World Cup 2022
FIFA 2022 World Cup Final
Almost exactly a month ago, 32 national teams embarked on a quest for the ultimate honor in international football, as Qatar welcomed the World for the first ever winter edition of the FIFA World Cup. With 62 matches already played, it is time to focus our attention on the main event, the 2022 World Cup Final, which promises to be a fierce duel between two-time champions Argentina and France. Head-to-Head Argentina and France are no strangers to each other, as they have played a total of 12 games in men’s football, with Argentina holding the overall lead with 6 wins, 3 draws, and 3 losses. At the previous editions of the World Cup they have met on three occasions, with Argentina winning twice (1930 group stage: 1-0, 1978 group stage: 2-1), and France winning once (2018 last 16: 4-3). This will be the first time that these two teams meet in a Final. Road to the Final Argentina started their title bid with a loss to Saudi Arabia, one of the largest upsets at any World Cup. Unfazed by the mounting pressure, they gathered themselves and saw off Mexico and Poland in their next two group games to ultimately top their group. In the knockout stages, La Albiceleste continued with a nervy win against Australia, followed by a nail-biter victory on penalties versus the Netherlands, to ultimately overcome Croatia with a convincing 3-0. France started their campaign by conceding an early goal against Australia, but later fought back to comfortably take the three points. Another win against Denmark secured their progress, before their surprise loss against a spirited Tunisia. Business continued as usual for the defending champions, as they marched on against Poland, England and ultimately, the surpirse of the tournament, Morocco on their way to the Final. Different Paths, Similar Numbers So let’s talk stats. In the attacking department, France looks to have an edge over Argentina, as highlighted by the radar plots below. During the tournament, France has scored 13 goals from a total of 92 shots (0.14 goals per shot), while Argentina hit the net 12 times out of 76 attempts (0.12 goals per shot). Interestingly enough, both teams have amassed similar expected goals, with Argentina leading the way with 11.8 xG (0.15 xG / shot), but with 4 penalties awarded, while France have collected 11.5 xG (0.125 xG/shot) without penalties. France also has 4 more shot creating actions per game than Argentina, and recorded 4 more assists. To investigate the defensive department, let’s look at the collective attacking stats recorded against the two finalists. Argentina’s defense is stronger, but more leaky than France’s, with 0.12 goals conceded per shot, compared to the 0.05 of Les Bleus. Argentina did face 23 fewer shots, yet only conceded one goal less than France throughout the tournament. La Albiceleste also gave away less quality chances to their opponents - 0.07 xGA / shot, compared to the 0.11 xGA / shot of France, who also conceded 2 penalties, albeit, only one of them ended up being scored. Thus, overall we can conclude that Argentina is more difficult to break down, but when done so, they concede easier.
Key Players Joint top scorers Lionel Messi (ARG) and Kylian Mbappe (FRA) are without a doubt the stars of this year’s World Cup, with both of them bagging 5 goals each so far in the tournament. In an earlier blog post, the PSG teammates were compared to each other, so this time, let’s focus on the teams behind them, starting from the two men between the posts. A note on expected goals: Expected goals (xG) is a metric that describes the overall quality of the shots players take. The value itself is a percent, showing what are the chances of a shot going in (out of tens of thousands of tries). For example, a penalty shot is 0.8 xG, i.e., it has 80% chance of being scored. A shot above 0.4 xG is usually seen as a big chance. Summed up, the total xG is a great way to characterize the attacking performances and overall chance creating capabilities of a team.
Goalkeepers: As highlighted earlier, Argentina does concede easier than France, and that is mainly down to their goalkeeper, Emiliano Martínez (ARG). The hero during the penalty shootout against the Netherlands, but not so much when it comes to saving shots from open play, Martínez will have to up his game against the French if they wish to clinch the ultimate trophy. Hugo Lloris (FRA), whose performance came under scrutiny before the England game due to his lack of clean sheets, is proving to be much more valuable to his team than his Argentine counterpart. Interestingly enough, Argentina did register more clean sheets and overall both keepers concede goals almost identitically per 90 minutes.
Defenders: Centerbacks Niclas Otamendi (ARG) and Dayot Upamecano (FRA) are regarded as the backbones of their defensive lines. Both players show similar numbers, with Otamendi having a small edge with 9 more clearences than Upamecano. Their contribution in leadership and organization, however, is what makes them make the list. Another interesting pairing is of the attacking full-backs Nahuel Molina (ARG) and Theo Hernandéz (FRA), who both contributed with 1 goal each so far in the tournament, in addition to their 1, and 2 assists respectively. The French defenders’ 16 shot creating actions also ranks the highest amongst defenders for the entire tournament.
Midfielders: Enzo Fernandez (ARG) and Antoine Griezmann (FRA) are the men in the midfield supporting the relentless attacks of Messi and Mbappe, but also putting in the occasional shift in defence to help their team on both ends of the field. Fernandez with one goal and one assist, Griezmann with 3 assists (joint-top) has contributed so far to the success of their teams. Griezmann, who has not scored for the French national team in his last 15 games, compensates his lack of goals with a remarkable all-round display. His heroics were rewarded by him being named the man of the match against Morocco in the semi-finals, after a great defensive performance. He is also third-highest in shot creating actions at this World Cup with 31, only behind Messi (37) and Mbappe (47). He is certainly one to keep an eye on for the Final.
Strikers: Julian Álvarez (ARG) and Olivier Giroud (FRA) have both scored 4 goals so far at this World Cup. They are only 1 goal behind leading goalscorers Messi and Mbappe (5). Giroud, who has not scored a single goal in France’s triumph 4 years ago, now looks like a completely different player. Recently, he was denied by the woodwork against Morocco before missing another clear-cut chance, yet ranks joint-first in non-penalty expected goals at Qatar 2022 with 3.4 npxG, on par with his teammate Mbappe, followed by Julian Álvarez (2.1 npxG). The Argentine, however, is much more efficient in front of goal, as shown in the radar plot above, and he just recently netted 2 goals against Croatia. Note: Messi has the highest xG (4.7), but only 1.6 npxG. The Final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup will see two of the best teams of the tournament facing each other and it promises to be a fitting end to the first, and probably last, winter world cup. It might be Messi vs Mbappe in the headlines, but the stage is set for many others to write their names in the history books and become the next hero for their nation.
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