During the past we witnessed two huge football events where they took place in a delayed manner due to the unpleasant situations of the covid pandemic. Euro 2020 was held in a new format with 24 teams and the final between England and Italy with the winner in the second on penalties and the Copa America 2020 with 10 teams and the final between the "eternals" Brazil and Argentina with the winner also the second with a score of 1-0.
The age of hyper-analysis has now become a necessary condition for the operation and improvement of high-level football teams. Numbers, however, often hide pitfalls since their incorrect reading or even the incorrect use of the results can lead to the oversimplified view of the "negatives" of numbers where they claim that the numbers do not tell the truth.
Here I will quote once again the saying that I personally support all these years in my career "the correct interpretation of specific numbers can lead you to the solution".
Over the last decade through my research, I have highlighted the importance of data analysis and performance parameters in the coaching process and the improvement of teams and players individually. The correct analysis and interpretation of the data as well as the adaptation of the coaching contents for the benefit of the performance I believe have justified the expectations in my career so far.
The data presented in the article were collected from the statistical analysis platform of technical and tactical data of INSTAT in order to highlight their usefulness if they are interpreted in a more specialized and targeted way.
One number = many interpretations?
In a first comparison between the two competitions we see that in the Euro more goals were scored from the middle and far distance than in the Copa America, making us think about whether the European players have better shooting ability, if the defenses did not put suffocating pressure on limits and outside the area or if there were specific instructions from the coaches (although a personal connoisseur of the teams' game function, if a player finds himself in a position where he believes he can score goals, his instinct for any instructions prevails).
Direct vs Possession Game, do you know what style of play you have?
The duration of the attacks before scoring a goal, in seconds, brought the trophy winner Italy in 4th place (35.5 '') and the finalist England in 11th (24.9 '')! while in the Copa America the finalist Brazil (45 '') and the trophy winner Argentina (27 '') took the first 2 places. Only Belgium 1st and Spain 2nd managed to approach the queen of ball handling Brazil with 41.5 "and 41.1" respectively.
"One element we have to keep is the average where in the Euro it reached 21" while in the Copa only at 14.4 "showing the willingness or the deficit of the Latin American teams to hold the ball longer.
Open play & Static phases, what weight do they have in scoring?
In both tournaments the goals in open play (positioning & counter attacks) did not differ much for the 3 of the 4 teams (Italy, England, Argentina with average 65% positioning - 35% counters), with Brazil creating a statistical difference (87% positioning - 13% counters) having quite increased the goals from positioning attacks in relation to the counter attacks, highlighting perhaps to the maximum the philosophy that has occupied it all these years.
Another indicator that creates statistically remarkable is the goals from set phases where on average in Euro it was 27% while in Copa 40%!
The achievement of a goal from a set phase includes the ability of the executor and the receivers of the ball, the mental concentration of those involved, the tactical combining, the reading of the opponent by the coaching teams, etc. where Copa teams confirmed a deficit or an extra capacity?
Algorithms finally work in Football!
The INDEX indices first appeared in basketball, especially in the NBA, trying to interpret many parameters simultaneously in a single number. Based on such an algorithm, INSTAT showed us something that really needs our attention.
In the EURO were ranked England 1st (326) and Italy 2nd (324) while in the Copa Brazil 1st (305) and Argentina 2nd (297) which is very normal since the best teams based on the algorithm were also those that ended up in final of the competitions. But what should impress us is the average of the 2 events where EURO had an average of INDEX 285 while COPA 265.
Here we clearly see a gap in the technical-tactical parameters of the teams where it gives us a clear picture of their overall dynamics with the differences of Latin America and Europe.
How fast do you play?
Further analyzing the team statistics, the parameter speed of accurate passes, where I personally call the teams and players I watch "speed of play", which shows us the number of passes per minute of possession. Both tournaments have almost the same average as the Euro at 15.5 passes (Italy 6th 16.5 & England 11th 15.9) & the Copa at 15.6 (Brazil 1st 16.5 & Argentina 5th 16).
Spain, however, creates a statistical difference with 17.4 passes average / min of possession.
Most coaches I have worked with and exchanged views with at various forums, want their teams to maintain a high level of speed of play. The rapid movement of the ball during the possession of a team can reveal gaps in the opponent's defensive line to exploit, an element that we see that coaches try to integrate into their game, but where they will have to find the appropriate ways in from the training process for the players to assimilate.
The Spanish training model through the excessive use of Small Sided Games may give us the solution to the training question of how to increase the "speed of play" of our team. Small sided games in my personal opinion "something they give you something they take you" but this is not the case at the moment...
Active vs Passive defense, ultimately what you want will lead you to success?
Finally, we must pay special attention to the challenge intensity INDEX algorithm where you refer to the number of defensive duels and interference in the ball when the opponent has possession. Here we also see the teams where the players are more involved in the defensive function, wanting to destroy the game or to snatch the ball from the opponent in an energetic way and not with simple shifts keeping their position in the defensive lineup. These actions often come from the coaches' decisions regarding the defensive approach, but several times they can also come from the defensive characteristics of the players of a team.
In the Euro (with an average of 7.1) Italy 12th (6.9) and England 18th (6.3) show their approach (Spain 1st with 10.1) while in the Copa America (with an average of 7), 8) Ecuador 1st (10.4) Brazil 5th (8.4) and Argentina 7th (7.3).
All 4 finalists of the 2 tournaments in this parameter were ranked from 5th to 18th place. The almost 10% differentiation of European from Latin American teams (on average) may also demonstrate a regular commitment to defense in the face of a freer defense expression or a more "aggressive" approach.
A statistic that may show the coaches that a well-organized and solid defense holding its positions and cohesion is a better guide to success than the players' constant involvement in defensive duels to detach the ball.
In conclusion, the numbers given to us after the games should not be a short and light reading but should be treated as gold waiting to be discovered. A deeper analysis in relation to real football knowledge can lead coaches to greater exploitation of their players and an overall increase in the dynamics of their teams.
It can also read the opponent, individually and as a whole function, more substantially in terms of strengths and weaknesses. However, it can also lead the teams' scouting departments to minimize mistakes and increase the chances of including the right players in their teams.
Many say that in football the numbers do not tell the truth…
And I answer them "the correct analysis of specific performance numbers can lead you to the solution".
Papadakis Leonidas MSc
Soccer Performance Specialist