DOHA, Dec. 12: They are numbers that would make a football ‘purist’ such as Pep Guardiola break out into a cold sweat, or have former Spain coach, Luis Enrique trembling in his bed, but if there is one thing the current World Cup in Qatar is showing, it is that possession of the ball is not everything in football.
Maybe ‘tiki-taka’ isn’t dead (although it is badly wounded in Spain), but the World Cup is most definitely making a very solid case for the defence.
Morocco isn’t fooling anyone after rugged defensive displays against Spain and Portugal have earned them a historic semi-final tie against France.
The Moroccan side had just 23 per cent of the ball against Spain and just 22 per cent in their 1-0 quarter-final win against Portugal. The story is a little different from the group stage, where they had less than 35 per cent of the ball against Belgium and Croatia and 45 per cent against Canada.
The irony is that Morocco conceded the only goal against them in this World Cup in the game where they saw most of the ball.
France, Morocco’s rival in the semifinals, also had less of the ball than England in their quarter-final, which they won 2-1.
England had 54 per cent of the ball, while the French had 36 per cent, according to official figures, with 10 per cent of the time the ball being ‘disputed’. England also had more chances than the French, but it was Didier Deschamps’ side that is into the semis.
The Netherlands had more of the ball against Argentina, with Louis Van Gaal’s men on top, especially in the second half when they had 50 per cent of the ball, with Argentina having just 30 per cent and the ball under nobody’s control for the remaining 20 per cent.
It should also be pointed out that the Dutch didn’t get into the game until they abandoned their passing system and began hitting long balls into the forward for tall strikers Luuk de Jong and Wout Weghorst.
The first quarter-final between Croatia and Brazil was the most even, with both teams having the ball for just about the same amount of time, although Brazil just shaded possession by 45 per cent to 43 per cent in the first half.
The decisive factor in that match was that Croatia made better use of the ball they had, with Luka Modric giving 115 passes to his teammates as Croatia once again proved their resilience.
With the semi-finals just around the corner, it looks as if France will dominate possession against Morocco, while Croatia and Argentina promise to be a tactical battle and whether Luka Modric or Leo Messi has the best game will probably be the decisive factor. (Xinhua)