If you’ve been following my adventures in Major League Soccer you’ll know that last year the PWP Index did a pretty good job in showing how the team performances played out in comparison to the League Tables (without) including points scored in my calculations.
To be honest, with such a small sample point I really didn’t think the PWP Indices effort would stand up against the Tournament (knock-out based style) of the World Cup.
But after taking a look at all the games (and inputting the team performance from said games) my Indices seem to hold up pretty well – wonder when Pepsi or another company that begins with “P” will consider sponsoring my work? (just kidding – erhhh maybe not?).
Anyhow – here’s the lay of the land as it was tweeted earlier today:
NOTE: All games are entered – and the comparison of these games does include the extra games played as the competition has headed towards the finals.
In other words Germany, Argentina, Brazil and the Netherlands all have six games worth of data. In developing this I figured the more data points for a team the more likely their percentages would be watered down.
So for a team like Spain, who went out in the first round I figured they’d be pretty high up – well they are but the pedigree of the Netherlands, France, Colombia, Argentina, and Germany all put them past Spain EVEN with more games played!
If you’ve read my presentation at the World Conference on Science and Soccer as well as my Introduction into Possession with Purpose you’ll know my measurement methods and data source for this effort. I can’t thank MLS Soccer.com enough for the publicly available data that allows me to generate my Index formulas.
Perhaps Prozone or someone else might help me obtain the data I need for all the European Leagues, to include the Champions League?
So with the overall accuracy (pretty compelling it appears to me) I’ve put my Composite PWP Predictability Index to test for the final (ahead of time)…
Before offering that Index though here’s how the teams compared against each other in Attacking PWP and Defending PWP:
From an attacking standpoint Germany are top of the table with Colombia 2nd, France 3rd, and Argentina 4th.
And when witnessing that blowout yesterday is that really a surprise, perhaps somewhat, but even prior to that game Germany were 3rd best overall in Attacking PWP – behind only Argentina and Colombia.
So how about the Defending PWP Index?
Notice (below) that Brazil is 17th out of 32 teams; prior to that game against Germany, Brazil were 12th.
So while some favored Brazil – the overall team performance indicators did show that Brazil were behind Germany in both the APWP and DPWP prior to that game.
The same cannot be said for Argentina and Germany – those two split top honors as you can see below as Argentina heads this Index; while Germany is a close 2nd.
Also note, if you’re a supporter of the United States, they were much higher in this Index (21st best) than they were in the Attacking Index (5th worst).
It is worthy (and most probably realistic) that if the United States had taken a stronger attacking stance against Germany, and perhaps even Belgium, they might have been the team getting embarrassed and not Brazil!
Finally, here’s the CPWP Predictability Index:
A pretty close call; in this one Germany has the slight edge in Composite Predictability in comparison to Argentina.
Argentina is #1 in the DPWP Predictability Index (not pictured) and Germany is 4th best.
Germany is #1 in the APWP Predictability Index and Argentina slides all the way down to 16th best.
A distinct difference in Attacking and Defending Predictability based upon previous team performance while excluding goals scored…
The overall Composite PWP Predictability Index indicates Germany is better in attack and Argentina is better in defense; the Predictability Indices indicate the same outputs.
For me, and my PWP calculations this should make for a brilliant final this weekend!
No personal prognostications from me – my objective team performance indicators point one way in attack and one way in defense; usually in games like these the better defensive teams win…
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…
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…
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:
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!
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.
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…
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!
Here’s the Composite PWP Index after last night’s games:
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…