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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Why Brazil Argentina and extra will or will not win World Cup

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A typical World Cup can really feel like a marathon, however this one appears like a dash. After a nonstop, 13-day group stage ends on Friday, there are not any days off earlier than the spherical of 16 begins with Netherlands vs. USA and Australia vs. Argentina on Saturday.

– World Cup 2022: Information and options | Schedule

Subsequently, we should not wait to preview the knockout rounds. Whereas the dance card continues to fill in, let’s speak about every qualifying group’s largest strengths and weaknesses: principally, the explanations they superior, the explanations they may make a run and the deadly flaws that may in all probability journey them up in some unspecified time in the future.

Editor’s Word: As groups formally qualify for the spherical of 16, we’ll add them to the listing, so verify again Thursday night time and Friday night time for info and updates on the groups from Teams E, F, G and H — although we now have included Brazil (Group G) and Portugal (Group H) as their locations within the last-16 are already secured — that punch their tickets to the knockouts.

Let’s go!

Argentina (first place, Group C)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 12%
Spherical of 16 opponent: Australia (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)

Why they may win all of it: They’ve recovered from shedding to Saudi Arabia. As unimaginable because the Saudis’ 2-1 win was final Tuesday, it was a transparent and apparent “sports activities are dumb typically” final result. Argentina tried 15 photographs price 2.3 xG, and Saudi Arabia tried three price 0.2, however the latter trumped the previous, and the Saudis — to their credit score — defended splendidly down the stretch.

– Marcotti: The seven tendencies of Messi vs. Poland

That match virtually ruined two matches; supervisor Lionel Scaloni made a ton of lineup adjustments for what turned out to be a dire and unimpressive efficiency in opposition to Mexico. Someway a lineup with Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria tried solely 5 photographs price 0.3 xG, however Messi’s fantastic long-range purpose within the sixty fourth minute allowed them to calm down. They noticed off Mexico, then dominated Poland 2-0 in a match that was nearer to about 4-0 than 2-1.

There was stress and there have been unforced errors, however they completed the group stage atop Group C, with the second-best xG differential within the event to this point (behind solely France). Their protection barely allowed any respectable seems over three matches, they usually appeared the a part of the contender they have been presupposed to be all alongside.

Why they will not: Boy, the vibes received darkish for a minute, did not they? Certainly, regardless of the fluky nature of the Saudi Arabia loss, Scaloni made 5 adjustments to his lineup to convey a efficiency enhance to a facet that in all probability did not really want one. They performed far worse, in accordance with each the stat line and the eyeballs. Messi bailed them out, they usually might have gotten a long-term enhance with how properly youthful guys like Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez performed in opposition to Poland. However one other bout with that type of panic probably will not be rewarded.

Australia (second place, Group D)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight:
Spherical of 16 opponent: Argentina (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)

Why they may win all of it: They take their possibilities. If we have been being significantly cynical (or maybe practical), we’d name the Socceroos fortunate. In three group stage matches, they tried 21 photographs price simply 1.8 xG however pulled three objectives from them and stole a pair of 1-0 victories from Tunisia and Denmark. They tried fewer than half the variety of photographs (21) as their opponents (50) within the group stage, however superior.



Rob Dawson reacts to Australia’s 1-0 win over Denmark and speaks about their possibilities within the World Cup knockout levels.

Nonetheless, one man’s fortunate is one other’s scientific. All three of their objectives — Craig Goodwin’s counter-strike in opposition to France, Mitchell Duke’s flick of a header in opposition to Tunisia and Mathew Leckie’s weaving counter in opposition to Denmark — have been fantastically taken. In opposition to each Tunisia and Denmark, they cluttered taking pictures lanes and left their opponents with low-percentage alternatives whereas maximizing the hazard they created from minimal seems. In case you do not want many possibilities to attain, you do not want many possibilities to tug an upset.

