Much like “Andy Dufresne – who crawled through a river of shit ” we passed the really bad teams at EURO 2016, so in part 2 it’s time for the surprising, mediocre, or even decent teams to get their moment. We’ll be using the Expected Goals model of the great Michael Caley in addition to the shot stats from Footyintheclouds. Here are the team totals for Caley’s XG model, with Germany sitting on top and Northern Ireland at the bottom:
18. Sweden probably should be ranked lower on this last, but A) I’m scared that Zlatan will read this and B) they were so dull that I sort of forgot that they were even in the tourney. While many believed that the great Ibra would be able to lead his team out of a mildly difficult group, he and and his team basically went scoreless (the Ciaran Clark own goal doesn’t really count) and managed just FOUR shots on target – the worst mark of the tournament. Their 1.3 XG is also really bad, as is the 7.7 shots per game, the latter number courtesy of Whoscored.com. Perusing some more Whoscored numbers, the offensive futility is interesting: Kim Källström produced six key passes, which ranked him 19th among all midfielders, but nobody else had more than two. Zlatan had 12 of the team’s 23 total shots, the former being a very solid number, while the latter a very bad one. It’s worth noting that outside of Ibra, no Swedish player had more than TWO shots in their three games, so the one-man team label was definitely accurate.
The other side of the ball isn’t great either, Sweden were the lowest tackling team of the group rounds with just 5.7 per match, as well as having the fewest interceptions with just nine per game. They did an OK job at limiting overall shots (38), shots on target against (15) as well as shots in the box (19) all middle of the pack numbers. Andreas Granqvist ranks third in clearances (28) and was only dribbled past once, so he get some praise. Andreas Isaksson’s 80% save percentage was also an accurate representation of a very solid tourney by the 34-year-old netminder.
That’s probably way too much on a team that was completely forgettable. With Zlatan’s international retirement, it’s time for Sweden to regroup and begin a new phase in their football history.
17. Speaking of history, Albania already made history by making it to France. Their feel-good story continued by surprising Romania, and they hung tough against France and Switzerland and probably deserved at least a point. Their dismal finishing in the first two games – just two shots on target – finally improved as Armando Sadiku’s header was enough to secure all three points. By improved we mean that the conversion rate shot up from zero to 3.4%, still well below the average of 7.4% per Footyintheclouds. Ledian Memushaj – a career Serie B player at age 29 who collected 3 red cards in 3 months this season for Pescara – was arguably the man of the match with SEVEN KEY PASSES!! and is averaging 3.5 shots per game in two games (did not feature vs. Switzerland). He is also the odd man out in the XG + assists leaders by Michael Caley:
Credit should also go to head coach Gianni de Biasi, who made a couple of surprising, but ultimately successful moves – benching captain Lorik Cana (who get sent off against the Swiss) and Taulant “lil bro” Xhaka – who was angry at getting subbed off vs. Switzerland – which after getting dispossessed SIX times in 62 minutes as a CM was completely justified. On a hilarious sidenote, he finished with a 100% pass accuracy in his combined 78 minutes, but one wonders what that really means, if his coach was unsatisfied with his performance and his team was better off without him. In their place, Arlin Ajeti was averaging 4.5 clearances next to the very solid Cologne CB Mergim Mavraj and Memushaj has had 7 of the team’s 22 shots in two games, as well as earning seven combined fouls. The switch from 4-3-3 to a 4-1-4-1 has also coincided with the introduction of Andi Lila at right mid, who managed to win seven aerial challenges in both games. Napoli’s Elseid Hysaj, who should be familiar to Serie A fans impressed with his passing accuracy and long balls and it wouldn’t surprise me if he got snapped up by a bigger club.
In the end with 3 points Albania needed a few results to break their way, but it was not unfathomable that they make it out of the group – and that would have been a tremendous accomplishment given their incredibly limited resources player-wise. They ultimately failed at that, but succeeded in winning the hearts of many football fans.
16. Northern Ireland are another fan favorites, and this team is somehow through to the round of 16, despite losing twice and having a NEGATIVE 45 shot difference! The best thing about this otherwise thoroughly boring team devoid of talent (aside from the goalkeeper) is the Will Griggs chant. They are so dismal, that there are more Youtube versions of it than the team has had shots on target (eight) I mean, they are literally the worst team by any metric imaginable, but Ukraine’s offensive futility and their own perseverance earned them a date with Wales in the final 16. If Will Griggs somehow scores, DJ Kenno will just be happy to make a remix that we should instantly blast off into space to contact the extraterrestrials. It should also just be named world national anthem. I mean who doesn’t want more of this?
15. Ireland – were another underperforming team, until a Robbie Brady strike lifted them over the Italian B team, which was enough to qualify out of group E. They actually finished with 31 shots for and 29 against and it looks like the final outcome of the Belgium game was a bit harsh on them. Apparently they do have the nicest fans and one of the coolest songs with To France we’ll drive! COYBIG!
P.S. What a shot this one was.
Epic photo of Robbie Brady after Ireland 1 – Italy 0 pic.twitter.com/VBuh1Kxs34
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) June 23, 2016
14. Iceland I have sort of a Jekyll and Hyde take on this team. The mean one goes like this : Look I get that these guys are the hipster pick and it’s great to have a country of 330k at the EUROs, but let’s not kid ourselves – this team is atrocious. Yes, Gylfi Sigurdsson can be occasionally awesome in the EPL, and Finnbogason is a decent Bundesliga striker, but this team makes Darmstadt look like Barcelona with their passing. Did I mention that they gave up the most shots (tied with NIR) at 61 and have the best conversion rate at a ridiculous 17.4%?
The nicer version praises the Icelandic minnows who fought like Vikings, spoiled Ronaldo’s moment and drew with Portugal. Also, they were winning for 87 minutes against Hungary, and basically caused a live orgasm by their commentator.
The English are already dreading the inevitable penalty shootout against these guys.
13. Slovakia better known as the Republic of Marek Hamsik, these guys continue to get key results despite a – 29 shot difference, a lot of it courtesy of the England game, where they conceded 30 shots and managed 4. Martin Skrtel has stepped up in defense, and Vladimir Weiss’ introduction in the first game has given a team a much needed spark. Weiss is second only to Gareth Bale in total dribbles with 14, despite playing 30 fewer minutes. Unfortunately, they drew Germany in the murderer half of the draw and unless Marek Hamsik can pull off something insane, as he did against Russia, the Slovaks will be heading home. Michael Caley’s XG map confirms this, as I doubt the Slovaks can hold up against the German midfield of Kroos, Özil, Khedira if they continue to concede close range shots.
Stay tuned for Part 3, where we get into the top 12!