Women’s World Cup Round of Sixteen Preview – Day 1

With the Group Stage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup done, I thought I’d look forward to the Round of Sixteen and check in on some of the numbers.

I was going to do a roundup of the groups, but thought I can cover similar points here as well as looking to see how teams match up. I’ve decided to just reel off some numbers (mostly xG, pressure and progression) about teams, then give a quick mention to something that seems like it might be fun to look out for based on the data, before giving a short prediction.

Like I mentioned in my previous posts, this World Cup is my first real venture into women’s football and I’m terrible with previews/predictions in general so don’t expect any predictions to be accurate, it’s just a fun thing to do.

I also made heavy use of the soccermatics (@JoeDGallagher) package and a few FC_rStats (@FC_rstats) packages (particularly the pitch) for this, which I’d highly recommend if you’re looking to use StatsBomb’s free data.

Germany vs Nigeria

Going into the tournament as one of the main contenders and being ranked 2nd in the world, Germany did what many expected in taking 9 points from the Group Stage, but they weren’t hugely convincing in doing it.

Expected goal totals in games against Spain and China were around equal, making their win against South Africa the only game they won with strong underlying numbers. You often hear things about growing into the tournament or the result is all that matters, but it doesn’t bode well for Germany when it comes to playing other tournament contenders later on.

Germany had the 11th most xG conceded in the Group Stages, conceding more than Spain and China from their group. Opposition strength plays a big part, but they’re not numbers that would have you fancying Germany to go all the way.

Then they have the 11th best numbers for progression conceded and the completion rate for these passes. It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely not what you’d expect from the side ranked 2nd in the world.

Their attacking numbers are better, with only the U.S. having more xG than their 5.9, but this is heavily skewed from their 4.1 xG against South Africa. For ball progression in attack they attempt the 8th most with the 13th highest completion rate.

Looking at individuals, Carolin Simon only played the first game aginst China, but was an attacking threat for them from left-back. She leads the side for completed progression p90.

For players who played more minutes, Svenja Huth has the 2nd most completed progression p90 as well as strong xG + xA numbers, while Sara Dabritz has some huge xG numbers.

Nigeria are the 2nd lowest ranked side to make it to the knock-out rounds, but gave a strong showing in a tough group. They had the 3rd highest percentage of pressures coming in their defensive third, suggesting they’re happy to sit back and soak up pressure before looking to hit on the break.

They didn’t have great attacking numbers in the group, but they did have respectable defensive numbers, having the 10th lowest xG conceded. Looking at their losses, the 3-0 loss against Norway came from just 0.8 xG, while their loss to France was due to a retaken penalty.

What’s interesting is they don’t fare well when looking at progression, having high numbers for both progression allowed and the completion rate of passes that move the ball towards goal, but this doesn’t translate into good chances for the opposition.

It supports how they defend deep, allowing the opposition to progress the ball, but then look to pressure and restrict chance creation once the ball is moved into advanced areas. France’s pass map for passes into the final third shows some of this. They progress the ball, but typically only to the flanks. (I’ve got to sort the key and stuff out, I’m just trying to get this out quickly)

Then, looking at the key passes into the danger zone against Nigeria, you can see it’s almost all from out wide, with a lot coming from the attacking sides right in particular – especially corners on that side.

From an attacking point of view, Francisca Ordega was the player to attempt the most progression for Nigeria, but had a poor completion percentage. Given a lot of her progression came from counter attacks and looking to pick players out in the box, it shouldn’t be too surprising. It’s a situation where I need to better measure the efficiency/completion of progression to try and account for pass difficulty/area of the pitch a bit more.

What I’m Looking Out For

Svenja Huth

Huth has the 2nd best numbers for completed progression p90 for Germany as well as strong xG + xA numbers, add in the fact that most of Nigeria’s shots conceded in the danger zone come from the opposition’s right and it makes it seem as though Huth could be important on Saturday.

Francisca Ordega and Asisat Oshoala

The two attackers will need to be on form if Nigeria want to threaten Germany on the counter attack. Ordega completed the second most progression for Nigeria in the group, while Oshoala was their player with the best xG numbers. Oshoala in particular seems to be an important part of their counter, often being the player targeted, as can be seen in the below clips against South Korea.

