As mentioned in the introduction, one of the main arguments made by those who think possession equates success is that having more of the ball allows a team to have greater control over the game, which then enables them to move the ball into dangerous areas and create attempts. However, critics would claim that some teams who dominate possession can also be guilty of lacking urgency, directness in the final third, and the ability of breaking down low-blocks. Theme three investigates the relationship between share of possession and attacking potency at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™.
Possession and net attempts
Figures 1.9 and 1.10 illustrate the relationship between possession gaps and net attempts in these two tournaments. Each dot on the graph represents a specific performance. The horizontal position of a dot represents the difference in possession between a team and their opponent. The further to the right on the X axis, the greater the share of possession created by the team. The vertical position of a dot represents the team’s net attempts, indicating the number of attempts they made compared to their opponent; the higher a team is positioned along the Y axis, the greater the margin the team outcreated their opponent by.
When comparing figure 13 and 14, it is evident that both tournaments show a positive correlation between possession and net attempts. However, there are notable differences between the women’s and men’s editions. The women’s tournament exhibits a steeper trend line and a higher R² value compared to the men’s edition.
The steeper slope of figure 14’s trend line indicates that teams participating in the FIFA Women’s World Cup were more efficient in converting their possession into attempts. For instance, a team in the women’s tournament with 20% more possession than their opponent would be predicted to create 7.7 net attempts. On the other hand, a team in the men’s tournament benefiting from the same possession differential would only be expected to create 4.5 net attempts.
While we can only speculate about the exact reasons, it is important to have an awareness of these factors in order to improve the performance of possession-based and defense-oriented teams. By understanding the significance of generating scoring opportunities and considering the balance between quantity and quality, teams can make informed decisions to enhance their gameplay strategies. This knowledge can potentially lead to improved performance and better outcomes for teams in these aspects.