World Cup Thoughts – Day Nine
Cameroon vs Serbia, South Korea vs Ghana, Brazil vs Switzerland, Portugal vs Uruguay
Ok, this is the last time I’ll be able to write about all four games, since we’re moving to simultaneous kick-offs now. As of tomorrow, I’ll be going by group and talking about the major events across games that way. If I’m honest, it’s hard to find interesting things to say about four football matches every day, so I think the schedule change will lead to better writing on my part.
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Cameroon 3-3 Serbia
Can’t say I saw this one coming.
Yeah, I don’t know, a draw seems fair? This game was drunk. Serbia’s quality is in the front three of Sergej Milinković-Savić, Dusan Tadić and Aleksandar Mitrović. The Fulham striker in particular was really involved today, missing some chances along with the one he scored, and proving just a general pain in the backside for Cameroon. My love of big strikers being a nuisance might be the most British thing about me. I don’t know how to analyse a game as ridiculous as this one. Bad defending!
Vincent Aboubakar scored that wonderful scoop to get Cameroon back in the game before Eric Choupo-Moting tapped in an equaliser. Serbia were comically open towards the end. You’re winning! Defend!
Either of these teams need to win their last game and hope the other result breaks right for them. Cameroon have a bit of a mountain to climb with Brazil, even if it’s a dead rubber for the Seleção. Serbia maybe have more hope against Switzerland, though I would put them as underdogs. If the two countries’ only real contribution to the World Cup is this absolutely ridiculous game, then that’s more than enough.
South Korea 2-3 Ghana
I must admit Ghana have completely taken me by surprise. They were not impressive in the most recent Africa Cup of Nations, heading home in the group stage. They won their World Cup qualifying group on goals scored ahead of South Africa, which sent them to a playoff game against Nigeria that they won on away goals. And here they are with a great chance to make it into the knockout stage.
When Ghana took their chances, they absolutely carved South Korea open. Their first goal was from a set piece Korea made a complete mess of, while the second was from a deeper cross that in some ways had the feel of a set piece from open play. Ghana are a menace in these situations. The third came from a cross, as did both of South Korea’s goals. It’s not often that you see five goals in a game and they all come from crosses. Korea attempted an obscene 35 crosses in the game.
As you can see from the race chart above, South Korea certainly could’ve got an equaliser late on. They created slightly more xG than Ghana. But here’s the weird thing about expected goals: a few big chances are better than a lot of small chances, even if the total value is the same. If I’m being completely honest, I don’t totally understand the maths on this, but I’m told it works out that way. Check out this if you’re better at maths than me. We’re not talking a huge effect here but, while South Korea created an extra 0.2 or so xG, the sides’ chances of winning were almost identical, with Ghana very slightly shading it at 36% to 35%.1
That late period chasing an equaliser was especially quantity-over-quality. Cross after cross is not an efficient way of scoring a goal. I don’t quite understand why Korea aren’t trying to get Son on the end of these chances. He took just two of their 22 shots and seems glued to that left hand side. He’s one of the cleanest finishers out there. In situations like this, get him in the box more often.
Ghana would probably be fine with a draw against Uruguay to go through. FiveThirtyEight has their chances at 42%, which is largely just a reflection of how much the model thinks Uruguay are the better team, which isn’t very nice. Korea need to beat Portugal, then hope Ghana mess up against Uruguay (without Uruguay running up the goal difference too much). That’s a harder ask.
Brazil 1-0 Switzerland
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