Prediction

Nigeria defended well against France, conceding 0.9 xG (not including the penalty) but couldn’t combine that with an effective counter attack. Germany have been easier to play through than France, judging by the progression numbers, which should give Nigeria some hope for their counter, but I can still only see Germany going through.

Norway vs Australia

It feels like these two teams come from hugely contrasting groups. Norway’s Group A felt like a group with small margins and tight matches, while Australia’s Group C seemed to have just about everything: three hat-tricks, a comeback from 2-0 down (plus Sam Kerr’s post match interview), Jamaica in their first World Cup, Marta becoming the highest World Cup scorer ever and a last day where everything was to play for.

Looking at the Matilda’s, it was forward Sam Kerr who took most the headlines, scoring four goals against Jamaica as well as one in their opening game against Italy, making it unsurprising to hear that Australia had strong xG numbers in attack.

Australia had the 4th highest xG numbers and, unlike Germany, these numbers aren’t hugely skewed thanks to a rout – Australia over-performed their xG numbers in beating Jamaica, but under-performed in their loss to Italy, as can be seen below.

Australia also have strong numbers with ball progression, having the 4th best total with the 5th best completion rate.

A big part of Australia’s attack is their right hand side, two of Kerr’s goals came following crosses from the right, she won the penalty vs Italy after a cross from the right and even the goal against Jamaica where the ‘keeper made an error came from the right – although that shouldn’t really count.

It also makes it unsurprising that Australia’s leading players in total xG assisted – Emily Gielnik, Ellie Carpenter and Hayley Raso – have all appeared on the right. Looking at their key passes into the danger zone you can see how it’s almost exclusively from the right.

Defensively Australia haven’t been quite as good, conceding the 9th lowest xG, but have the 4th best numbers for completion rate on progressive passes. Looking at where they apply pressure, they have the 6th highest proportion of their pressures in the final third and the 5th lowest in their defensive third, suggesting they like to win the ball early and high up.

Like Australia, Norway finished in second place in their group, however the ease at which they did seems to have flattered them. Their most comprehensive win, the opening 3-0 against Nigeria, came from very even xG, as can be seen in the timeline below.

Then their victory against Korea was another even game until a late rally by Korea saw them have the better xG, by which time Norway were 2-0 up thanks to two penalties.

It feels hard to assess Norway on the back of this. They didn’t create much, but it feels like the early goals against Nigeria and Korea could have an effect on this, while also having an effect on their defensive numbers as can be seen in the Korea game.

It may be influenced by game state, but Norway had the 7th highest xG conceded in the group stage. They allow quite a lot of progression, but with good numbers for completion rate, while also having above average numbers for percentage of pressures in both defensive and attacking thirds.

You can see on the graph below that Norway have been below average in both attack and defence.

Their key player has probably been Caroline Graham Hansen. The right midfielder leads the side for both progression completed (and attempted) and xA – the latter of which is influenced by the fact she takes corners, while left-sided pair Guro Reiten and Kristine Minde have been their next two most creative players.

What I’m Looking Out For

Australia’s Right Side and Ellie Carpenter

It feels lazy basically copying what I said about the last game but, given how important the right hand side has been in Australia’s attack, it’s worth watching if it continues or whether Norway can effectively combat it. 19-year-old Ellie Carpenter is a player worth highlighting on the right, as she constantly gets forward from right-back.

With a lot of Norway’s creativity coming from their left, it seems as though the battle on that flank could be a key decider in who wins. It’ll be interesting to see whether the full-backs getting forward leaves space in behind for the counter, or instead pins back the attacking players of the opposition.

Can Norway Improve On Their Group Showing?

Norway’s numbers really aren’t impressive and the plot below shows how they struggled to create high quality chances, particularly in open play.

With Australia coming into this on the back of two high scoring games, it feels as though there needs to be some serious improvement from their group display if Norway want to progress.

Prediction

Based on the above numbers, it’s hard to see anything but an Australian win here. Norway haven’t been too impressive so far, having not great numbers at both ends of the field, while Australia look like a strong attacking side with a forward capable of generating lots of chances, while still being hard to progress the ball against.

Data From StatsBomb

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