Why they will not: Okay, tremendous, they’re fortunate. You do not get outshot greater than 2-to-1, with the second-worst xG differential (per-match) of the 32 groups, and advance very far. They received their doorways blown off by France, they allowed Tunisia to aim three of the match’s 4 most high-value photographs (per xG) whereas scoring on a low-percentage flick, they usually have accomplished simply 73% of their move makes an attempt, second lowest within the competitors (forward of Iran, who nonetheless tried far more photographs and created much more shot worth). The upsets have been superior to observe, as was the giddy response of Australia followers each within the stands and again at residence. However this run of fortune is not going to final 4 extra matches.

Brazil (certified from Group G)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 25%
Spherical of 16 opponent: TBD



Luis Miguel Echegaray reveals whether or not he favours Brazil or France as the 2 sides within the World Cup knockouts.

Why they may win all of it: Get together within the entrance (ultimately), veterans within the again. Hiring a conservative coach (Tite) to steer a squad stuffed with flamboyant attackers can simply backfire with out the proper stability and man administration. You play away out of your strengths, the attackers get annoyed, and issues collapse.

In his six-plus years answerable for the Selecao, Tite has largely discovered stated stability. Brazil have allowed simply 27 objectives and misplaced solely 5 occasions in his 78 matches in cost. 4 of the 5 losses have been by one-nil margins — which hints at how issues look after they go unsuitable, however they do not go unsuitable typically.

The veteran base of defenders Thiago Silva (38) and Marquinhos (28) and midfielder Casemiro (30) was an unsolvable puzzle for each Serbia and Switzerland, who mixed to aim simply 11 photographs price 0.48 xG, placing none on course. And as each opponents grew drained and annoyed, the Brazilian assault ultimately kicked in, they usually booked their last-16 spot with two wins. What has labored for six years underneath Tite has labored in Qatar.

Why they will not: The assault runs by Neymar (who’s damage as soon as once more). Brazil overwhelmed Serbia with 19 photographs and two objectives within the second half. The ball was always at Neymar’s ft — he had essentially the most touches of any non-defender — and the eventual objectives, each from Richarlison, felt inevitable.

Neymar left the match after 80 minutes, nevertheless, after struggling broken ankle ligaments. With out their focus, Brazil resorted to aimless crossing in opposition to Switzerland (25 of them, with solely a 16% completion fee) and tried solely 13 photographs. They ultimately took management with a scruffy late purpose from Casemiro, however the assault wasn’t practically as clean with out its middle of gravity, whose return to the competitors is unknown.

England (first place, Group B)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 9%
Spherical of 16 opponent: Senegal (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET)



England followers at Boxpark by Wembley Stadium have fun the 2 objectives early within the second half.

Why they may win all of it: Set items. They have been England’s secret weapon within the 2018 World Cup, the place the group scored six set-piece objectives (4 from corners) in seven matches, two of which put them forward in each the quarterfinals and semifinals.

They’ve solely received two such objectives up to now — one from Bukayo Saka on a nook in opposition to Iran and one from a scorching Marcus Rashford free kick that opened the scoring in opposition to Wales — but it surely stays a transparent benefit as they’ve created 10 photographs from set items, and opponents have but to aim one. (The US created seven corner-kick alternatives however received no high quality seems from them.)

Once you’ve received as a lot expertise as anybody within the competitors, and you have a cheat code for creating strong scoring possibilities, you are in nice form.

Why they will not: The subs are doing too properly? It is an odd critique, admittedly, however the England assault is in a wierd place in the mean time. The Three Lions scored 9 objectives within the group stage with Gareth Southgate’s first-choice attacking trio of Harry Kane, Saka and Raheem Sterling performing comparatively properly, scoring three objectives and making a mixed 2.18 anticipated objectives (xG) and anticipated assists (xA) in a complete of 512 minutes. That is a fee of 0.38 mixed xG+xA per 90 minutes. The trio of Rashford, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, nevertheless, mixed for a torrid 5 objectives and three.37 xG+xA in simply 271 minutes, 1.12 per 90.

