24 November 2022

The key numbers behind England and Wales’ Group B opponents

24 November 2022

England and Wales can both go a long way to securing safe passage to the knockout stages on Friday.

Gareth Southgate’s side – fresh from a 6-2 thrashing of Iran – will qualify with a win over the United States.

Meanwhile, victory for Robert Page’s men against the Iranians would put them in a strong position to progress, following their hard-earned draw on Monday night.

Here, the PA news agency assesses their opponents using FIFA’s new ‘Enhanced Football Intelligence’ metrics.

United States most effective on the left

England completely dominated Iran in their tournament opener – enjoying 72 per cent of possession – but they are unlikely to do the same against the United States.

The USA had the better of their 1-1 draw with Wales, making a greater number of line breaks (125 compared with 83) and receiving the ball more often in the final third (101 compared with 73).

Both England and the USA focused their attacking efforts on the wings during their first matches, with the majority of their final third entries coming in the outer channels.

The USA left flank was especially dangerous against Wales.

Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic – playing on the left of a front three – delivered 14 crosses, the most of any player in Group B, while Fulham left-back Antonee Robinson supported with seven. No other USA player attempted more than three.

Pulisic was consistently occupying threatening positions against Wales. He received the ball between the midfield and defensive lines on 32 occasions, three times the tally managed by any of his team-mates.

At the same time, Robinson’s speed down the left side caused problems for Welsh defenders, with the full-back recording the most sprints (81) and the highest top speed (35.4 kilometres per hour) of anyone in Group B.

His energetic approach was matched by the rest of the team, as the USA covered 127 kilometres between them – nine more than England who played an extra 20 minutes of stoppage time.

As a result, they created 81 forced turnovers, also the highest in Group B.

England to counter press

England were able to win the ball back quickly in their opening game against Iran.

Almost one in six (16 per cent) of their defensive phases were counter pressing, compared with one in 10 (10 per cent) for the USA.

On average, Southgate’s side regained possession within eight seconds of losing it, by far the fastest of any team in Group B.

Going forward, England often relied on Jude Bellingham for defence-splitting passes – the 19-year-old attempted the most line breaks (35) of anyone in Group B on matchday one.

Bellingham was also trusted by his team-mates to receive the ball in tight situations. He took possession under pressure on 43 occasions, which was far more than any other player in the England or USA side (Declan Rice was next on 28).

Moore of the same for Wales?

Both Wales and Iran were on the back foot for much of their opening games.

Iran spent 28 per cent of their time without the ball in a low block, according to FIFA’s ‘phase of play’ statistics, while Wales adopted the same approach in 25 per cent of their defensive phases.

However, the Dragons were much improved in the second half against the USA, following the introduction of Kieffer Moore in place of Dan James.

Moore helped Wales to push their opponents back, offering to receive the ball in behind on 23 out of 37 occasions, compared with James’ 7 out of 17.

The Bournemouth centre-forward also contributed two shots out of the team’s five in the second half, putting forward a strong case for a starting berth on Friday.

Despite scoring twice in the final half hour, Iran struggled to string passes together against England, completing only 154 compared with their opponent’s 730 on Monday.

FIFA numbers also indicate that Carlos Queiroz’s side only attempted to get beyond England’s defensive line on seven occasions in almost 118 minutes of play, less than half the tally managed by Wales (17).

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