Spain have been the best side to watch at Euro 2024, but come up against a stiff test in the semi-final against France on Tuesday. The French should be petrified of facing the attacking trio that have got Spain this far, though.

Even when Spain were dominating international men’s football between 2008 and 2012, there was always an accusation that they played boring football. Possession was the cornerstone and build-up could often be slow, but their tiki-taka style of play couldn’t be handled by opponents.

Three successive international tournament successes brought one World Cup and two European Championship titles, but when the players that provided those trophies got older and their replacements weren’t quite up to the same level, the silverware dried up.

After a shock exit to Morocco at the 2022 World Cup, a game in which they completed 926 passes and held 77% possession but only attempted one shot on target in 120 minutes, it was clear things needed to change. They have changed under Luis De la Fuente, and for the better.

In Lamine Yamal, Nico Williams and Dani Olmo, Spain undoubtedly have three of the most talented players at Euro 2024. That’s not to say Spain’s progress to date has been entirely down to that attacking trio – far from it, with players like Fabián Ruiz, Rodri and Marc Cucurella (yes, that Marc Cucurella, Chelsea fans…) all in great form.

While Olmo has been a key player for Spain at past tournaments, Williams and Yamal offer a new proposition for opponents.

Yes, Williams was part of the Spanish squad that were dumped out of the 2022 World Cup by Morocco in the round of 16, but the winger only played 145 minutes and was often used as a roll-of-the-dice option by Luis Enrique who wanted to change things up and utilise his pace out wide to try and veer away from their possession-heavy style.

No longer an afterthought in the Spanish tactical plan, his attributes are used to the fullest, with Spain now playing to his and Yamal’s strengths.

Williams came into the European Championship this summer after good form domestically with La Liga side Athletic Club in 2023-24.

No player assisted more goals following a ball carry in the Spanish top flight last season than Williams (7), while his expected assists (xA) per 90 average of 0.30 was the third best among all players to have played at least 1,500 minutes, behind only Álex Baena (0.33) and Iago Aspas (0.31).

So far at Euro 2024, he’s averaged the highest expected assists per 90 across the tournament of players with at least 250 minutes played (0.48). Only one player has averaged higher than that over the last three European Championship tournaments: Spain’s David Silva at Euro 2016 (0.61).

Euro 2024 Expected Assists

More Spain players follow him on this list; of all players to have played at least 250 minutes at Euro 2024, teammates Yamal (0.41) and Olmo (0.40) come next.

Yamal’s chance creation has been key to Spain’s charge to the semis at this tournament, with the Barcelona youngster creating more chances (14) than any other player in De la Fuente’s squad and the fourth most of all players at the tournament.

His third assist – a lovely pass for Olmo’s opener against Germany in the quarter-finals – saw him become the first ever teenager to record three assists at a single edition of the Euros (all-time) or World Cup (on record, since 1966). He currently shares the lead at the top of the Euro 2024 assist charts with Dutchman Xavi Simons but from 39 minutes fewer.

Oh, and Yamal is only 16 years old.

Already the youngest player and goalscorer in Spanish national team history, Yamal became the youngest player to appear in the European Championship with his tournament debut in Spain’s opening game against Croatia (16 years, 338 days old).

A goal at this tournament would see him become the youngest Euros scorer of all time and overtake the current record held by Johan Vonlanthen by nearly two years. He’s had 13 attempts so far at these finals, but is still without a goal – only the now-departed Cristiano Ronaldo has had more shots without scoring in Germany this summer (23).

Yamal’s performances at Euro 2024 belie his tender age, and he has the potential to dominate European Championship records in the future.

Deployed on the right wing, but favouring his left foot, the threat posed by Yamal’s inswinging crosses from that side was evident from the goal he set up against Croatia (for Dani Carvajal) and the cross for Ruiz’s header versus Georgia in the last-16 win.

Both crosses were almost identical and near impossible to defend. Unlike Williams’ crosses, you won’t see Yamal get to the byline, with the youngster almost always preferring to cut back inside and swing in a cross with his left foot.

Lamine Yamal Crosses Euro 2024

Of course, crossing isn’t the only threat posed by Yamal. His dribbling ability has seen him average 9.1 take-ons per 90 at this tournament, a figure only surpassed by Jérémy Doku (10.9) and France’s Ousmane Dembélé (9.2) among all players to have been on the pitch for at least 250 minutes.

Yamal leads the way for shot involvements following a ball carry, too. With five shots and six chances created following a run with the ball of at least 5m, his 11 shot involvements are above every other player at the tournament.

Lamine Yamal Carrying

Unlike Williams and Yamal, Olmo is a player with plenty of tournament experience for Spain. With five games at Euro 2020 and another four appearances at the 2022 World Cup, Olmo’s been involved in some of Spain’s most recent tournament disappointments.

He’s started just one of Spain’s five games at Euro 2024 so far but is expected to play from the off against France. Olmo impressed from the bench in Spain’s quarter-final win over Germany after replacing the injured Pedri early on.

The RB Leipzig man has improved the Spanish side in all of his substitute appearances so far in the tournament, scoring after coming on against Georgia in the last 16 and adding a goal and an assist in the quarter-final on Friday.

A direct player with the ball at his feet, Olmo’s introduction into the side offers Spain a central ball-carrying threat alongside the existing wing wizardry of Williams and Yamal.

Olmo is carrying the ball up the pitch 146.1 metres per 90 minutes at Euro 2024 so far, which is the fifth highest of all attacking midfield and forward players with at least 250 minutes of action. One of the four above him is Yamal (178.6m), with Williams coming in at eight (130.0m).

Euro 2024 Progressive Carries

Olmo is also inside the top 10 for take-ons per 90 (6.1), with his take-on success rate of 66.7% the best at the finals among the 25 players to have attempted at least 15.

It’s easy to forget that Olmo, Williams and Yamal have one of the all-time leading scorers in European Championship history to feed the ball into, as well.

Only Ronaldo (14) and French legend Michel Platini (9) have more Euros goals than Spanish captain Álvaro Morata (7). With this surely Morata’s last European Championship tournament, he’ll be hoping to get closer to, or even equal, Platini’s tally this summer. He currently has 36 international goals for Spain, which is fourth in the all-time men’s national team rankings behind only David Villa (59), Raúl (44) and Fernando Torres (38).

On paper, France’s squad is probably the strongest at Euro 2024. Their defence has been breached just once all tournament, too – a Robert Lewandowski penalty in a dead-rubber group game – which is a good job considering they’ve failed to score with any of their 86 non-penalty shots at the other end of the pitch.

With the French giving opponents the lowest quality chance of scoring at Euro 2024 so far – their 0.69 non-penalty xG against per 90 the best such rate – this will be a firm test for Spain’s exciting attacking trio, but one that they should feel they can pass.

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