Morocco wrote the story of the World Cup as they became the first-ever African team to reach the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup. Their relentless and tireless efforts paid off and helped them beat some European heavyweights along the way.
They won against second-ranked Belgium, seventh-ranked Spain, and ninth-ranked Portugal, knocking them all out of the tournament. Morocco set up an organised defensive line and relied mainly on counter-attacks to score. One of the architects behind the attacking play for Morocco was Youssef En-Nesyri of Sevilla. The centre-forward, who hasn’t opened his account in La Liga this season, found the back of the net twice on the biggest of occasions. We look at his stats from this World Cup to understand his role in Morocco’s historical journey in this World Cup.
The above viz shows the heatmap of Youssef En-Nesyri in the World Cup. We can observe how he has occupied almost all the spaces. Since Morocco deployed an organised defensive line, all eleven players have contributed to their defence, and therefore even the striker has tracked back to do the defensive duties. En-Nesyri has tracked back a lot this World Cup and pressed the opposition. He has made 14 interceptions this tournament, averaging 2.33 interceptions per game. In addition, he also recovered the ball nine times, for an average of 1.5 recoveries per game.
A pass map different from the usual
Morocco had a simple game plan going into the tournament. Sit back and defend, and try to score from counterattacks. They had 26% possession against Spain, 27% against Portugal, and 37.12% against Belgium. But they relied on the counterattack, which worked for them.
When they started to counter-attack, En-Nesyri was the focal point. But there is an interesting fact here. We can observe from the pass map that most of his passes are backward. This is because he would get involved in the attack by taking the ball and passing it quickly to an arriving player. He’d then move to a position from which he could threaten the goal. En-Nesyri made only 49 passes this tournament and completed 39 of them with 79.5% accuracy.
As the pass map suggests, he very rarely played a pass into the final third and had an average of 0.72 passes into the final third per game. But there is no right way of playing football, and this worked for them.
A threat in front of the goal
Youssef En-Nesyri is the top scorer for Morocco in the World Cup (three goals). His goal against Portugal was an example of how good he is. His dominance in the air is incredible, as he leapt sky high and headed the ball home. Even Cristiano Ronaldo was impressed by this goal. En-Nesyri took five shots this tournament and converted the two shots he took on target. He took an average of 0.83 shots per game and exceeded his xG by some distance.
Youssef En-Nesyri had an impressive World Cup campaign and led Morocco into the history books. He also became the top scorer for his country in the World Cup. Morocco’s rise from a dark horse to an organised team will always remain one of the stories of this World Cup. Youssef En-Nesyri also had a huge role to play in it, and consequently, his demands have skyrocketed in the market as well.
Visuals via TFA data viz engine