As we enter the latter stages of the World Cup and into what will turn out to be some of the most historic games of the tournament, we will statistically analyse some of the key players of each team based on the systems employed & opposition using Squawka‘s excellent comparison matrix.
Comparing the two deeper central defenders
Both France & Germany follow a defensive system where one plays slightly ahead of the other. For Germany, Mats Hummels is required to play the role of the man advancing ahead to prevent attacks with Per Mertesacker behind him for cover, while a deeper Raphael Varane performs the same task with either one of Laurent Koscielny or Mamadou Sakho.
The younger Varane has had to make more tackles and has been successful to a further degree than his counterpart, making an average of 2 tackles per game compared to 0.5 from Mertesacker. The Arsenal defender stands at 6 feet 6 inches making him one of the most dominant & towering defender aerially; this is reflected in his 2.25 average success per game in the air with Varane failing to assert himself there. Possibly through his higher level of experience when compared to a 21-year-old Varane, Mertesacker has a slightly superior interception success rate with 1.25 per game.
Germany’s possession game also means that Mertesacker is required to participate more in retaining the ball and recycling it with passes. He has more than double total successful passes as compared to Varane who plays in a French system that favours quickly getting the ball into midfield & attack; countering rather than maintaining possession. The more experienced Mertesacker takes the prize.
Comparing the deep central individuals in a three man midfield system
Yohann Cabaye has taken up the role of the deep lying central creative midfielder in the French system, supported on either side by (usually) Paul Pogba & Blaise Matuidi, who are allowed to venture forward. For Germany, captain Philipp Lahm is the only midfielder retaining his possession with the coach rotating the other two. Cabaye is a natural midfield playmaker while Lahm has only recently adopted the possession with not as much creative requirement, or has he?
Joachim Löw has rightly been questioned for opting to play Lahm in midfield when their full-back position has obvious issues. And while you’d expect Cabaye to be the more creative head among the two, Lahm seems to have been the better individual thus far.
While their pass completion is more or less similar, owing to the aforementioned possession based game Lahm has managed to attempt and succeed at more number of passes. But a 90% + pass completion rate is the more telling statistic as Cabaye isn’t required to play as many passes as the Bayern Munich captain. Lahm seems to edge it in the key passes field as well, but generally he seems to play much more deeper than Cabaye, allowing him more time & space to play out these passes.
In a more attacking sense, Cabaye does average more shots on goal which is likely a reflection of his more natural midfielder instinct while Lahm isn’t quite that type of a player as yet. Defensively they cannot be differentiated while Cabaye’s impressive stats that match up to Lahm’s in that capacity are a surprise as you wouldn’t expect the PSG midfielder to be as solid at the back.
It’s surprising how closely matched these two players are. Lahm’s creative stats & Cabaye’s defensives one are particularly pleasantly surprising.
Comparing the primary goal scorers
Thomas Müller and Karim Benzema had similar seasons with their respective clubs, both ended up with two trophies while one probably got the more prestigious one. They both now lead the attacking line for their countries and are competing for the Golden Boot award as well.
While Müller has a goal more than Benzema, the latter could easily have had two hat-tricks in the group stages with bad luck and a poor penalty denying him. Müller already has a hat-trick to his name but he has taken lesser shots than his counterpart, significantly. France are in-fact among the top teams in terms of attempted shots, and it is reflected in the individual stats of the two players leading their respective attacks. Benzema has thus far taken nearly double the amount of shots (24) at a superior rate of accuracy (68%).
The more striking statistic is the shot zones. 14 of Benzema’s shots have been from inside the area while 10 is the number for Müller. But when we go deeper and outside the box, there’s a staggering difference; 10 shots have been attempted from outside the box by Benzema, as he has had to play in a wide role on occasion, thus not getting as penetrative as he’d like, while Müller who people would have you believe plays a proper false 9 role (he doesn’t, not always atleast) has taken just 3 shots in 4 games from outside the penalty box.
Benzema’s overall influence on the side is superior as well, often playing the role of playmaker from his wider position creating 13 chances for his team-mates than Müller’s 10. It should also be mentioned though that the possible reason for this could actually be the performances of both sides with France being considered the slightly more consistent team thus far. Benzema seems to be the superior performer.
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