World Cup 2018: Trending from Russia
It is the end of round 2 of the group matches in this World Cup 2018 and we have already witnessed a major share of all kinds of emotions – ecstasy, turmoil, breathlessness and bitter disappointment. We've had a few upsets already. Big strategies, bigger names have been challenged on the field by lesser-known teams – and boy, the challenges have been handsome and fierce. However, certain trends of this World Cup are staring in our faces and it’s up to the teams to acknowledge the same and prepare to mitigate these risks.
Let’s focus on the top 5 trends that we have noticed so far:
Possession is good, but that does not ensure victory
The big footballing nations – Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Spain – felt that simply controlling the ball will lead to victories. The stronger mid-fields with star names are playing an innumerable number of square passes, using the pivot of the 5th midfielder and switching sides as and when they want to. This is with the hope that this will lead to complete frustration of their opponents and then they can slowly move for the kill. This is a formula for success of major clubs in recent times: Manchester City won the English Premier League 2017-2018 season with a ball possession of 66.4%, Barcelona won the Spanish La Liga 2017-2018 season with 60% possession; Paris Saint Germain had 62.6% in French Ligue 1 in 2017-2018 and the list goes on.
However, many believe that having ball possession of around 70%, controlling the pace of the match, rotating the field through effective passing is all good, provided the team can finish the game with quality through passes, individual dribbling brilliance, effective crosses, etc. Otherwise, one may control the match, but that may not guarantee the victory.
If we look at the statistics of some the successful teams, we will find that possession was followed up with razor-sharp attacks. For example, in the English Premier League, Manchester City had average 17.5 shots per game out of which 7 shots per match on average were on target. Similarly, Barcelona had 15.3 shots per game out of which 7.2 shots on target per match. This is in addition to the ball possession they had in their respective tournaments
This philosophy is now put into life through the matches played so far. Let’s see some of the data to illustrate this: Germany enjoyed 60% of their possession against Mexico and yet lost the game. Argentina controlled their match against Iceland with 72% possession but could salvage just one point. Even Saudi Arabia in the opening fixture against Russia had 60% possession but went home disappointed by losing by 5 goals. Perhaps only Spain (against Iran) and Belgium (against Panama) won their matches with 60%+ possession.