Attacking third transition impact on goal scoring

Attacking third transition impact on goal scoring

Across the FIFA Men’s World Cup 2022 a total of 1091 shots featured possession starting from a transition, either from one team winning the ball back from the other or picking up a loose ball to sustain an attack or rebuild a new one.  This works out at an average of nine shots per team, per game and made up a total of 75% of all shots in the tournament. 

Transition in the attacking third

Accounting for 20% of all transitions across the pitch, when a team transitions in the attacking third naturally they are more likely to get a shot on goal as they are regaining possession closer to the opposition’s goal, and as you can see from the graphic below 63% of all shots featuring a transition came from the attacking third.  This is an average of 6 shots per game, but as always, we seen a large range with Germany registering the most shots following attacking third transition (25) against Costa Rica.

Speed of attack

Unlike the defensive and mid third of the pitch where players have a decision on whether they can play forward quickly or need to retain possession to build an attack, it’s clear that when a team transitions in this area the speed of attack is crucial.  This is particularly evident when we look at goalscoring and the time taken from the moment of transition to a the ball hitting the back of the net.  86% of goals that featured transition in the attacking third were scored within five seconds, and in fact the average time was just 2.5 seconds.  In contrast, only 2% followed a possession lasting more than 10 seconds, indicating the need to be fast and efficient when gaining possession in the attacking third. 

When we look at the area of the attacking third where transition occurs most often in the build up to a goal we see that 78% occurred within the width of the box, and a massive 41% in the area between the six yard box and out to the penalty spot.  This is demonstrated in the graphic below: 

Transition method

There are two main ways of regaining possession in the attacking third.  Firstly, might be to deploy a high press. However, applying pressure to the opponent in this way most often causes transition to occur in the mid third of the pitch with the opposition attempting to play through or over the press.  The second and most common method is being secure behind an attack and recognising where and how to seize on a loose or second ball.  This requires excellent anticipation skills, as well as the ability to receive under intense pressure to either get a shot on goal or pass to a team-mate.  Across the tournament 71% of all goals featuring an attacking third transition involved just one player, further highlighting the importance of developing attacking players who can anticipate and receive under pressure to get shots on goal. 

Check out the video below for some examples of the different ways players can seize control following a transition to get a shot on goal:

Coaching considerations

With 20% of all transitions occurring in the attacking third, how would you set up your practices to encourage transition to happen in this area?

71% of shots from attacking third transitions involve one player only.  What areas would you focus on to enhance your players anticipation of where and how they can gain possession from second balls to get shots on goal?

86% of goals from attacking third transition occur within five seconds.  How might this information impact your transition strategy for when you win the ball back?