The Data Day at Euro 2020: No.18
Welcome to The Data Day, our daily Euro 2020 stats blog where we try and make sense of what just happened.
Somebody’s 0 Has Got To Go
In the pick of the quarter-final matchups, two teams that had beaten all challengers so far met in a heavyweight clash in Munich, as Roberto Mancini’s Italy, who’d made light work of their group stage before labouring over the line against Austria, took on Roberto Martinez’s Belgium, who were still seeking for the perfect performance to go alongside their wins.
Both teams were respectful of each other’s stature as we had a tentative opening 10 minutes. After all, to go along their perfect record of four wins at Euro 2020, both had won all 10 qualifying games to get here (a joint European Championships record if we include qualifying) so it was natural that both were happy to test each other out and ease into the proceedings.
Soon though, things picked up in this high-stakes, high-energy contest of counterpunching. After having a set-piece goal ruled out for offside, Italy continually penned the static Belgium in with their pressing on the front foot.
This approach reaped dividends on the half hour mark as Inter’s Nicolò Barella mopped up a Belgian mistake to net his sixth international goal but first at a major tournament. He was the sixth different scorer for the Azzurri at this tournament, their most at the Euros since 2000.
Barella went from goal scorer to provider as Italy were in dreamland just before half-time. Lorenzo Insigne double their margin with an excellently taken goal as he unleashed an effort from outside the box. That was the Azzurri’s 11th strike at Euro 2020, Italy’s most goals at a tournament since winning the World Cup in 2006 (12 then). Is the defensively sound and cautious Italy of old dead?
Belgium looked out for the count, and they needed a lifeline. Step up teenager Jéremy Doku. He became the youngest Belgian to start a knockout match at either the Euros or World Cup (19y 36d) and his exuberance on the wing was a problem for Italy to deal with, with Giovanni di Lorenzo shoving him off the field to give Belgium a penalty just before half-time.
Doku is the first teenager to win a penalty in a European Championship match since Wayne Rooney v France for England in 2004. Doku completed eight dribbles in the match, the most at Euro 2020.
Naturally, Belgium relied upon their all-time top goalscorer to do what he does best. Romelu Lukaku duly converted to match his goal tally from the 2018 World Cup – he’s the only Belgian to score four goals at a major tournament and has now done it twice.
Lukaku’s penalty meant that no Belgian player has scored more goals than him at either the European Championships (six) or the World Cup (five). He’s now only one goal behind Thierry Henry’s record of 12 goals in major tournaments too, with Henry part of the Belgian backroom staff at this tournament.
Three years on to the day from when they found themselves 2-0 down at half-time against Japan, Belgium needed another miracle second-half. They failed to have a shot in the opening 15 minutes of the restart, before they somehow conspired to not score as Doku, De Bruyne and Lukaku couldn’t conjure up an equaliser. In fact, Belgium’s stuttering attack was their undoing in the end, mustering just four shots in total in the second half.
The match continued to swing like a pendulum back and forth and as such, we started to see the effects of an enduring contest. It completely passed Nacer Chadli by as he made an unfortunate substitute cameo that lasted four minutes, while one of the stars of the tournament Leandro Spinazzola came off via stretcher, with his Euro 2020 seemingly over.
Italy’s metronome Marco Verratti came off too as Mancini looked to shore up the defence. Verratti completed 83 of 88 passes in the match, creating three chances, winning three fouls and providing an assist – not a bad night of action for the leading player for chances created still in the tournament (12).
This was just Martinez’s fifth defeat in charge of Belgium in 61 matches (W47 D9), but it might be the one that stings the most for the Golden Generation, as Roberto Mancini’s tactics outfoxed him. For Italy, they march onto a fifth semi-final appearance at the Euros with 13 wins on the spin under their belt, taking out arguably the one of the biggest contenders left. With Spain also feeling the exertions of their quarter-final clash earlier in the day, will either team have much left to give? CM
Sommer of Love
Tournament football has its own rhythms, its own laws. Switzerland and Spain were involved in two of the finest European Championships games on Monday, both of which went to extra-time, so everyone was rightly looking forward to their meeting in Russia this evening. Naturally, then, the first-half was functional at best. No shots on target from the Swiss, who were missing the suspended Granit Xhaka and then lost Breel Embolo to injury after 23 minutes.
Only one first half shot on target from Spain, but by that stage they were already 1-0 up thanks to a goal from Euro 2020 breakout star Own Goal, who rattled home his 10th, assisted by Jordi Alba. That’s three own goals Spain have benefited from at this tournament. Sounds a lot, is a lot.
At half-time Switzerland’s top passer was Yann Sommer, which is not what you want from your goalkeeper. What you want is saves! (More on those later). Switzerland played well in the early stages of the second-half and justifiably equalised on 68 minutes through Xherdan Shaqiri, a man more suited to international tournaments than he is runs of consecutive appearances in the Premier League.
And talking of the Premier League, Michael Oliver, the English referee, pivoted the entire match in the 77th minute by sending off Remo Freuler for a tackle on Gerard Moreno. Was it a red? Yes, we saw Oliver brandishing the card. Should it have been a red? Maybe, maybe not. It was one of those/them. What it did do was turn the match into 40 minutes of attack against defence as Spain went: pass-pass-pass-pass-shot on target, oh, saved by Sommer.
Two shots on target in 90 minutes for Spain, eight in extra-time. That’s quite the increase. Yet none of them found their way past the increasingly godlike figure of Sommer, a busy man but also a calm man. His 15 saves in the knockout stages at Euro 2020 is the most by any goalkeeper in the competition’s recorded history. His teammates didn’t have a shot of any kind after their equaliser, but it wasn’t that sort of game. They had to hope Sommer would carry them to a penalty shootout for the second time this week, and he did.
Looking at the xG race chart above it looks like Spain were robbed in the game but in truth the red card changed everything. Switzerland had earned their chance to win with spot-kicks after doing the same to France on Monday. They became the fourth side to go to penalties twice at one edition of the Euros, after England in 1996, France in 1996 and Poland in 2016. The three previous teams all lost their second shootout, but they didn’t have Yann Sommer did they? All would be fine.
All wasn’t fine. In one of the lowest quality shootouts seen in the modern game, Spain edged it 3-1, with Mikel Oyarzabal scoring the winning penalty. Switzerland actually failed to score a single penalty in their shootout against Ukraine in the 2006 World Cup, so this was theoretically better, but after entertaining everyone this week, their wait to reach a first ever semi-final in a major tournament goes on. Spain sneak through after scoring once from 28 shots, the most they’ve ever recorded in a tournament game. Our predictor currently gives them a 32.4% chance of winning Euro 2020 but if they are to do so they surely need to find a clinical finisher from somewhere. DA