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The Stats Which Place Ireland's Very Poor Passing Performance Last Night Into Perspective

The Stats Which Place Ireland's Very Poor Passing Performance Last Night Into Perspective
By Conor Neville
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Liam Brady said that Ireland were a long ball team last night, a declaration that should have been superfluous but one which no doubt distresses Eamon Dunphy greatly. You see, Liam is urging acceptance to this reality, while Eamo rails against it.

The UEFA stats, released at full-time, paint a grim picture.

Unlike in the Charlton era, UEFA compile stats on this sort of minutia these days. God knows what the passing stats would have been for the Ireland-England game in Cagliari - for both teams?

Even by their own hoofy standards, Ireland surpassed themselves last night. While the Serbians completed 371 passes from 409 attempted passes (90% accuracy), Ireland managed 94 passes from 138 attempted passes (68%).

Completing less than 100 passes in a game is quite an achievement. Our completion rate might convince us to try and pass the ball even less in the future.

There's more to life than statistics and we're certain the bald numbers don't provide the full picture. But these leap out nonetheless.

  • For context, the most prolific passer in Europe has been Toni Kroos. He regularly clocks up more than 100 passes a game. His average per game at Euro 2016 was 111. This is seventeen more than the Irish team managed last night. His success rate hovers in and around 92%.
  • Liechtenstein completed 157 passes against Spain. A neat accuracy rate of 75%. They only lost 8-0 too (courtesy of Cormac O'Malley)
  • On his own, Cesc Fabregas completed 128 passes in Chelsea's 2-1 away win against Southampton, the highest number recorded in last year's Premier League.
  • In our game against Belgium in Bordeaux, comfortably our worst performance of the Euros, we still completed 278 passes out of 337 attempts at a rate of 82%.

There is this. Pass completion stats aren't everything.

  • Our pass completion rate was even worse than the Premier League team with the worst average pass completion rate last season, which was, er, Leicester City (69.3%)
  • Ireland's passing stats were actually poorer in the Sweden and Italy games at the Euros than they were in Bordeaux. Yet Ireland played significantly better in those games.

In mitigation, the pitch was pisspoor, though the Serbians, on the evidence of the stats, managed well enough.

Ireland were placed 21st in pass completion rates at the Euros. The numbers in terms of actual passes attempted aren't reflected by the table as some teams played more matches than others.

Nonetheless, our completion rate was well down last night, from 77% in the Euros to 68% last night, indicating that the pitch may have had an impact on us.


The stats around 'passing types', which divide up passes into short, mid-range, and long passes indicate that Liam Brady's assertion that Ireland hadn't really altered their approach in the Euros would appear to be sound.


Read more: 'Post-Tournament Hangover' - Ireland's Very Chequered History In Post-Tournament Qualifying Campaigns

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