A look around the World Championship

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency, Offensive/Defensive Rating or simply goals (conceded) per 50 possessions is the best metric to evaluate offensive or defensive performances of teams. Why this is the best metric I have explained in German both in this blog and in my column for the Handball-Bundesliga. If you want something in English, I recommend this video (at least the first few minutes). The video is about basketball where these ideas originate from, but it’s pretty much the same for Handball.

The calculation in Handball is even simpler and more exact than in Basketball, where possessions can just be estimated. In Handball the number of possessions per team can be calculated by the sum of all goals, missed shots and turnovers minus offensive rebounds (because they keep possessions alive). In Basketball the average of possessions per game is roughly 100 which is why the Offensive Rating there is displayed as points per 100 possessions. For handball a game has roughly 50 possessions. Hence, it’s goals per 50 possessions.

The metrics used in this context are as follows:

  • Pace: Number of possessions per game
  • Offensive Rating: Goals per 50 possessions
  • Defensive Rating: Goals conceded per 50 possessions
  • Net Rating: Offensive Rating minus Defensive Rating

Interpretation of the chart: The further up on the right a team is, the better they are. Teams in the lower left field are below average defensively and offensively. Teams in the upper left field are above average defensively but below average offensively. Teams in the lower right field are above average offensively but below average defensively.

So, what can we read off these numbers?

Three games are a very small sample size, and I would not recommend anyone to overreact to anything. After a few more games the numbers will tell us much more. But still a few things can be read off the them:

1. Denmark is pretty good but also had a weak group

Number one in Offensive Rating, Defensive Rating and Net Rating is the reigning and defending world champion Denmark. No other team scores more than 34,0 goals per 50 possessions. Reasons for this are the the best shooting percentage (75,9 %) and fourth lowest number of turnovers per 50 possessions (7,2). 19,3 goals per 50 possessions marks the best defense with the second lowest opponent’s shooting percentage and the highest number of forced turnovers.

But they also had one of the weakest preliminary groups. None of their opponents was above average. So, Denmark might be a bit overrated by the numbers.

2. Germany is obviously overrated

If we talk about overrated, we have to talk about Germany. According to the numbers they are close to Denmark, but their numbers are heavily inflated by their game against Uruguay, the by far worst team of the tournament. And even that game was offensively not as good as expected. If they had also played against Cape Verde, they would probably be much further down the table and they probably will during the next few games.

3. The worst team of the tournament is in the Main Round

Uruguay is probably the most likeable team of the tournament. Personally, I’m really happy for them that they are in the Main Round. But well, on the other side this means that we will get three more games that are going to be extremely one-sided and not much fun. They are playing the fastest pace of the tournament with 66,0 per game but this is not by design. It’s because their opponents score so easy and fast against them and because they produce the most turnovers.

They are by far the worst team of the tournament. Their net rating of -20,8 goals per 50 possessions is by far the worst of the World Championship. Just 12,1 goals per 50 possessions is 6,4 goals worse than the second worst team, DR Congo.

Defensively, where dedication and passion matter more they are a little bit better. Their Defensive Rating is just the second worst (33,0) behind Chile (33,8). Chile also has a worse opponent’s shooting percentage and France (!) forces less turnovers than the Uruguayans. Maybe they can keep up at least a bit against Brazil.

4. Portugal’s strong defense but average offense

Portugal went without defeat through the preliminary round. They did that because of their strong defense. Per 50 possessions they concede only 20,1 goals, the third best number in the tournament. Their opponent’s shooting percentage is even the lowest of all teams (45,9 %).

But offensively they struggle a bit. 27,1 goals per 50 possessions is just slightly above average. Their shooting percentage is just at 63,6 %, 9,0 times per 50 possessions they turn the ball over and they get the second lowest number of offensive rebounds.

5. Several favorites are just slightly above average

Several favorites such as Croatia, Spain and Norway had some struggles in the preliminary round. By the numbers, all three of them are just slightly above average on both sides of the field. Their Net Ratings are between 2,3 and 3,4. It’s no need for them to panic (yet) but to become World Champion they have to improve. Especially Norway is way to dependent on one player in Sagosen (who is the MVP of the preliminary round according to the PlayerScore).

All Numbers

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After the Main Round we will look at the updated numbers. By then they will be much more meaningful. And do not forget to check out the PlayerScore numbers for the World Cup which are daily updated.

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Julian Rux

Founder and Owner | Gründer und Eigentümer

?? Julian is responsible for most of the content on this website. The Master of Science in Business Administration works – in addition to his main job as a controller – in a part-time job for the Handball Bundesliga (among other things as a columnist) and has also analysed data for Bundesliga clubs.

?? Julian ist für den Großteil des Inhalts dieser Website verantwortlich. Der Master of Science der Betriebswirtschaftslehre arbeitet – neben seinem Hauptjob als Controller – im Nebenjob für die Handball-Bundesliga (u.a. als Kolumnist) und hat auch für Bundesligisten Daten analysiert.

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