Friday, 16 July 2010

World Cup 2010 Statistics

So the World Cup is over for another 4 years, and being the analytical person that I am, I thought I'd go through the OPTA stats and pick out the best defensive, creative and attacking players.

The first thing that jumps out from these statistics is Uruguay's dominance. Not only do they have the 3 players with the most interceptions, they have the 4 players with the highest rate of interceptions. The 4 players consist of a left back (Fucile), central defender (Godin) and two holding midfielders (Perez + Rios). It's indicative of Uruguay's defensive approach to games and aggressive closing down within their own half.

The rest of the list is not too surprising, consisting mainly of defenders and conservative midfielders, but Podolski's 24 interceptions are very impressive given his attacking role in the side, and it shows what a good defensive job he did in closing down opposition right backs and preventing them from getting forward.

The fact that Juan was Brazil's leading interceptor is not surprising, given Brazil's tendency to invite opposition teams into their own half to open up space for swift counter attacks.

Most of the names here overlap with the ones in the interceptions table, Gerardo Torrado and Kevin-Prince Boateng however stand out, not only as frequent tacklers but also as tidy ones. Jorge Fucile incredibly won all 20 of the tackles he attempted, and made interceptions more frequently than any other player, making him one of the standout left backs of the tournament. Diego Perez' poor tackling success rate highlights the fact that he's more of a midfield nuisance rather an expert ball-winner. Nothing groundbreaking here. 

It's amazing to see one man dominate this list so much, but when that man is Xavi Hernandez, is it really a surprise? This is a guy who's pretty much dominated every major club and international competition he's played in over the last 2-3 years, achieveing unprecedented success. The highlight of his tournament was the quarter final fixture against Portugal, in which he created 8 goalscoring chances and provided the deft flick-on in the build-up to David Villa's wining goal. At this rate he will go down as one of finest midfield playmakers in the history of the game.

Kevin-Prince Boateng's high ranking coupled with his excellent tackling stats prove what an excellent job he did in his role as a box-to-box midfielder for Ghana. Ghana lacked cutting edge throughout the tournament, so it's not surprising that noone manage to convert any of his passes.

Mesut Ozil, Lionel Messi and Diego Forlan all unsurprisingly created plenty of chances playing as the no.10 within their respective sides' formations.

Daniel Alves added a lot of forward thrust to Brazil's play when he came in for the injured Elano, and was the 2nd most frequent creator of chances, showing that good full backs can make good midfielders.

Kaka, Dirk Kuyt and Thomas Muller all managed to record 3 assists apiece without being particularly creative throughout, an unsuprising statistic when you consider that Brazil, Holland and Germany played a lot of counter-attacking football and all 3 players were able to pick out teammates in plenty of space.

Contrast to Xavi who played most of his football in congested opposition halves, where teammates had little space to pull the trigger once he'd played them through on goal. It's testament to his ability that he can still create goalscoring chances even when up against the metaphorical parked bus. See his assist to Gudjohnson in Barcelona's 1-0 victory over Liverpool in 2007 (7:58), or his assist to Pique in the 1-0 victory over Inter last season.

David Villa showed why he's one of the top 2 or 3 strikers in the world, displaying an ability to create for others as well as himself while playing in an unfamiliar role coming in from the left.

Robin van Persie had a poor tournament in front of goal, not helped at all by the fact that none of his attacking partners seemed willing to pass to him, but he did a good job holding the ball up and waiting for support to arrive, the best example probably being the semi-final tie against Uruguay. He was a real teamplayer throughout the tournament and tirelessly ran the channels to create space for onrushing teammates.

How old is Thomas Muller? With 5 goals and 3 assists, Muller displayed maturity far beyond his years. Not only was he the tournament's leading direct contributor to goals, he was also one of the most efficient and didn't waste many shooting or passing opportunities in the final 3rd. He was of course aided by playing in one of the best counterattacking teams of the World Cup, but his off-the-ball movement to get into dangerous positions was superb and he didn't show any signs of nerves once there. He has a great future ahead of him.

Sneijder was Holland's leading scorer and shooter at the World Cup despite being a midfielder on paper. He played a role that could be described as a 'false 10', constantly looking to get into the box and almost playing as a striker when his side wasn't in possession. It's an interesting trend and one that will probably become more prevalent over the coming years as managers think up new ways of outfoxing opposition defences.

The rest of the statistics are fairly straight-forward, with the penalty box strikers converting a higher percentage of their shots (Higuain proving that poachers do still have a place in the modern game), while the more expressive forwards were less clinical but scored from greater distances and contributed more in other areas of the pitch.

I hope you find the statistics as interesting as I did(!). Join me again in 4 years time for another World Cup statistical analysis.