Historical past suggests Southgate will persist with his weapons in terms of lineup picks, and having prolific bench gamers who’re commanding a better workload is a superb downside to have. However it might nonetheless be an issue for those who aren’t placing your most in-form and efficient lineup on the pitch because the matches enhance in significance. The very last thing you wish to do is go away obtainable objectives unclaimed whereas attempting to convey the World Cup trophy residence.

France (first place, Group D)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 11%
Spherical of 16 opponent: Poland (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET)

Why they may win all of it: Kylian Mbappe. France rapidly secured development to the knockout rounds by taking good care of Australia and Denmark by a mixed 6-2 — which allowed them to subject an extraordinarily rotation-heavy squad in opposition to Tunisia — however that rating line does not do justice to the degrees of domination in these two matches. They outshot their opponents by a mixed 44-14 and created 6.8 xG whereas permitting simply 1.2; whereas Australia have been clearly outmanned, Denmark have been thought-about a World Cup sleeper by many and will handle simply two shot makes an attempt within the first 67 minutes.

On the coronary heart of France’s success, after all, has been Mbappe, the FIFA Younger Participant Award winner on the final World Cup and the present front-runner for Golden Ball winner at this one. As ESPN’s Ryan O’Hanlon laid out after two matches, the very best participant on the earth is enjoying a few of his best-ever ball at the absolute best time.



Julien Laurens does not maintain again as he rips into Didier Deschamps and the French gamers after their 1-0 loss to Tunisia in Qatar.

Why they will not: The unsuitable sort of conservatism. The fashionable sport is one in every of urgent and possession, and it will make sense that a lot of the event favorites do these issues properly. There are presently eight groups with betting odds of +1400 or higher to win the World Cup, and 6 of them presently rank within the prime eight in passes allowed per defensive motion (PPDA, a typical measure of defensive depth), all averaging underneath 12.0 PPDA. Brazil (12.2, eleventh within the competitors) is shut. France (18.5, twenty sixth) shouldn’t be.

For all of their absurd expertise, they have been downright passive in opposition to Denmark, permitting the Danes to common 6.4 passes per possession and finish 50% of their possessions within the attacking third. This opened up area for transition assaults — one thing that the impossibly quick Mbappe and his teammates can thrive in at occasions — but it surely additionally raised a query: How will the French fare among the many finest possession groups within the subject if they cannot (or will not) take the ball away from them?

Netherlands (first place, Group A)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 5%
Spherical of 16 opponent: USA (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)

Why they may win all of it: They flip you over. Louis van Gaal’s Dutch group is energetic. They lead the competitors with the fewest passes allowed per defensive motion (9.3) and regardless of main for almost all of every group stage match, they began 29 possessions within the attacking third to opponents’ 17. Midfielder Frenkie de Jong leads the group in ball recoveries, however the stress is a full-team effort: Netherlands have commanded 57% of total touches within the attacking third with a 57% possession fee.

They have the uncooked defensive expertise — Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, Jurrien Timber, Matthijs de Ligt — to safeguard them whereas urgent closely (goalkeeper Andries Noppert has been glorious, too), they usually put the ball in additional harmful areas than opponents.



Mark Ogden explains why he suppose Senegal are the stronger of the 2 sides to advance from Group A on the World Cup.

Why they will not: No creativity. For such an energetic group, the Dutch positive are stolid in assault. Regardless of all that possession in harmful areas, they managed simply 10 photographs price 0.7 xG in opposition to Senegal and two price 0.1 in opposition to Ecuador; they have been lucky to win the previous match and draw the latter, and if Cody Gakpo hadn’t scored together with his solely shot in every match, they would not have.

