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.