Croatia and Scotland are neck in neck to make it to the round of 16
Here at Sweep Sports Analytics, we are dedicated to finding the best of performances and displaying the statistical data that showcases them. It is our drive to learn by this experience that we hope will allow us to teach something to our readers along the road. We don’t claim to be professors on sports analytics but we certainly aim to become the very best versions of ourselves.
As we are becoming more occupied with the European Championship and the NBA Finals, we purposefully delay writing more diverse content. Unfortunately, we are pressed by time and we aim to focus on our introductions later on; after all, we are here to stay! We have planned plenty of new engaging content for the future, but for now, we ask you to be patient, enjoy our posts, and hopefully learn something new in the process.
Enough with that- let’s leave that for another day!
Will Croatia improve before it’s too late?
Croatia faces Scotland in the battle that will determine who will be disqualified and who will compete for a qualification ticket through third place. Both of them have a chance to even finish second with a certain combination of results, although not at the same time.
Croatia showed a better face against the Czech Republic compared to their first game in the tournament. However, their fans are still disappointed by their performances, and rightly so. Zlatko Dalić’s men can’t get back on track and it feels like their impressive run in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final was eons ago. They took advantage of their opponent’s defensive deficiencies, showing glimpses of their attacking capabilities. Against England, their midfield players and forwards were nowhere to be found (0.3 xG, 0.2 xA) while against The Czech Republic they were more creative and managed to score a goal in the process (1.1 xG, 1.1 xA).
Croatia came to the tournament as a team that controls the ball and dominates the midfield. They are known to move the ball forward fast with direct passes to open spaces or to combine in small spaces with a lot of short passes. Ultimately, they take advantage of their midfield quality to find the open spaces that their forwards will exploit. But during their first two games, they have been nothing sort of disappointing.
On one hand, Croatia manage to do well in the battle of possession (51% and 50%), and in passing accuracy (84% and 81%). They are decent in creation like in key passes (5 and 10) and passes to the final third (25 and 19). On the other hand, they fail to hit the target (1/8 and 2/11), and their starting line-up with Rebic as a center-forward hasn’t performed well at all. Petkovic’s substitution on the 45th minute really showed how difficult it was for them to operate in tandem with Rebic’s playing style.
What is even more concerning for Croatia is that against the Czechs they managed to concede a goal again, even though they were much better defensively in comparison to their first game. Against England, Croatia had 171 pressures, 10 tackles, 15 interceptions, and 7 blocks. Against Schick’s teammates their numbers were significantly higher. They reached 225 pressures, which is a very good number for this time of the year, 14 tackles, 16 interceptions, and 20 blocks.
How did Croatia manage to concede a goal again? Well, it was just a dead ball really. The Czechs had 0 shots on target, scored a penalty, and had a 2.0 xG. Sometimes it’s just rotten luck and others a capable opponent that takes advantage of even the smallest opportunity.
Scotland performs better than you think
Scotland got their first point against an England team that disappointed with their performance. Scotland was less productive against a better opponent but managed to defend the space and left no room for England’s players to combine and create dangerous situations.
Scotland’s offensive production against the Czech Republic and the chances they missed throughout the game opened a discussion regarding their ability to score goals against formidable opponents. Their 1.8 xG, 1.6 xA, and 4 out of 19 shots on target, weren’t bad at all. However, their total passes (385) and passing accuracy (76.8%) were concerning, especially with 56% of possession. Among the positives was certainly the number of key passes (14) and passes to the final third (27), many of which led to missed chances.
When we compare these numbers to the ones they had against England we draw some initial conclusions about their capabilities. For starters, regardless of the missed chances (1/11 shots on target) or the expected goal rate (0.9 xG), Scotland finds it difficult to score. They are, however, doing well at creating goal-scoring opportunities (0.4 xG, 5 Key passes, 20 to the final third) even against a better opponent like England. They still completed only 310 passes (81% passing accuracy) although having the ball for less time compared to their first game (40% possession).
Defensively their numbers are more evenly displayed between the two games. For example, against the Czech Republic, they had 168 pressures, 13 tackles, 25 interceptions, and 8 blocks. The defensive instability they displayed in that first game, wasn’t present against England, surprisingly though their numbers were almost identical. They had 169 pressures, 17 tackles, 19 interceptions, and 12 blocks.
We could focus on the apparent lack of concentration of Scotland’s defensive efforts in their first game, or on the passion that they displayed on Wembley. However, it is highly likely that the Czechs were lucky to take advantage of their opponents’ gaps and poor reactions when they lost the ball. While the English players had a bad night looking frustrated at times, and having difficulties in creating more clear-cut opportunities for themselves.
What an exciting day for the fans of the two teams that will meet in Glasgow’s Hampden Park. Both teams showed improvements after getting defeated on Matchday 1 and managed to get the draws that allow them to dream of qualifying to the round of 16. Croatia are favorites, with 42% chances of winning while Scotland has a 31% chance. No team will settle for a draw, and we are looking forward to watching a display of offensive football with plenty of chances, and hopefully goals.