taken, per completed pass, in their own defending third (11.75%); next up was England, Iran, Australia, Russia.
  • Intriguing that six of the top ten teams in this category (Iran, Australia, Costa Rica, Netherlands, Greece, and the USA) were also six of the top ten in yielding possession and facing high passing accuracy numbers by their opponents.
  • Is that an indicator of a ‘solid’ team defensive approach within the defending Final Third (particularly the 18 yard box)?
  • I think so; another supporting indicator might be Blocked Shots; more to follow on that…
  • On the other end of the spectrum, France opponents took shots 33% of the time they completed a pass within the Final Third.
  • In other words, with just ~40% of the possession, the opponents of France were quick to take their chances… perhaps that’s an indicator that they weren’t given a lot of time and/or space?  Or is it simply down to impatience?
  • Others not yielding many shots taken, per penetration, were Chile, Argentina, Japan, Uruguay, Croatia, Brazil, Nigeria, Korea and Ecuador.

Shots Taken: (Supplemental PWP data point)

  • Spain and England faced the fewest shots taken of any teams in the World Cup.
  • Spain opponents averaged 8.33 shots per game and England’s averaged 8.67 shots per game – yet both failed to advance?
  • When they got exposed, they got exposed big time.
  • I’m not sure there is a way to quantify mental lapses but a good indicator to me that the balance of players in the back-four, for a team, is not good, is when they have high levels of possession in attack, high level of passing accuracy moving forward yet face few shots taken.
  • I talked about that in my previous post on APWP; perhaps??? this is another supporting indicator that helps point out that both England and Spain didn’t test themselves and push the fine line far enough between brilliance and boring.
  • Put another way perhaps???
  • Might this also reaffirm, that at least for Spain and England, the goals scored against were more influential in them losing than the goals scored for in winning?
  • On the flip side – the United States and Ecuador both faced over 18 shots taken per game…
  • So the United States not only faced opponents with high amounts of possession, high levels of passing accuracy, and high levels of penetration – they also faced the most shots taken – yet they advanced!
  • Is that great goalkeeping or good luck?  I think I’ve asked that question about the Americans before…
  • But before moving on – both Colombia and Greece were also in the top ten for shots faced – all the others with high shots faced did not advance.

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shot Taken: (PWP data point)

  • Remember that Colombia were in the top ten for shots taken by their Opponent…
  • Well that higher amount of Shots Taken did not translate to a higher amount of Shots on Goal – they were 4th best in the fewest Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken.
  • And a good reason why is they had the highest average in Blocked Shots of their opponent; 6.33 to be exact.
  • Brazil lead all teams in the fewest Shots on Goal per Shots Taken by their opponent; they were also third best in blocking their opponent shots.
  • In looking at the top ten; only Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia where in the top ten that didn’t make the round of 16.
  • And of the top 16 teams in this category, only Korea is in that pack who didn’t qualify for the next round.
  • A pretty strong single indicator, with the exception of Algeria and Switzerland, who were in the bottom five for this category.
  • Five goals against to France certainly didn’t help the cause for Switzerland.
  • As for the United States, Netherlands, and Greece?
  • Those three teams, where the opponent had high numbers in possession and passing accuracy, saw all three in the top 15 (defensively) for this category.
  • With the United States offering up 4 blocked shots per game and Greece averaging 4.33 shots blocked per game.
  • Netherlands, who had one of the 4th lowest shots taken against, was 11th best in minimizing shots on goal per shot taken; their blocked shots were only 2.33 per game (midway in the pack).

Opponent Shots on Goal: (Supplement PWP data point)

  • Only one team in the top ten, who faced the fewest Shots on Goal did not advance, England.
  • They faced the 3rd fewest Shots on Goal while also seeing 35.26% of their opponents Shots on Goal net goals.
  • A worthy note here is that England only averaged one Opponent Blocked shot per game – and ironically enough Spain was worst – averaging just .33 Opponent Blocked Shots per game.
  • The two surprise teams kicked out of the World Cup were the same two teams with the lowest amount of average Opponent Blocked Shots.
  • Other teams who moved on that had high Shots on Goal Against were Nigeria, Switzerland, Algeria and the United States.
  • If Blocked shots has value as a supporting indicator then Nigeria, Switzerland and Algeria are more likely to lose their next game than the United States.
  • Nigeria averaged 2.67 blocked shots per game, Switzerland averaged 2.33, while Algeria averaged 1.33.
  • The USA averaged 4 blocked shots per game – sign of a swarming defense that really focuses on protecting the 18 yard box.
  • All told, the rest of the teams in the top ten in preventing shots on goal were Brazil, France, Costa Rica, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, Uruguay, and Argentina.

Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (PWP data point)

  • Two teams in the top ten for this team performance indicator didn’t advance, Italy and Ecuador.
  • The top team with the lowest Goals Scored Against versus Shots on Goal was Nigeria; 7.69%.
  • Others following in the top five were Costa Rica, Germany, Mexico, and Colombia.
  • Both Greece and the United States did well here; they finished 13th and 14th respectively.  Netherlands, a team who gave up quite a bit of possession, was 12th best.
  • The teams with the worst ratio were led by Australia (56.11%) followed by Bosnia-Herzegovina, England, Hondurus and Japan.
  • Brazil was actually sixth worst and Belgium was 13th worst.
  • Might that be a worthy indicator where Chile may “upset” Brazil – or, given the Index information would it really be an upset?
  • How about the United States taking on Belgium?
  • The United States are good at blocking shots – while Belgium seems more inclined to yield space ‘within’ their 18 yard box.   Does that translate to an ‘upset’?

Goals Scored Against (Supplemental PWP data point).

  • Most seem to agree that one of the single greatest indicators is goals against; in looking at the top ten Goals Scored Against Switzerland lead the pack at 2.00 (per game) for all teams that are advancing; and yes that is a bit dodgy seeing as they gave up five goals to France – but it is what it is…
  • Mexico, Belgium and Costa Rica all lead the pack in fewest Goals Against (.33) per game.
  • The only team, not advancing, in the top ten not for fewest Goals Against is Italy (1.00) per game.
  • As for Greece and the United States?
  • Both finished on 1.33 Goals Against per game.
  • Overall, nine of the top ten teams in fewest Goals Against advanced.  And only one team, in the top ten for most Goals Against, advanced; Switzerland – against France.
  • Uruguay was the other team who matched the United States and Greece at 1.33 per game.

Final thoughts on DPWP:

  • The DPWP Index is not intended to be a predictability model; not with Goals Against included; but all told the Index looks very reasonable after just three games – far exceeding my initial expectations.
  • The Correlation to the sum of points earned (R2) is -.7988.
  • The Correlation of Opponent Goals Scored to sum of points earned is -.7366
  • The Correlation of DPWP to Opponent Goals Scored is .7994
  • All told the Correlation of DPWP to Points is the best Correlation.

In closing… Composite PWP:

CPWP INDEX GROUP STAGES COMPLETED
CPWP INDEX GROUP STAGES COMPLETED

Bottom line here is that with just three games played the CPWP Index shows just two teams outside the ‘bell curve’.

Pretty reasonable – and while many may poo-poo Costa Rica belonging in the upper echelon they finished in the top 7 for four of the six team defending performance indicators; while facing opponents who averaged 57.58% of the ball while also completing 82.67% of their passes.

As for the United States, even when removing that late goal by Portugal in the Index analysis, the CPWP for the United States would still be in the negative (-.3120) instead of (-.3596).  I.E. 6th worst and not 5th worst; that goal did impact the results table but really didn’t impact the Indices of PWP.

In thinking about the next round…

These Indices are not predictability indices, with Goals Scored and Goals Against included they can’t be; but… it does provide a great litmus test for showing which teams (and their overall performance) are on form and ‘what form’ / ‘style’ those teams might be playing to.

Given that, there’s a pretty reasonable chance that Germany beats Algeria, France beats Nigeria, Costa Rica beats Greece, Argentina beats Switzerland, and Colombia beats Uruguay.

Toss ups (and indeed what I think will be really great games) are Chile v Brazil, the Netherlands v Mexico and Belgium v the United States.

Chile can win against Brazil given their better than average defending (and) attacking PWP compared to Brazil; in other words Chile are showing themselves to be in better form.

The Dutch have been masters at the counter-attack and are very efficient in preventing Goals Scored Against; that will be a very dangerous game for Mexico!

With respect to the United States?

They have given time and space but still seem to hold on – it’s a tactic oft used by teams who aren’t quite on the same cutting edge as others – they just simply found the right mix to advance; can that continue?

And lest it’s forgotten – when it comes to defending the 18 yard box, no other team was more effective given the volume of traffic by the opponent!

Best, Chris

 

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5 thoughts on “World Cup 2014 – Group Stages Completed; Who’s leading the PWP Pack?

  1. Just a quick note… it’s “Colombia,” not “Columbia” when referring to the country.

    As someone with a Colombian mother, I’m sensitive to the correct spelling.

    Thanks for your good work, Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amazing really when looking at all the indicators – they simply got the job done in their own defending final third. Kudo’s and my hats off to the back-four and the midfielders lending support. In looking at all the team data there really does appear to be a chance that the US can beat Belgium… Hope it happens.

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