Matchday 2 Review
Belgium too strong for the impressive Denmark team
I felt sorry for Denmark in this game. They had a good first half, where they could have scored more goals. Belgium destroyed them in the second half. No mercy!
The two teams had similar possession, pass completion rate, and the same successful dribbles. Denmark had better xG, xA while both teams had a good game offensively. Denmark had similar numbers of pressure, tackles, more interceptions, and blocks. However, they conceded two goals. That’s due to the opponent players’ quality, especially with Kevin De Bruyne’s substitution, and to the lack of concentration of Danish players.
Denmark’s lack of concentration in the competition may be due to what happened to Eriksen. Schmeichel’s bad reaction to Pohjanpalo’s in Matchday 1 shot was one instance. Against Belgium, Kjaer tackled the air against Lukaku’s run, while Vestergaard and Wass being terrified that De Bruyne would shoot also tackled the air and they conceded the tying goal.
Belgium’s 2nd goal shows the quality of the team. They combined in an almost perfect way and Kevin De Bruyne had an awesome shot from outside the area. Magnificent.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg had an impressive 0.4 expected assists, led the team with 71 passes, had 89 touches, 4 successful dribbles, 4 key passes, 12 passes into the final third. He moved the ball and created chances, Braithwaite (xG 0.4, 7 shots, 1 on target) missed them.
Simon Kjær had some good tackles and interceptions. Joakim Mæhle was good playing with the opposite foot as a left full-back and created chances (0.2 xA, 3 key passes).
For Belgium, I don’t need to say much. Romelu Lukaku maintained his spectacular form. Kevin de Bruyne‘s substitution was pivotal and really proved how far this team can go. Thorgan Hazard also put up quite a performance.
Finland lost to an improved Russia
Finland carried their defensive mentality into Matchday 2 against Russia
Finland was lucky against Denmark, scoring with their only shot of the game. Against Russia, they focused again on defending. Finland ended up having much less possession, passes, carries, and touches. However, they were more creative and efficient when they had the ball. 11 Key passes to 1, 20 passes to the final third of the pitch to 9, xA 0.9 to 0.4. They also worked hard to not allow opponents to find open spaces.
Finlands best player against Russia was Kamara. He led the team in pass completion rate (59/61), total passes, touches, carries, and passes to the final third. He received the ball in midfield positions and moved to the left flank, or found space behind Russia’s right full-back making runs on the back of the defender. Kamara led Finland with 7 progressive carries. I loved watching him play!
Joel Pohjanpalo missed some good chances and his 4 shots and 0.4 expected goals did not lead to a goal. He received the ball in central positions and ran at the defenders with the ball but without success. He did win 5 aerial duels but lost 5. Pukki wasn’t bad at all. He led his team in successful dribbles (5). He pressed his opponents a lot, had 2 shots, 1 on target, and 0.3 xG. He lost all 3 aerial duels.
Against Russia, Finland displayed the same trend hitting the target only once. However, they were more productive than their first game against Denmark having more missed shots. Funny thing how they lost this game and won the other.
Russia showed their potential
Russia had plenty of crosses against Finland that didn’t lead to opportunities. They looked better when their forwards played closer to each other, combining with shorter passes. Both Russia and Finland had 9 successful dribbles. Most of Russia’s were on their left side, where they attacked more from.
Aleksei Miranchuk had a good first half with 3 key passes and 1 goal. He was lost in the second half though. Aleksandr Golovin was an important creative outlet, with 2 key passes, 3 successful dribbles, and led in touches (81). He showed his attacking role with 19 progressive carries and 12 carries to the final third. Artem Dzyuba was once again amazing in the air, winning 11 aerial duels and losing 6.
Matchday 3 Outlook
Belgium is the obvious favorite in their match against Finland. With anything but a loss (8%), Belgium will top the group. I’m interested to see how Finland will react against a much better opponent. We expect them to defend throughout the game, but will they choose to play again with 2 forwards or will they try to outnumber their opponents in the midfield? Are Belgium’s superstars ready? Should we wait for another game before De Bruyne and Hazard are fully unleashed? It’s not the time to take risks so they may be rested.
Russia against Denmark is a much-expected game against two sides that play different styles of football. Denmark is the favorite with 54% chances of winning. Russia should be fine with a draw (24% chances). Both teams have shown good and bad faces in the competition. It will be a hard-fought win for whoever prevails.