It's what you do with the ball

Possession alone is no guarantee for success, as statistics from this World Cup have proved

Possession is no longer nine-tenths of the law, as far as the World Cup is concerned. Only one out of the eight quarter-finalists controlled a significant majority of the ball (more than 55 per cent) in their respective round of 16 matches - even then, Belgium had 58 per cent of possession but went 2-0 down and needed a last-minute winner to beat Japan 3-2.

Spain and Germany, the past two world champions who built their success on variations of tiki-taka, were again the possession leaders in Russia. La Roja averaged 69 per cent while the Germans had 65 per cent - yet both were shadows of their previously successful models. They lacked the penetration to complement their possession and were duly eliminated.

Please or to continue reading the full article. Learn more about ST PREMIUM.

Enjoy unlimited access to ST's best work

  • Exclusive stories and features on multiple devices
  • In-depth analyses and opinion pieces
  • ePaper and award-winning multimedia content
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2018, with the headline 'It's what you do with the ball'. Print Edition | Subscribe