Gakpo, the more and more sought-after PSV Eindhoven attacker, has scored three objectives from 4 photographs price simply 0.3 xG. The remainder of his teammates have scored simply two objectives from 21 photographs price 2.5. They neither create high-quality or high-volume photographs — they averaged simply 0.3 large possibilities created (“a state of affairs the place a participant ought to fairly be anticipated to attain,” as outlined by Stats Carry out) within the group stage; solely two groups averaged fewer, and that may ultimately turn into a transparent challenge if it doesn’t change.

This makes their matchup with the US an attention-grabbing one: the groups have numerous the identical strengths and identical weaknesses.

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight:
Spherical of 16 opponent: France

Why they may win all of it: They have the most well liked goalkeeper within the competitors. Stat Carry out’s Targets Prevented measure compares the objectives you’ve got allowed to the post-shot xG worth of the photographs opponents put in your purpose. Primarily based solely on that xG determine, Poland ought to have allowed about six objectives within the group stage; they allowed solely two as a result of Wojciech Szczesny stood on his rattling head. He stopped penalties from each Messi and Saudi Arabia’s Salem al-Dawsari, he stopped close-range efforts from al-Dawsari and Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul, and he saved 18 whole photographs on purpose in three matches.

Enable even three objectives as an alternative of two — which might have nonetheless been overachieving — and Poland could be on a airplane residence proper now.

Why they will not: They cannot create alternatives for the most effective strikers on the earth. In 19 matches with Barcelona this season, Robert Lewandowski has averaged 4.5 photographs, 0.8 xG and 1.1 objectives per 90 minutes. In three World Cup matches, he has averaged 2.3 photographs, 0.6 xG and 0.3 objectives. He scored his first ever World Cup purpose in opposition to Saudi Arabia, however missed on a late chip in the identical match and had a penalty saved in opposition to Mexico. These have been his solely three photographs on purpose in three matches. He barely touched the ball in opposition to Argentina and tried zero photographs.

Lewandowski is not Poland’s solely high-level participant, after all — 14 different members of the roster play for golf equipment in Europe’s Huge 5 leagues — however when your headliner is neither getting the service he wants nor profiting from the alternatives he will get, your ceiling is not going to be very excessive. He might unleash a hat trick at any time, but when he could not do it in opposition to Saudi Arabia, it is truthful to imagine the percentages aren’t excessive that he’ll do it in opposition to France.

Portugal (certified from Group H)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 8%
Spherical of 16 opponent: TBD

Why they may win all of it: The place passing is tougher, Portugal is best. One would assume {that a} squad that includes Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Raphael Guerreiro and Joao Cancelo could be one of many extra artistic within the competitors, and that has performed out to this point. They’ve been lucky within the ending division — they created photographs price 3.3 xG of their first two matches however scored 5 objectives from them, they usually scored one in every of their objectives when Cristiano Ronaldo whiffed on a Fernandes cross (which fooled the Uruguayan goalkeeper) — however they nonetheless created loads of possibilities, they usually made positive that they have been the one group recurrently finishing passes into harmful areas.

Cross completion fee into the attacking third:

  • Portugal 81%, Ghana 57% (Portugal gained 3-2)

  • Portugal 79%, Uruguay 64% (Portugal gained 2-0)

Fernandes and Silva have each accomplished 40 passes into the ultimate third (with a ridiculous 86% completion fee), and the stalwart Portuguese protection, led by cent-backs Ruben Dias together with veterans Danilo Pereira (31) and Pepe (39), has fended off most threatening buildups. Even one in every of Ghana’s objectives got here on a cross {that a} defender deflected.

Why they will not: You must maintain onto results in win all of it. When their first two matches have been tied, Portugal dominated, controlling 69% of possession, trying 19 photographs price 2.0 xG, permitting simply six photographs price 0.7 and scoring thrice. Dominant.

As soon as they have been forward, nevertheless, they sacrificed a harmful quantity of management. They allowed two objectives to Ghana (one to tie the match at 1-1, one to make it 3-2), and in these two matches their possession fee fell to 45% with opponents trying 14 photographs to their seven. Whereas Brazil’s Tite has pulled off a strong stability of conservatism and attacking aptitude, one might argue that Portugal’s Fernando Santos hasn’t fairly discovered that very same stability.



