Brazil, the five-time champions, started their FIFA World Cup 2018 campaign on a slightly wrong note with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland. However, the match was marred by incidents involving Neymar. The talismanic Brazil striker was illegally halted by Switzerland many times throughout the game and it created an unwanted record.
On the other hand, Mexico produced the first big upset of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win over defending champions, Germany with Hirvng Lozano scoring the only goal. Mexico’s win came on the back of hacing played played 68 games since 2015, the most by any of the 32 teams at the tournament. Here are some of the observations
a) Neymar was pretty much fouled out of the match
The Swiss team managed to keep Brazil’s star player Neymar quiet for most of the match, the player unfortunately being subject to repeated fouling. Neymar was fouled 10 times, the most and the Brazilian player who suffered the most fouls after the striker was Marcelo with just two.
Neymar was the most fouled person in the game against Switzerland.
b) Most of Brazil’s attacks came down the left
Around 44% of Brazil’s attacks came down the left, as Philippe Coutinho combined with Neymar and Marcelo down that flank. Brazil’s sole goal came from that side too.
Around 44% of Brazil’s attacks came down the left, with Philippe Coutinho combining well with Neymar.
c) Khedira went walkabout
The German player Sami Khedira is a box-to-box player, so you would expect him to make forward runs. But part of his remit is also to shield Toni Kroos as he makes passes from deep and to protect the German defence of Matts Hummels and Jerome Boateng. But in the match against Mexico, he was more interested in going forward.
Proof of this can be seen if we look at the average position of each player during the match. We see that Khedira’s position on average was actually further forward than Kroos, when it should actually be alongside or even deeper.
Sami Khedira was more interested in going forward during the game against Mexico.
d) Germany has a soft centre
The three German midfielders , Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira between them didn’t make a single tackle during the match against Mexico. The Mexican midfielders, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera, between them made five tackles, three of which were successful in recovering the ball. The German reluctance to tackle is maybe why they weren’t able to stop the repeated Mexican counter-attacks.
The German reluctance to tackle is maybe why they weren’t able to stop the repeated Mexican counter-attacks.
e) Free kicks might be making a comeback
With Aleksandar Kolarov of Serbia scoring with a direct free-kick, this is the third goal in the tournament that has been scored from a free-kick after Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal for Portugal and Aleksandr Golovin’s goal for Russia. In the last two World Cups, there were just three goals in each that came from free-kicks.
In 2002, there were as many as 11 goals scored from direct free-kicks, the most in the 21st century.
Back in 2002, there were as many as 11 goals scored from direct free-kicks. With 3 free-kick goals already from the first round of group-stage matches, could this World Cup surpass the 2002 record?