Euro 2016 Semi-Finalists
Wales, Portugal, France, and Germany. Two of those would have been picked as likely candidates to reach the semi-finals before the tournament, and one of them is certain to be knocked out before the final.
It could well be said that this will be the first genuinely good side that France will play all tournament; a run of Romania, Albania, Switzerland, Republic of Ireland, and Iceland looking more like a qualifying group that they could have faced if they hadn’t got through automatically as hosts than a strenuous test of skill and mettle.
This is somewhat reflected in statistics. From their 5 games, their opponents have converted a possession into attack 28% of the time – which is below the average but not by much – but only turn attacks into shots 19% of the time. That’s 10 percentage points below the average for the tournament, and a full 2 below the next lowest (England, interestingly).
When you add into the mix the fact that France’s opposition have only managed to convert 16% of their shots into shots on target, against a tournament average of around 32%, you get the sense that they’ve come up against a whole lot of meh thus far.
There’s a point at which movement of these figures away from the averages will be random variance, helped along by a small sample size, but extremes are more likely to be an indication of something tangible.
Interestingly, France don’t have hugely above average conversion percentages in attack to match the hugely below average conversion rates of their opponents, but everything is healthy and similar to Germany and Portugal’s conversion rates. They look, reassuringly for them, like decent and in control teams.
Converting possessions into attacks: France – 34%; Germany – 38%; Portugal – 36%. Converting attacks into shots: France – 35%; Germany – 30%; Portugal 30%. Converting shots into shots on target: France – 34%; Germany – 32%; Portugal – 30%.
Wales’ conversion rates tell a slightly different story. Converting possessions into attacks: 28%. Converting attacks into shots: 29%. Converting shots into shots on target: 44%.
The average shots on target% for the tournament is slightly below 31% and Wales’ figure is behind only Czech Republic (49%, who only played 3 games), and Iceland (a staggering 52%). This is probably, at least in part, a symptom of Wales’ counter-attacking style – you rely on your defence to hold up, but the fewer shots are generally taken in more space with fewer opposition bodies around the shooter and the goal.
The difference is even starker when one looks at the ratio of final third passes that teams have had. Germany’s, unsurprisingly, is very high – 82%; France’s and Portugal’s are almost identical, both at 69%. Wales’s? 36%.
Despite this, Wales have done a decent job at limiting shots, considering the amount of time they do defending. They concede 12.8 shots per game, below the tournament average although only slightly. Their opponents convert possessions to attacks 34% of the time, which is one of the highest at the tournament, but once their opponents are in their final third they limit them.
Wales’s opponents only convert their attacks into shots 23% of the time, the 4th best in this defensive category in the tournament (behind France, England, and Italy). Given that Wales have played at least two good teams in England and Belgium, this suggests a degree of good skill from the team.
Portugal limited Croatia, who’d succeeded against Spain with fast attacks, by sitting deeper and tactically fouling. If they’re smart, they’ll probably do something similar against Wales too.
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