The Key Statistics Behind Every Euro Semi Finalist
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The Key Statistics Behind Every Euro Semi Finalist

08/07/24 20:50

Euro 2024 Semi Finalist Statistics

The Euro 2024 semi finals are now finally set. Four countries remain standing, and while some may argue that a couple of teams may not necessarily deserve to be there, it has always been known that tournament football works in mysterious ways.

France, Netherlands, Spain and England have all run the gauntlet and all so far have survived. However, the European Championship can only have one winner, and history tells us the margins can be almost imperceptibly tight. So let's take a look at some of the key statistics that have defined their runs to the last four.

Attacking

This may seem like an unimportant stat at first. Afterall, goals win you tournaments, right? Well, it’s just not quite that simple. England and France have both failed to impress in front of goal this tournament, and more often than not found themselves passing horizontally around the back rather than around the opposition box. Their goal tallies combined still fall below the totals of Spain and the Netherlands individually.

Tournament Goals Stat

And yet they both find themselves in the semi finals of a major tournament. Some of this could be down to good game management, happy to wind down time with just the one goal needed. But on other occasions, it has simply been down to luck. Luck to have avoided conceding, or in France’s case, luck to have scored at all, seeing that two thirds of their tournament total has come from own goals scored in their favor.

The only team to reach the semi finals convincingly has been Spain. Dominant from their opening group game against Croatia, they’ve pummelled every opposition into submission, and navigated possibly the trickiest game of the tournament brilliantly with a 2-1 win over Germany after extra time at the quarter final stage.

The Netherlands have flattered to deceive, but while they look suspect defensively at times, the fact they can outscore opponents has carried them this far. It’s not the prettiest football at times, but a front three of Xavi Simons, Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo simply cannot be underestimated.

England have been the most underwhelming team to reach the last four, paired with France. Scoring just five times all tournament, they required extra time to overcome Slovenia after Jude Bellingham rescued them in the last moments of normal time, and were forced a step further by Switzerland, in which a shootout was required to find a winner.

However, it cannot be said that the toiling teams haven’t taken attempts on goal. France and the Netherlands are in the top five nations at the tournament in terms of total attempts on goal, with Spain the clear runaway winners topping the list, while England fall just outside.

Goal Stats

The graphic shows that while scoring is important, goals don’t necessarily win you tournaments. Just ask hosts Germany, the tournament's joint top goal scorers alongside Spain with 11. Knockout football is as much about game management and grit as it is about flair football and a good goal record.

Play in Possession

Possession has the potential to completely suffocate an opposing team. If you control the ball, you control the game. England has been a prime example of what ball retention can get you. With the highest possession figure of any of the last four teams, they have shown that keeping the ball can be just as effective as scoring three or four goals a game.

Possession Stats

They may have struggled in an attacking sense, but in dominating possession for such long periods, they limit the number of opportunities their opposition have to get on the attack. This invites less pressure onto their back line, and as a result builds a platform for them to require just one goal to make it overwhelmingly likely that they progress.

Spain, as we have come to expect, have been excellent in possession, and they have a better pass completion percentage than England. If a team can reliably hold on to the ball, things become immeasurably more difficult for their opponents.

Netherlands have been the loosest team in terms of possession. Their pass completion, at 84.8%, is lower than any of the other nations. The figure indicates a carelessness with the ball, something they cannot afford in these last stages.

Giving the ball away against England may not be catastrophic, but should they do that against Spain (should both reach the final), it will be a whole other story. However, with press resistant players like Tijani Reijnders, quick, high-risk high-reward passing can be rewarded if they can break through the defensive or midfield line.

Defence

The path of most of the remaining teams can be encapsulated by a famous quote made by ex Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson: “Attack wins you games, defense wins you titles.”

Having a solid defense is key to having a deep run at a major tournament. Spain at the 2010 World Cup provides the perfect demonstration. They scored just eight goals in seven games when they were crowned the best national team in world football. This total was just half of Germany’s that year, and yet the Spanish knocked them out. What won them the title was their defence.

Conceding just two goals all tournament, and none after the group stage, they had set themselves up for success by being able to almost guarantee a clean sheet, meaning that the worst that could happen was a penalty shootout, something they never ended up needing.

Defence Stats

This tournament has been no different. France are the most defensively active team still in the tournament, their blocks and clearance figures standing well above the rest, and have been reaping the rewards. Their total of one goal conceded all tournament (a retaken Robert Lewandowski penalty) is enough to scare even the most potent of attacks, and it also provides the squad with a massive boost: If they score even once, then they canl be considered favorites to reach the final.

Despite seeming like they have been defending for almost the entire tournament, England's defensive record is actually far less impressive than that of its three counterparts. However, this comes back to possession of the ball. Because they keep the ball safe for so long, the time they have spent on the defensive has actually been considerably less than the three other semi finalists, and their low block and clearance figures in the graphic stand as testament to that.

Goalkeeping

A defensive line is only as assured and calm as the goalkeeper behind them. The more they trust the man between the sticks, the less pressure is on them in defensive interactions. This can result in objectively more impressive defensive displays, simply as a result of the psychological benefit that comes with the presence of an elite keeper.

GK Stats

France depicts this perfectly. Their aforementioned defensive record is the best of any of the remaining teams, and goalkeeper Mike Maignan’s record is even more defensive. Conceding just one goal, his save percentage is streets ahead of the keepers of every other nation, and I think it’s safe to say that France may be the first opponent that Spain may really struggle to crack.

Netherlands Keeper Bart Verbruggen on the other hand has been somewhat suspect at times. He may have made the most saves out of the remaining shot-stoppers, but he also has the lowest save percentage.

The Netherlands have conceded goals in total, the most of the last four, and have looked chaotic at the back in certain moments. While they have a defense filled with big names, like Virgil Van Dijk, Stefan De Vrij and Micky Van Der Ven, their performance can be impacted by their confidence in the man behind them.

Granted, Verbruggen has made some spectacular saves throughout his nations Euros campaign, but the combination of unsure defense and at times unconventional goalkeeping could come back to bite them. He is still very young however, at just 21 years old, and every minute he plays at this tournament is valuable experience he can use in what is an immensely promising, long career ahead of him.

The data clearly tells us that Spain are the overwhelming favorites to win the Euros. Pre-tournament favorites France, despite reaching the last 4 unscathed, have for the most part been a disappointment, and I personally can’t see them beating the Spanish.

However, as for England vs the Netherlands, I get the somewhat terrifying feeling that it is going to be a game decided by the barest of margins. Either way, whoever ends up winning, it will be a fascinating and extremely watchable match of the beautiful game, and the resulting final even more so.

Benji Kosartiyer
Journalist
Harry Pascoe

Football Writer

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