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The changing face of football

Posted 2nd February 2018

Opta has collected every World Cup match since 1966 in the same way as we will collect data from this year’s tournament. This level of consistency and detail-driven focus means individual matches, players and tournaments can be put under the microscope.

In 2017, Opta released the first of its new suite of advanced analytics metrics. With these new metrics, we have analysed the 1966 final and the 2014 final to take a deeper look at the matches themselves, influential players, the team styles and how the game has evolved over time.

These new metrics can be used in a variety of ways and have applications across a broad range of sectors, if you are interested in discussing how these new metrics can be used at this year’s World Cup, click the enquire now button.

Enjoy.

Peppered

The 1966 final had a total of 77 shots, which is 57 more than the 2014 final with Germany and Argentina sharing just 20 shots between them during the 120 minutes. The 1966 final has the highest shots tally of any other final and demonstrates the scattergun approach taken to shooting in this era. The below graphic illustrates where the shots and goals were taken from in each final. 

Fast forward to 2014 and a stricter approach to taking a shot is apparent, with the majority confined within the box, the quality of shots taken was also greater. Expected goals (xG), Opta's metric looking at chance quality, shows that despite the number of shots that were taken in the 1966 final the quality of those chances was poor when compared to the 2014 final.

Looking at crossing positions also gives a good indication of teams moving further towards the box before delivering the ball and the difference in volume reinforces this change in style of play. The 1966 final saw the ball crossed 88 times, compared to 36 in 2014.

Moving through the years

By combining events together into sequences, we can start to examine how teams move the ball around the pitch. Sequences are explained in more detail here.

The more direct approach in 1966 is highlighted by the average sequence length being considerably shorter than what we saw from Germany in 2014.          

Average sequence length

By looking at sequence data, we can see the number and length of these sequences. 2014 shows an increase in longer sequences, explained by a more considered build up approach. Germany put together longer sequences of play versus Argentina in the final, differing approaches to defensive set-up could be examined here to understand the intricacies of this.

Getting Involved

From looking at our advanced metrics we can also identify key players from the two finals that had a hand in winning the match for their respective team.

Sequence Data from 1966 and 2014

By applying sequence data, it's clear to see the difference between the playing styles of the two eras, we can also use sequence data at a player level to better understand how influential they were in a particular match. We can see that there are several key players from both finals that were involved in a lot of their teams' build-up play.

Germany's Toni Kroos was the most involved player in 2014 with 77 open play sequences, six of these resulted in shots. This made up nearly half of Germany’s total open play sequences, it is arguable that Kroos was Germany's most influential player during the final. André Schürrle, the attacker who assisted Mario Götze for the winner in extra-time, was involved in 47 open play sequences with 5 of those ending with a shot despite being on the pitch for only 88 minutes out of a possible 120 (the same as Lionel Messi achieved in the whole 120 minutes).

The Argentinian who was most pivotal to their team was central midfielder Javier Mascherano who was involved in 36% of his team’s overall total of 59 sequences, 4 of these resulted in a shot.

THE TALE OF TWO BOBBYS

Many consider the standout performer in the 1966 final to be England’s captain, Bobby Moore.

We can see from his match statistics that the England defender registered 2 assists, the highest passing accuracy (93%) and was 3rd in terms of ball recoveries (17). 

Whilst these outputs give a good indication as to how well Moore performed, we can also see that Moore's defensive actions within the game nullified the German attack. 

Another standout performer for England was Bobby Charlton. We can use Opta’s sequence framework to dig a little deeper into his performance and role in England’s historic victory. Despite being man marked by German star Franz Beckenbauer, Charlton was involved in 78 open play sequences, which was 41% of England’s open play sequences, more than any other player on the pitch and 14 of those sequences resulted in a shot.

From looking at the data for both finals we can see that stylistically football has changed throughout the years – teams are less direct, concentrate on keeping the ball more and are less inclined to shoot from distance.  Despite these differences there are similarities in terms of the type of players and positions who help make a team tick. Bobby Charlton and Toni Kroos, both centre midfielders, were involved in more sequences than any other player on the pitch and helped drive their team to the ultimate crown in football. A coincidence? That's for you to decide.

 

P.s.

We love to shout about brilliant client work.

We have worked closely with broadcasters, BBC and Sky for a number of years. The 2017/18 Premier League season is the first time Opta's advanced metrics have been used to provide fans with deeper analysis in order to tell a more rounded and complete story.

Explore the project here

  


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