The Data Day at Euro 2020: No.16
Soccer

The Data Day at Euro 2020: No.16

Welcome to The Data Day, our daily Euro 2020 stats blog where we try and make sense of what just happened.


Favourites? What Favourites?

Hugo Lloris did what was necessary to keep France from going down 2-0 from a penalty in the second half. It was Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer’s turn in the shootout, stopping Kylian Mbappé’s spot kick to send the Swiss through to the Euro 2020 quarter-finals and shake up the knockout stage earlier than anyone expected.

It was a day of supposedly defining moments erased one after the next with 14 goals in two matches. It’s the most we’ve had on a single day in Euros history with three or fewer games. Unexpected? Yes. Unexpected outcomes? One of those as well with the defending world champions and pre-tournament favourites eliminated in the Round of 16, opening the door for plenty of possibilities. For now, it’s Belgium with nearly a 30% chance to win the tournament, according to our Euro 2020 predictor.

Switzerland had lost both of their previous penalty shootouts in major tournaments (2006 World Cup v Ukraine and 2016 Euros v Poland) but converted all five of their chances against Lloris. France matched them before Mbappé’s miss. For the French superstar, it’s a tournament that ends with the most shots (14) of any individual to this point in the tournament without a goal to show for it.

Mbappe Euro 2020

The defining moment – it seemed – was going to be in the 55th minute with Switzerland on the verge of a 2-0 lead when Lloris stopped Ricardo Rodríguez’s penalty. France woke up, went the other way, and Karim Benzema scored two goals in just over four minutes from the point of the penalty. And so France supposedly arrived at Euro 2020 when in reality it was a matter minutes before they’d be headed home. That feeling was furthered when Paul Pogba added to the lead in the 75th by curling a beauty into the upper right corner from outside the area. It ended a string of 38 shots without scoring for Les Bleus and seemed to end Switzerland’s chances.

Not so, as is evident when looking at the match’s xG timeline below. The two matches today combined for a 13.04 xG mark, which is second for a single day in the tournament behind June 23 (13.71), which featured four matches.

France Switzerland xG Timeline

The Swiss got one back in the 81st minute on Haris Seferovic’s second headed goal of the match, and Switzerland momentarily thought they had equalized in the 85th minute, but Mario Gavranovic was called offside after a through ball from Rodríguez. Five minutes later, it was Gavranovic who sent it to extra time.

As for the penalty before the shootout, it was the seventh saved or missed at the tournament out of 15 and the fourth straight missed by the Swiss in all international matches. Atonement followed.

For France, it was a tournament in which they proved vulnerable with deficits in their last three matches, and that will ultimately overshadow an impressive tournament for Pogba. In addition to his goal – perhaps France’s best of the tournament – he completed 72 of 78 passes and gave France consistency in one area of the pitch while inconsistency on the back and front lines persisted from start to finish.

Pogba Passes Switzerland

Instead, the standout performers that remain are names such as Steven Zuber and Granit Xhaka. After managing three assists in Switzerland’s final group match, Zuber set up Seferovic’s first in the 15th minute and gives a team that’s not typically considered an aggressive attacking side a serious threat down the left.

Steven Zuber xA

Next up? Spain, who now have a 23.2% chance to win the tournament with France out of the way.


La Roja Rumble On

The afternoon started off with a strange occurrence. Three minutes into the match the co-commentator on ITV’s English broadcast, Emma Hayes – commenting on the peculiarity of Luis Enrique dropping Jordi Alba giving his attacking threat – casually dropped a reference to expected assists on air. In doing so, she sent analytically minded football fans swooning everywhere.

Things then got weirder.

This tournament has been no stranger to own goals. There have been nine scored at Euro 2020, as many as in all of the previous editions of competition combined. In fact, if you counted ‘own-goal’ as a standalone goalscorer it would have already matched Michel Platini’s record for the most goals scored in a single tournament.

So the fact we’ve seen another own goal at Euro 2020 isn’t weird by now. We’re used to it.

But the manner of this one was exceptionally odd. A seemingly innocuous back pass from youngster Pedri from just inside his own half was miscontrolled by Spain’s ‘keeper Unai Simon, the ball rolling under his foot and into the unguarded net. Despite it not being his fault, Pedri is unfortunately credited with the own goal, such is the occasional cruelty of football. Ironically it was the first goal by a Spanish player from outside the box at the European Championships since Raúl at Euro 2000, and the second-longest scored since 1980 behind only Patrik Schick’s absurd strike against Scotland.

After a shellshocked few minutes, Spain regained their composure and began to again dominate the ball, pushing both their full backs high up the pitch.

José Gayà, brought in for captain Alba at left-back, was one of those. It was his left-footed shot that was saved by Dominik Livakovic but rebounded to Pablo Sarabia to lash home. But not before the ball bounced off the keepers’ head and into the roof of the net, because of course it did. This was just the start of this weird and idiotic game.

Not deterred by his unmerited own goal, Pedri looked like a player beyond his tender 18 years. At 18 years and 215 days, he’s the youngest ever player to start a knockout game in a European Championship, overtaking Wayne Rooney’s record. One of Pedri’s standout skills is his ability to run with the ball at his feet. So far at Euro 2020 he’s made 113 carries (running with the ball for 5+ metres), only Aymeric Laporte has made more.

