Where Were Croa­t­ia Tac­ti­cal­ly Supe­ri­or to England?

Where Were Croa­t­ia Tac­ti­cal­ly Supe­ri­or to England?

Heart­break for Eng­land as they crash out 2 – 1 to Croa­t­ia in the semi-finals. Despite a valiant per­for­mance, there were key areas where the Croats got the bet­ter of the Three Lions. Our guest ana­lyst from the EFL takes a look at the statistics.

Croa­t­ia sti­fled England’s build up play

A key strength of England’s play has been their abil­i­ty to build from the back. The hard work of Croatia’s mid­field­ers made sure that this approach was as hard as possible.

Jor­dan Pick­ford strug­gled to play out from his own box, com­plet­ing only 75% of short pass­es and 67% of long pass­es. Against Swe­den these per­cent­ages were 92 and 93 per cent respectively. 

Croa­t­ia also won the ball in the tack­le 17 times. Eng­land only man­aged to do this twice. 

Our Sports­code head to head out­put below shows a direct com­par­i­son between Ivan Perisic and Raheem Ster­ling in terms of workrate in this match, 

Both play­ers oper­at­ed in advanced posi­tions, but Perisic com­plet­ed 8 defen­sive actions, attempt­ed 10 cross­es, sev­en shots, and 31 passes. 

Ster­ling com­plet­ed two defen­sive actions, two cross­es, one shot and 13 pass­es in comparison. 

Perisic's workrate exemplified the Croatian effort in both attacking prowess and limiting England's play in workrate and defence.

This meant Eng­land failed to dom­i­nate the ball

For the first time in the tour­na­ment, Eng­land failed to enjoy an advan­tage in pos­ses­sion, our Sports­code out­put win­dow below shows the Three Lions con­trolled 47.9% of the ball, while also hold­ing the ball for a short­er time per possession. 

Despite only hold­ing 4.2% advan­tage, Croa­t­ia were much more resource­ful with the ball, com­plet­ing 98 more pass­es and gen­er­at­ing 12 more shots. 

Croa­t­ia were also the more pos­i­tive play­ing team, mov­ing the ball for­ward 51 more times than England.

Our Sportscode output window shows Croatia were more resourceful than England in possession.

Croa­t­ia caused prob­lems for England’s wingbacks

Kier­an Trip­pi­er and Ash­ley Young have flour­ished as wing­backs in England’s 3 – 5-2 for­ma­tion, con­stant­ly cre­at­ing width for their team.

As Croatia’s 4 – 5-1 allowed for an extra man in either mid­field or defence, they often ren­dered England’s full­backs inef­fec­tive by pin­ning them in their own half. 

With only Mandzu­kic in attack, and Perisic switch­ing flanks at will, Croa­t­ia had an extra body on the over­lap on sev­er­al occasions.

In this instance, an Eng­land full­back had two men to cov­er and an inabil­i­ty to focus on attack­ing duties.

Croatia's 4-5-1 allowed for extra width to occupy England's fullbacks in Southgate's 3-5-2 system.
Ashley Young is caught defending two players as the Croatian winger pinches inside while the fullback overlaps.

Star play­er

Luka Mod­ric again exem­pli­fied every­thing about this Croa­t­ian team – hard­work­ing, cre­ative, and efficient. 

Mod­ric com­plet­ed 88% of his pass­es. This includ­ed 100% of pass­es in the attack­ing third, while he also attempt­ed four crosses. 

He out­played his coun­ter­part Dele Alli, who com­plet­ed 27 less pass­es in total, six less pass­es in the attack­ing third with no cross­es attempted. 

The hard-work­ing Mod­ric, who was out on his feet when sub­sti­tut­ed in extra time, also won the ball back for Croa­t­ia three times, com­pared to only once by Alli for England. 

This infor­ma­tion can been seen in out Sports­code head to head out­put win­dow below.

Modric was head and shoulders above his English counterparts in both creativity and guile.

Post-match review

A valiant effort from Eng­land who looked to play pos­i­tive­ly, but were defeat­ed by a Croa­t­ian team that essen­tial­ly worked much hard­er than they did.

Despite play­ing three con­sec­u­tive 120 minute match­es, the Croa­t­ians were still press­ing until the final whis­tle and exe­cut­ed the deci­sive plays when they mat­tered most.

How­ev­er, it’s not all heart­break for Eng­land as they have pro­duced a team that are com­fort­able in pos­ses­sion and capa­ble of play­ing some great football.

With one eye on Qatar 2022, one would hope that Eng­land con­tin­ue to play pos­i­tive­ly, as the approach of build­ing play from the back was undoubt­ed­ly one of the key suc­cess­es of the tour­na­ment for this Three Lions side.

For Croa­t­ia, they will have to face France with an extreme­ly fatigued team.

Tech­ni­cal­ly, Croatia’s mid­field can go toe-to-toe with the tour­na­ment favourites, but it will be inter­est­ing to see how their defend­ers fare against the likes of Mbappe and Griez­mann as legs tire in the sec­ond half.

To learn more about how Hudl uses ana­lyt­ics to fuel the mod­ern game, you can sign up to one of our online class­es or check out our pro­fes­sion­al case study from La Liga club Deporti­vo Alaves here.