Women’s World Cup Round of Sixteen Preview – Day 4

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.

Italy vs China

Finishing top of Group C, many have called Italy the surprise package of the tournament, despite this, their numbers are pretty middle of the road.

They were lucky to get their opening win against Australia, as can be seen by the xG timeline below.

You could exclude Sam Kerr’s goal from this, given it was a rebound to a penalty, but that doesn’t make up for Italy’s poor attacking display against an Australia defence that gets a lot of criticism.

A routine win against Jamaica saw Italy make it through to the next round, while the last game against Brazil would decide what position they went through in. Despite losing their final game they still managed to go through 1st on goal difference. Italy’s showing was better from an xG view than their opener, edging the xG but losing out due to a Marta penalty.

Putting it all together, Italy have an average xGD but seemed to grow after a poor opening performance. With that being said, it’s hard to say much about Italy’s numbers as a team because so many of them are around average.

One area where Italy have shone is corners. They had the 3rd highest xG from corners, while having the 2nd highest xG per corner, showing they’re dangerous from corners and the xG isn’t just due to having lots of corners.

However, digging a bit deeper into the data, they only have one shot from corners in their two games against Australia and Brazil, with most of their corner production coming against Jamaica. With China having average numbers for xG conceded from corners it’ll be interesting to see whether Italy’s corner numbers come from having played weaker opposition in Jamaica, or whether they are genuinely good at corners.

Looking at some individuals, right-back Alia Guagni leads the team in pass progression completed p90.

22-year-old midfielder Aurora Galli is the leader for xG p90, however she’s only had 2 shots all tournament and this value is heavily skewed thanks to her goal against Jamaica.

Their main creator and leader for xG + xA p90 was 21-year-old Manuela Giugliano. She has a wide passing range and played a great ball through for Galli’s 2nd goal vs Jamaica.

She also made a similar defence cutting pass against Australia, which ended up being ruled offside.

With Giugliano and Galli Italy’s midfield seems to be in good hands for the future.

Getting 4 points from a tough group was a good achievement for China, built on the back of a strong defence who made it difficult for the opposition.

From the chart below you can see China had good numbers for xG conceded and conceded the lowest value chances on average, having the lowest xG per shot against.

Then they also had the 6th best numbers for completion rate of progressive passes from the opposition. The problem is that the good defence meant stifling the team’s attack, having the 8th lowest xG in the group stage.

They had a comfortable win over South Africa, but got to their 0.9 xG mostly through lots of low quality shots, while their game against Germany was the opposite way around. Germany had lots of low quality shots totaling 0.6 xG, while China had few chances, but one strong one, to total 0.7 xG.

China’s 0-0 against Spain was their worst performance based on xG. They did a good job of reducing Spain to low quality chances but only managed one shot of their own, as can be seen on the timeline below. (I’m not sure why the timeline function doesn’t seem to like a 0-0)

With China not having a great attack, it’s not surprising to hear no individual have put up great numbers so far, however, most of their progression has come down the left side with left-back Shanshan Liu and left-midfielder Yasha Gu the top two for completed pass progression p90.

In terms of xG numbers Li Yang has the best, while Rui Zhang has been their main creator, having their best xA.

What I’m Looking Out For

Manuela Giugliano

With China being a side tough to play against and break down, it feels as though Italy may need some inventiveness in their passing, meaning Manuela Giugliano could be of big importance for Italy.

She has the ability to test China both with her passing range and set-piece taking and both may be needed come Tuesday.

Can China be more productive in attack?

China’s strong defensive numbers seem to come at the expense of their attacking numbers, not being hugely productive in front of goal in any of their group games. If they want to make the quarter-finals they’ll need to find a way to be more productive in attack, while also keeping some of their defensive solidity.

Prediction

I think Italy will win, but it’ll be a tough game and they’ll struggle to really break down the China defence.

Netherlands vs Japan

Winning all three games in a tough group and being on what’s deemed the better side of the draw, the Netherlands seem to be in a good position to try and go deep in this tournament.

They recorded a late win against New Zealand in their opening game, but had strong xG numbers and rightfully got the winner, before edging close games against Cameroon and Canada. With their games being close, the Netherlands haven’t got great xG numbers, Canada actually had the best in their group, but there’s still reasons to be optimistic from a Dutch point of view.

Defensively, the Netherlands had one of the better completion rates for progressive passes, while being the team who looks to pressure the most in midfield, as evidenced in the graph below.

