World Cup: Semi-Final Preview

JOHANNESBURG SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 03: David Villa of Spain celebrates after he scores his side's first goal with team mate Francesc Fabregas (R) during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Quarter Final match between Paraguay and Spain at Ellis Park Stadium on July 3 2010 in Johannesburg South Africa. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

One of the most interesting aspects of the World Cup so far is how quickly Germany has scored - they've spent just 27% of their game time tied, compared to much more for the other three remaining teams:

% time ESP URU NED GER
-1 9.3 2.0 9.5 12.3
0 50.3 59.2 41.4 27.3
1 28.5 35.8 45.0 34.2
2 11.8 2.9 4.1 12.1
3 0.0 0.2 0.0 8.5
4 0.0 0.0 0.0 5.6

While their games have been tied, Spain has controlled much more of the play than the rest of the 32 teams in the World Cup, including the four remaining teams. Uruguay, on the other hand, is near the bottom - they're clearly the weakest remaining team, and it seems highly unlikely that they'll get past Holland if they only control 40% of the play:

While Tied ESP URU NED GER
% Passes 72.2 39.5 63.7 59.8
% Weighted 74.0 39.3 62.9 60.6

We can get a sense of how offensively (or defensively) each team plays by looking at the difficulty of the passes that they complete. Here, I've adjusted this difficulty to the tournament average - so Holland's average pass was 12.6% less dangerous than the average pass, and the average pass completed against them was 9.3% less dangerous.

While Tied ESP URU NED GER
Rel Wgt For 0.2 3.5 -12.6 -1.7
Rel Wgt Vs -8.5 4.2 -9.3 -4.8

Spain has the greatest control over the game play so far. They've played a vastly different game from the Germans, so the outcome of their match seems very difficult to predict. Uruguay plays a wide-open game but has allowed its opponents to have the ball most of the time, which doesn't bode well against the Dutch. And while Holland plays the most defensive game - in both directions - they didn't exactly dominate Brazil despite scoring their two comeback goals, which doesn't bode well for the final. I think the main conclusion here is that the real World Cup final will be played on Wednesday between Germany and Spain, and the final will be the winner of that game against a somewhat weaker Dutch team.

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