2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Preview – Sweden: Predictors of Performance

Because this is a Women’s World Cup year, I have decided to countdown to the tournament by providing a short soccer/fitness related preview of each of the 24 participating nations. In this instalment, I will look at Sweden, who are making their 6th appearance at the Women’s World Cup. Sweden have been drawn in Group D, along with Australia, Nigeria, and the United States of America.  They will play their first match against the Nigeria on Monday, June 8th, 2015.

I have recently returned from attending and presenting my research at the 8th World Congress on Science and Football in Copenhagen, Denmark.  One of the topics that was frequently discussed at the Congress was match analysis, and more specifically, what statistics taken from match analysis could be used as the best predictors of performance in soccer.  Interestingly, although increasing ball possession has become a popular strategy and tactic in soccer, this metric was actually only the third-best predictor of a team’s success in matches.  The first and best predictor of success in soccer is the total number of shots on target, which has also been shown to have very little correlation to the amount of time a team spends in possession of the ball.

All of this brings us back to the Swedish Women’s National Team.  In qualification, they did not lose a game, finishing first in their group and conceding only 1 goal in 10 matches.  Although a performance like this could easily be seen as a resounding success, Sweden Head Coach Pia Sundhage was critical of the team, stating that they had “terrible difficulty in creating scoring chances.”  This type of analysis from a very experienced Head Coach suggests that she has a good understanding of the key areas in which her team will need to improve when competing at the World Cup. has reported that, although Sweden was unbeaten in qualification, they were also the lowest scoring group winners in Europe.  The team is talented and has a history of success at the Women’s World Cup (they finished as runners up in 2003, and also reached the semi-finals in Germany in 2011).  Can they make the necessary tactical changes to produce more shots on target, more goals, and more wins this year?  We will have to wait and see what happens in 1 month’s time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

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