Set-Pieces are King at the 2018 World Cup

    11 Jul 2018 | World Cup | Preview
    Set-Pieces are King at the 2018 World Cup
    Vlad1988 /

    France booked their place in the final of the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday night as they defeated Belgium 1-0 in Saint Petersburg.

    It was a good game, between two teams full of top quality players.  France were the better side overall but Belgium played their part and could easily have scored a goal.  However, it was France who scored the only goal of the game and it came from a corner.

    Samuel Umtiti was the man who ran to the near post and got his head to the ball before it deflected off Marouane Fellaini and into the Belgium net.

    Of the 158 goals scored at the 2018 World Cup, that was the 69th scored from a set-piece, meaning 43.67% of all goals in the tournament have been scored from set-pieces.

    Why have we seen such a great proportion of the goals scored in Russia coming from set-pieces?

    A new element to this World Cup has been the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee. With VAR in place, a total of 24 penalties were awarded in the group stage of the tournament, more than ever before.  That means there was an average of one penalty in every other match during the group stages of the competition.

    Referees have been quick to award penalties at the sign of almost any pushing or pulling at corners and free-kicks.  The referee knows he can afford to give a penalty if he sees something which looks untoward in the box and if he is correct, the decision will stand.  If replays show he was wrong, the decision will be overturned and no harm is done.

    Defenders are being more cautious due to the number of penalties being given and this has resulted in more space for attackers in the penalty area.  A defender knows the referee is looking for any illegal contact and the grappling we used to see in the penalty area has all but disappeared, making it difficult for defenders to stay with their attackers.

    Some teams have benefitted more than others and England, who meet Croatia in the semi-final on Wednesday night, scored 80% of their first 10 goals in the tournament from set-pieces.  Harry Maguire opened the scoring against Sweden in the quarter-final with a header from a corner.  Up until that point, there was not a great deal to choose between the teams and it took a set-piece to split them.

    Sweden were happy to take their time and sit back in the first half of the match, without committing too many men forward.  This has been a trend throughout the tournament, with teams defending deep which has led to set-pieces becoming an important method of scoring goals.

    Given the ratio scored, there is a good chance the 2018 World Cup final will be decided by a single set-piece goal.  That is how important they have become in this tournament.

    Predictions for World Cup

    Home team - Away team Tip
    flag_89 WC
    15/07/2018 16:00
    flag_89 WC
    14/07/2018 15:00
    flag_89 WC
    11/07/2018 19:00
    flag_89 WC
    10/07/2018 19:00

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