FIFA World Cup 2018: Portugal’s left-back issues, Spain and Uruguay’s pain points

Portugal’s national football team attacked little from the left in their game against Morocco while Spain and Uruguay are plagued with midfield and short passes issue.
POrtugal secured a 1-0 win over Morocco but their left-side attack was a weak spot in the FIFA World Cup 2018 encounter.(AFP)
POrtugal secured a 1-0 win over Morocco but their left-side attack was a weak spot in the FIFA World Cup 2018 encounter.(AFP)
Updated on Jun 22, 2018 09:15 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByShijith P Kunhitty

In Portugal’s previous match against Spain, the Portuguese left-back Raphael Guerreiro was a constant threat making crosses and runs into the Spanish area. But in yesterday’s match against Morocco, he couldn’t repeat his performance.

We look at why that was so and other interesting data points from Wednesday’s World Cup matches.

a) Portugal’s left flank was blunted

Now Guerreiro made the most crosses for Portugal against Spain with five crosses from the left side. He also made three solo runs into the attacking third of the pitch in that match.

However, the Moroccan winger Noureddine Amrabat kept Guerreiro completely busy with his constant raids down Portugal’s left. As a result, Guerreiro wasn’t the threat he was during the previous match against Spain.

Guerreiro only made one cross during the entire match (remember he had five against Spain) and only made one solo run into the attacking third (down from three).

In fact, if we look at how Portugal attacked in its two matches so far in the World Cup, compared to the previous match against Spain, 44 percent of its attacks came down Portugal’s left while in yesterday’s match against Morocco, that went down to 23 percent as Morocco pushed back Guerreiro.

b) Uruguay’s midfield is a creative mess

Uruguay has a strong centre-forward partnership with the stars Luis Suarez and Edin Cavani and a strong partnership at the back too with Diego Godin and Jose Giminez.

But when it comes to midfield, Uruguay doesn’t have much to brag about with 20-year-old Rodrigo Bentacur and 26-year-old Matias Vecino in the middle.

Uruguay couldn’t break down the Saudi defence for a long time yesterday and one reason for that is the few forward passes their midfield made.

If we look at the number of forward passes attempted by the two midfielders, they made fewer forward passes against Saudi Arabia than they did in Uruguay’s first match against Egypt, a stronger side.

While they attempted 51 forward passes between them against Egypt, completing 39 of them for an accuracy of around 77 percent, they only attempted 37 forward passes against Saudi Arabia, completing 23 of them for an accuracy of 62 percent.

The accuracy for forward passes isn’t the issue here, they are after all inherently risky. But the fact that they attempted fewer forward passes against a weaker side such as Saudi Arabia should be a cause of concern for Uruguay.

c) Vasquez the odd man out in Spanish team

In yesterday’s match against Iran, Spain, in a bid to be more attacking, dropped the midfielder Koke from the first team, put Iniesta in the centre and brought on Lucas Vasquez to be an attacking threat down Spain’s right.

However, in a Spain team that plays with a ‘tiki-taka’ style of short passing and cute triangles, Vasquez, who plays as a winger for his club Real Madrid, didn’t fit in with the style at all.

If we look at the accuracy with which the Spanish players passed to each other, Vasquez’s passing accuracy is just 61 percent while everyone else passed with an accuracy in the 85-95 percent range. Vasquez attempted 36 passes completing 22 of them.

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