Pedri Carries Euro 2020

It was one of these driving carries that led to Spain’s second. Pedri carrying as he does so well before laying the ball out wide to Ferran Torres who crossed for César Azpilicueta to score his first goal for Spain. We told you about those high full backs.

We’ve seen a different Spain at Euro 2020 so far: they’ve been able to create more clear-cut opportunities than in both their previous European Championship victories. So far in Euro 2020 they’ve amassed 11.1 non-penalty xG. That’s already more than in both 2008 (6.8) and 2012 (10.0), despite player two fewer matches.

Unsurprisingly Spain’s total is the most of any side in the tournament so far.

Spain total non pen xG this tourmanet

Ferran Torres gave Spain their third. That was it, it was done.

But Spain had forgotten that 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in football and that this was a strange old day in Copenhagen.

First, Mislav Orsic bundled in a goalmouth scramble for the ages after a mazy Luka Modric dribble. Then Orsic turned provider, whipping in a delivish cross for Mario Pasalic, another sub, to head home. When you can make five substitutions there’s a good chance that one of them makes an impact. But for two to score to drag you back into the game? Take a bow Zlatko Dalic.

Spain v Croatia LWP

Into extra-time. Typically, 30 minutes of ‘let’s settle this on penalties’ this was anything but. And given Spain’s recent horror run of penalties – they’ve missed their last five – you can see why they were keen to get this done.

Emma Hayes called it. “Spain will want a chance to fall to Morata. This is his moment. He needs to take it.” A touch on the chest, one touch, left foot. Boom. It was 4-3.

Some might say that Morata scoring was perhaps the weirdest thing to happen today. Others who have been following his expected goals closely will say he was due. With that goal, Morata became Spain’s joint-highest scorer in the Euros along with Fernando Torres (both on five).

Croatia 3-5 Spain final shot maps

Croatia’s energy and aggression was spent.  Dani Olmo centred the ball for Mikel Oyarzabal and suddenly Spain had five and become the first team in European Championship history to score five in consecutive games. That two-goal cushion was back and this time it held.

After all that, Spain progress to their first quarter-final since Euro 2012. The last three times they’ve reached this stage. Yep? They won the whole damn thing.

I need to lie down. OH

Bleu Monday

Following their win over Portugal to qualify for the quarter-finals last night, Belgium have leapfrogged France in our tournament predictor for the first time since its release pre-tournament. That 1-0 victory, thanks to a first half Thorgan Hazard rocket, has boosted Belgium’s chances to 27.1%, above France’s 19%.

France have the opportunity to boost their chances, and possibly retake the top spot in the predictor, with a Last 16 tie against Switzerland in Bucharest.

A stereotypical gallic shrug could best sum up France’s Euro 2020 campaign so far, with a narrow victory against Germany in their opening group game followed up by draws against Hungary and Portugal in which they never really seemed to hit top gear. But they still won easily the toughest group in the opening round, so are we just being harsh on Didier Deschamps’ side? This match will be a good opportunity to see if that’s the case. 

France progressed the ball upfield 18.7 metres per sequence on average during the Euro 2020 group stages, the highest figure of any side, highlighting their ability to advance the ball after regaining possession. Much of this has been done at pace, utilizing the talents of Kylian Mbappé in attack, but in this tie they’ll face a Swiss side who are unlikely to attack at will, with a low block expected to be deployed in order to frustrate the French.

The French are currently unbeaten in competitive internationals in over two years, with their last such defeat coming against Turkey in a European Championship qualifier in June 2019. This 19-game unbeaten run has seen them win 14 times and draw the other five.

Switzerland have reached the knockout stages at each of their last four major tournament appearances (World Cup 2014, Euro 2016, World Cup 2018, Euro 2020), but they were eliminated in their first match following the group stages in each of those previous three instances. Our match predictor leans heavily on this becoming five in a row, with France having a 74.3% chance of progression compared to the Swiss chance of 25.7%. This is very similar to the chances for both the Netherlands (74.1%) and Czech Republic (25.9%) ahead of yesterday’s shock, and we all know what happened there…

France v Switzerland prediction

By the time this game kicks off in Romania, both sides will know who awaits them in the quarter-final as Spain and Croatia kick off the action in the earlier fixture of the day.

Spain stumbled their way through their first two games, drawing against Sweden and Poland – which eventually cost them top spot in the group – before turning on the style with a 5-0 win over Slovakia in the final match.

The Spanish might be scarred by Last 16 eliminations in their last two tournaments; losing to Italy at Euro 2016 before an unexpected defeat to hosts Russia at the 2018 World Cup. They’ll need to be more clinical in this match than they were in their three group games, with Luis Enrique’s team underperforming their xG by three goals – not helped by two penalty misses. Those misses from the spot mean that Spain have missed five consecutive penalties in internationals, an extremely nervy statistic considering this game could end up going to a penalty shootout.

Ivan Perisic has been directly involved in six goals in his last five appearances at major tournaments for Croatia, but he will be missing from this match due to a positive covid case. As a result, the Croatians will need to lean on the experience of Luka Modric even more than before, who against Scotland in the final group stage game became the oldest player to score for Croatia at the European Championships (35 years & 286 days).

Croatia may have reached the 2018 World Cup final, but our match predictor makes them big underdogs in this meeting (22.7%) and expects Spain to turn on the style to make it through to the quarter-final tie in Saint Petersburg on Friday. MF

Croatia v Spain prediction