Mark Ogden offers his evaluation on the 2-0 win over Uruguay in Group H that takes Portugal into the spherical of 16 on the World Cup.

Senegal (second place, Group A)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 1%
Spherical of 16 opponent: England

Why they may win all of it: Transition. Tuesday’s Senegal vs. Ecuador match pitted two of the very best transition groups within the competitors. Of their first two matches, Ecuador had scored two of their three objectives from what I name “transition possessions” — possessions starting outdoors of the attacking third and lasting 20 or fewer seconds — and had not allowed opponents a single shot in these possessions. However in opposition to Senegal, the shoe was on the opposite foot. Senegal created two early high-quality transition alternatives and allowed Ecuador none.

That is been the story of the competitors for Senegal. Their xG differential in transition possessions is +0.8, fourth finest amongst groups within the knockout rounds, and whereas they have been respectable in transition assault (one purpose, 0.96 xG), their major power was in utterly snuffing out opponents’ alternatives. The defensive backbone of keeper Edouard Mendy, center-backs Kalidou Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo and defensive midfielder Nampalys Mendy is as stout as nearly any within the World Cup.

Why they will not: You have to end. When the information got here down that star Sadio Mane was going to overlook the World Cup due to harm, it was truthful to surprise how on earth Senegal was going to place the ball within the web.

It is nonetheless truthful to surprise, too. Whereas they dealt with Qatar with ease, they usually tried loads of photographs in opposition to higher-level opponents Netherlands and Ecuador, the ending certainly lacked. They tried 28 non-penalty photographs price 2.14 xG in these two matches however scored simply as soon as from them, through a deflection to Koulibaly on a free kick. (Additionally they scored on an Ismaila Sarr penalty in opposition to Ecuador.) They’ve been respectable at producing set-piece alternatives, however in open play they’re creating virtually no menace in opposition to strong opposition.

United States (second place, Group B)

Title odds, per FiveThirtyEight: 1%
Spherical of 16 opponent: Netherlands

Why they may win all of it: The midfield is relentless. Wales could not transfer the ball by the midfield, so that they began booting lengthy balls to a tall ahead. Jude Bellingham had 10 touches within the first 13 minutes however solely 40 thereafter as England discovered passing lanes by the midfield onerous to come back by. (Mason Mount had solely 45 whole touches in 90 minutes.) Iran solely created 60 whole touches within the attacking third till Weston McKennie went off the sphere within the sixty fifth minute. (They created 64 within the remaining 25 minutes.)

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)

Relentless working and urgent from the trio of McKennie (24), Yunus Musah (20) and captain Tyler Adams (23) and fullbacks Sergino Dest (22) and Antonee Robinson (25) have made advancing the ball into harmful areas virtually unimaginable and allowed the US to regulate giant parts of video games — granted, with out producing numerous high quality scoring alternatives — in opposition to not solely Wales and Iran but in addition England. And in the event that they have been in a position to management Bellingham and Mount, they will management a lot of the midfields on this competitors.

Why they will not: Matches are 90 minutes lengthy. One downside with relentless working and urgent: It wears you out, particularly when a few of your most essential gamers got here into the World Cup with current accidents and health considerations. McKennie is barely averaging 69.3 minutes per match, Dest 78.0. And as these gamers start to tire, the Individuals’ effectiveness vanishes.

  • xG, first 60 min: USA 2.19, opponents 0.91 (precise rating: US 2-0)

  • xG, final 30 min: opponents 2.23, USA 0.35 (precise rating: opponent 1-0)

Fatigue has certainly restricted sure key gamers, and supervisor Gregg Berhalter’s substitution selections (each timing and personnel) have been, to place it diplomatically, shaky. When issues transfer into sport administration mode, the US rapidly fray. The fatigue is not going to abruptly get higher because the event progresses.

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