This didn’t translate into strong defensive numbers for xG, however, as they conceded 10th most xG in the group stage. A small consolation may be that the Gabrielle Onguene chance could skew their numbers, given how valuable of a chance it was in their win against Cameroon.

Against Canada they weren’t great at the back, conceding 0.9 xG, but it seemed to stem from the game opening up once the Netherlands took the lead in the second half, rather than a constant threat from Canada.

Netherlands were a lot better going forward though. They had the 3rd highest xG of all teams in the tournament, only behind the United States and Germany. It’s worth pointing out that Germany’s numbers are heavily skewed from their rout of South Africa, while the Netherlands have more consistent production in each game. Ironically, their biggest win, the game against Cameroon above, came from their lowest xG produced.

They made the most of corners in their group games, creating the 5th most xG from corners and having the highest xG per corner. However, like with Italy, the four shots they created from corners all came in the game against New Zealand, so it’s questionable whether it’s something that’ll make its way into the knock-out rounds or not.

When talking about individuals it’s impossible not to mention Vivianne Miedema, the 22-year-old forward is coming off the back of an incredible season with Arsenal and her record with the national team is barely believable.

With that being said, despite her scoring two goals against Cameroon, her underlying numbers haven’t been strong this tournament. Her xG is the 4th highest for the Netherlands, with Lineth Beerensteyn, Dominique Bloodworth (Just because of one big chance each) and Lieke Martens all having a better xG than the forward.

Desiree van Lunteren has been the sides best creator, but this is mostly thanks to her cross to Lineth Beerensteyn for the winner against Canada.

Looking at progression, it’s no surprise that Dominique Bloodworth has been their best progressive passer after her numbers in the FAWSL last season. They also seem to do most of their build-up on the left, with the top four players for completed pass progression p90 all being left sided players.

Japan have got out of the group and into the side of the draw that avoids heavyweights like the U.S. and France, but they’re going to need some improvement should they want to come close to their previous two campaigns.

The graph below, just showing xG and xG against, shows how poor Japan’s numbers have been.

It’s worth pointing out Norway are in an even worse spot, but then turned in a good performance vs Australia, however, Japan seem to have had an easier group than Norway, with Argentina and Scotland being two games you’d expect them to win routinely.

Japan didn’t seem to be able to create good chances at all, having the 3rd lowest xG per shot in the whole tournament and creating just 0.2 xG against Argentina.

They have some good numbers for progression, having the 3rd highest progression gained and best completion rate of these passes, but they weren’t able to turn this into goalscoring opportunities.

Defensively Japan did okay, they conceded just 0.4 xG before the England game and had the 4th lowest xG per shot. They also had the 5th highest numbers for pressures in the final third, which doesn’t seem too surprising after seeing how they looked to stop England playing out from the back in their final group game.

Unsurprisingly, given their numbers as a team, no Japan players have huge numbers for xG contribution, but one player worth mentioning is 19-year-old Jun Endo.

Endo has the 2nd highest xG + xA p90 for Japan, while also having above average numbers for pass progression p90. Endo even had the 2nd most pressure events p90, however, as pointed out in the England vs Cameroon preview, this wasn’t always a good thing as it opened up space for England to play through the midfield.

Looking at pass progression, left-back Aya Sameshima is the team leader, while centre-back Saki Kumagai is in 2nd place.

What I’m Looking Out For

Jun Endo

As mentioned above, Endo has some strong numbers and looks to be a huge talent at just 19-years-old. She’s been the sides main creator so far and will look to continue that against the Netherlands.

Netherlands Attack and Shanice van de Sanden

With Japan pressing high there should be space in behind for the Netherlands on Tuesday. With lots of their progression coming down the left, the Netherlands could look to create overloads on that side to progress the ball through the Japan midfield, similar to what England did on the right against them.

If that happens one player who could take advantage of the space is winger Shanice van de Sanden. Van de Sanden has looked impressive for the Netherlands so far but hasn’t turned that into strong numbers for xG contribution. Netherlands are yet to play a team who defends high up, however, meaning the game against Japan could give Van de Sanden a chance to put her pace to use and look to get in behind and be involved in goalscoring opportunities.

Prediction

It’s a tough one to call. Japan weren’t good in the group stage, but it feels silly to rule them out this early on. With that being said, I am leaning towards the Netherlands progressing from this game.

Data from StatsBomb

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