Late goals, a low scoring rate and lots of crosses – UEFA technical observers David Moyes and Thomas Schaaf share their thoughts on the group stage of UEFA EURO 2016.
David Moyes, the former Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad manager, sits down with Thomas Schaaf, ex-coach of Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hannover, to discuss the trends and tactics in the group stage of UEFA EURO 2016.
EURO2016.com: The goals-per-game ratio so far is 1.92 – the lowest at a EURO since 1980. Why?
David Moyes: For me, teams are now much more organised and prepared. With the extra sides coming into the EURO, there's a bit of a gulf between some of the top teams and the other sides so the smaller teams feel the best way of getting a result is to defend well, stay compact, keep it very tight and they've not really come out and played.
Thomas Schaaf: In the group stage, teams have started off with a safety-first approach, so at the moment we have double the number of goals in the second half as the first. The so-called smaller teams like Iceland are very compact in defence and they've done it well.
DM: France haven't conceded many goals and nor have Germany, so the top nations aren't conceding either. But these top nations tend to have players who can make the difference and we've seen that with some of the performances by the top players.
EURO2016.com: So far there've been 19 out of 69 goals scored from the 80-minute mark onwards – or 27.54% of the total number. Is this the result of extra quality telling as opposition players tire?
DM: It is an accumulation of attack after attack and having to keep defending and keep the concentration levels – there's a physical tiredness but also a mental tiredness. It shows football has to be played for 90 or 95 minutes so you have to be physically in a good enough condition to do that. We've seen a lot of late goals but it's mainly the better teams wearing their opponents down at the end.
TS: The big teams have more experience, they know you have 90 minutes and can score late. The individual quality is maybe more telling when you get to the end of a game and need something special to get a result.
DM: The bigger teams have got quality to come off the bench – France and Germany have done it and England as well to be fair – whereas probably the lesser nations are putting out their best team.
TS: A lot of goals are being scored by substitutes. If you have the quality in your squad and make a change, you can play a little bit more forward. [As a coach] you can bring in more individual quality after you've watched the game develop and seen how you can change it.
EURO2016.com: What's caught your eye about the way teams are attacking and trying to break down these organised defences?
TS: Some teams have a patient build-up going forward but a problem when they get to the box. We saw a lot of games where there's a lot of possession but in areas where you can't score. With these compact defences, it's difficult so you have to go down the wings and we've seen a lot of crosses.
Some teams are playing fast and go high risk – I've seen England and Wales do that, but it depends on the player and quick players like Raheem Sterling or Gareth Bale will go forward directly. It's different to really experienced teams like Spain or Germany.
DM: Possession has been in the middle third of the field. The better teams, like Germany and Spain, have taken it to the final third, playing a game which is trying to find a through pass to goal most of the time. But because of the compact defences, we're seeing teams go around more and a great deal more crosses.
Some of the crossing has been great – crosses are something that can get you out of your seat – and we've seen some great headed goals. The introduction of attacking full-backs has meant more crosses coming in, and not all from the byline – there's a variation with cutbacks and deeper crosses. Croatia's Darijo Srna has been really good going forward.
Ivan Perisić has gone on the outside too, a bit like an old-fashioned winger. Until the last couple of nights we've seen fewer counterattack goals because when you lose the ball, teams are so quickly getting organised. Wales are one team who've done it.
TS: Maybe one of the most impressive goals was Germany's against Ukraine when they scored through Bastian Schweinsteiger after a very good counterattack after a corner.
DM: As the competition goes on and the level of teams becomes more equal, we might see more. Some teams up to now were frightened to come up, meaning there are not many counterattack opportunities. It might allow more space from now on.
David Moyes and Thomas Schaaf are part of a group of technical observers who will attend every match of UEFA EURO 2016 and produce a technical report that will be available on UEFA's platforms in September.