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.
Probing Centre Backs
With Neymar obscuring the loopholes in a far from finished Brazilian squad this World Cup, defence has probably been the one department that Scolari hasn’t had to particularly bother about with Silva, Luiz, Marcelo and Alves/Maicon doing a fine job. Now that Silva’s suspended and Neymar’s injured, the Selecao face an uphill task to realize their dreams. On the back of an exquisite flat-footed free kick against Colombia, David Luiz will be running high on confidence ahead of his team’s semi-final clash against the Germans where his involvement in attack might be limited, but he will be the key figure in defence marking Müller/Götze.
Given Löw and company’s annihilation of Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the 2010 quarter-finals, one would have thought Germany would be mindful of the potential problems of entering big matches with four specialist centre-backs. Yet here Löw is, subscribing to exactly that model. Squashing the space available in the middle of the park forces attacking opposition players wide and with the heading ability of starters Mertesacker and Hummels – not to mention Höwedes/Lahm and Boateng covering from left and right – this ensures any cross from either flank should be easy to defend against. Hummels’ consistency at the back makes him a definite starter and his bolstering runs, heading ability makes him a goal scoring threat from set pieces.
With 2 goals apiece, Luiz & Hummels have well corroborated themselves as proven outlets inside the box, in addition to the former being a long distance shooter. Brazil have had a propensity to lose the ball in the midfield far too often making them susceptible to counter attacks. Silva and Luiz in the heart of defence did a decent job to nullify that threat with Silva dropping further back acknowledging his partner’s aggressive nature. Luiz also outdoes his opposite number in the number of interceptions, which can be accredited to the more amount of ground that he covers. Germany’s passing is mirrored in their defence as well with Hummels achieving an 87% pass completion rate. He edges past Luiz in the number of tackles won. Blend of two solid pivot players and the four centre backs, allows the opposition’s attack to be slowed down midway in their own half and number of shots on goal to be reduced. Hummels can be seen making lesser number of clearances than Luiz.
Comparing the Play Makers
The hosts procured safe passage to the last-16 with virtual ease and have both Oscar and Neymar to thank for that. While Neymar has had his moments of virtuosity, Oscar was imperative to Brazil in their opening 3-1 win over Croatia. His performance was highly rated, reinforcing his credentials on the international stage. Neymar, meanwhile, has dealt with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. His absence due to a vertebrae injury means that expectation & pressure falls on Oscar.
The German midfield has produced 2695 passes, with a whopping 2378 proving successful. That’s over 400 more than Argentina, who have the second most. With the pivot players sitting deeper, teams will find it increasingly difficult to break Germany down, while the outlets of Özil, Müller and Götze means Die Mannschaft can instigate swift and potentially devastating attacks in the blink of an eye. However, there have been questions raised about the German midfield’s consistency with their key playmaker, Özil, though showing glimpses of his sublime ability has failed to live up to expectations in the tournament thus far.
Solidity at the back of this German lineup gives abundant freedom to the front line to create opportunities in the attacking third. This can be evidenced by Özil’s chance creation and forward passes superior to those of Oscar’s. The Brazilian playmaker has been instrumental in his side’s success this campaign by assisting twice and scoring once. Mourinho has always identified Oscar’s tracking back, movement without the ball and his efforts to regain possession as great assets. These have readily reflected in his performance with the midfielder outclassing Özil in the number of tackles won (20:5). In terms of shots too, Oscar’s 83% accuracy beats the German owing to the latter’s poor run of form.
One possible problem for Brazil, in relation to expected goals, is the quality of their strikers. Fred has been underwhelming having the fewest touches of all Brazilian players so far. With Neymar out injured, Scolari now faces a huge challenge to produce a goal scoring threat. Hulk can change a game in the blink of an eye but has been inept in making an impact so far. He has had to play in an unfamiliar role on the left wing (over his preferred right) on multiple occasions which has hindered his performance. Scolari could deploy Hulk to spearhead the attack against Germany as an identical counter measure to the German false 9. Hulk may prefer to cut in from the wing to score, but he has proven his quality when operating as the focal point in attack, with 5 of his 17 goals and 1 of his 6 assists in the league coming in that role from 7 starts. The striker has the power and goal scoring ability to lead the line and Scolari should consider using him as the main forward rather than Fred.
Taking Miroslav Klose to the World Cup as the only striker was always going to be a risk for Germany, but it was one that Joachim Löw was willing to take. The decision to overlook Mario Gomez, Max Kruse and Kevin Volland was perhaps a controversial one and had the potential to backfire. Löw instead used Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller as the focal point in attack and despite having featured as a striker 8 times for Bayern last season, this is perhaps not his best position. Müller is best suited in the number 10 role, or out on the wing to cut inside and go for goal. Given the presence of other playmakers in the squad and Müller’s versatility, Löw has tried to give him the freedom to establish link up play and then move forward in attack.
Brazilians have serious attacking problems and Hulk, who will now come into the spotlight, is yet to prove his mettle. He falls just short of Müller’s 50% shot accuracy, but is well beaten when it comes to chance creation (5:13) and goals scored (0:4). Löw’s deployment of Müller on the right and interchanging movement with the man upfront makes it harder for the opposition to mark him, thus giving him the autonomy and the flexibility to provide an outlet for the creative players in the German midfield. Hulk’s balance, agility and pace on & off the ball help him get past his man and the Brazilian comes out on top in successful take-ons and interceptions. Even though he hasn’t been very effective so far, this fixture could prove to be the perfect stage for Zenit’s talisman to shine.
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