Copa America : Notes for Tuesday 5/31

1.      Easy does it: Soccer tournaments have winners and losers before the first whistle is ever blown – some teams have a much easier path going in than others. We took a look at the group stage of Copa America Centenario – and evaluated which teams have the inside track and which ones are looking at long odds.

The average power rating of copa teams in 1706 (quite a good average actually – a very strong set of teams) – so teams should expect to face a total rating of 5118 over 3 games in the group stage (3 teams each averaging 1706). However Haiti – which has the hardest draw – will face 5308 – 190 higher than average and Uruguay will face 4919 – almost 200 below the expected average. Look up your favorite team below and see how easy or hard the group stage will be for them.

Power Rating faced versus Average
Data provided by Opta

2.      If you wish to go anywhere, you must run twice as fast: In what promises to be an extremely competitive tournament, getting ahead will require not just skill but passion, consistent performance and strategy. Traditional powerhouses Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are joined at the top of the rankings by Uruguay, Colombia, Chile and Ecuador. Below is a pre-tournament power rating for each team based on historicals, recent form, home advantage (it’s a home tournament not just for the US but for El Tri as well) and other player related factors. (note this was before the last round of friendlies – we will publish an update tomorrow post friendlies live on deportes)

Copa America Power Rankings
Data provided by Opta

3.      Fools gold: We went back and took a look at Copa Oro from 2015 – to get a sense of the best players in a major tournament. What we saw was that the top scorers had 33 goals from an xG of 18.9! Our models have shown that in league after league, it’s impossible to sustain a significant outperformance to xG at the team level. What gives? Three possible factors we are investigating:

a.      Defense is even more of a team activity than scoring goals – and national teams change more frequently than club teams, practice together less often and are more likely to make defensive errors – which allows higher goals from the same opportunity scores

b.      Stronger teams are more likely to run up the score on a weak opponent – whereas in league play a 3-0 lead would shift focus to injury prevention and resting key players. For instance 12 goals were scored against Cuba in 3 games – skewing the stats below

c.      Luck – Clint Dempsey scored 6 goals from an xG of 2.5 – not to pick on him – but he’d be hard pressed to repeat that performance. Those goals were fun to watch, but there is no doubt some luck involved

Player xG Copa America
Data provided by Opta

4.      I’ve seen six impossible things before breakfast:  Not to pick on Clint Dempsey and his 6 goals – but since he was the highest scorer of non-penalty goals in Copa, we took a look at three years of Dempsey vs. the Dempsey we saw in Copa:

a.      Dempsey the aging star – converts on 15% of his shots over the last 3 years – and this includes his Copa numbers so it’s inflated by that. Not terrible, but very average. He generates less than a quarter of his xG value from headers overall:

Clint Dempsey Goals Copa America
Data provided by Opta

b.      Dempsey the Copa Oro phenom – Almost half of his xG came from headers, he had an overall 35% conversion (2.3 times his average) including a 50% conversion from headers:

Clint Dempsey Goals Copa America
Data provided by Opta

Outside of Bolivia, Venezuela and Haiti, it’s going to be hard to get easy goals here the way US and Mexico did in Copa Oro.