The Data Day at Euro 2020: No.4
Welcome to The Data Day, our daily Euro 2020 blog where we try and make sense of what just happened.
830 Cuts, No Goals
Different midfielders, same midfield, same difficulty with getting three points from the first match of a major tournament.
After a first half in which a goal or more felt certain, Spain settled for a goalless draw against Sweden as Group E kicked off. It was the first match of Euro 2020 to end goalless after Spain set records for the highest possession figure (85%) and successful passes (830) in a Euros match in recorded history. Yes, that’s 830 successful passes.
La Roja have just one win in their last six opening matches at major tournaments, but even that victory didn’t translate to success (1-0 win v. Czech Republic at Euro 2016). Spain’s draw tonight against Sweden extends their longest winless run to four games at major tournaments (D2 L2).
Despite some uncertainly in the squad duo to Covid-19, Spain were their typical ball-dominant selves. In the opening 20 minutes, Sweden completed just two passes in the attacking half of the pitch, yet they still managed perhaps the best chance of the first 45 minutes, with Alexander Isak hitting the post via a deflected effort. Spain’s 303 first-half passes in the attacking half are the most in a European Championship finals opening 45 minutes dating to at least 1980 (start of our complete records). Sweden’s 38 were the fewest.
The opening 45 minutes ended highest combined first-half xG (1.63) of the tournament ahead of Netherlands-Ukraine (1.38).
Koke could have scored twice, Álvaro Morata easily could have had one and Dani Olmo put a header on target that forced a strong save from Sweden keeper Robin Olsen. In the second half, Olsen stopped a Gerard Moreno from six yards in the 90th minute to preserve the point. Pablo Sarabia then had a Jordi Alba cross glance off of his shin in extra time.
It was often pretty to watch early with the midfield and full-backs actively cycling through possession, but that waned as the match went on. Spain’s sequence time of 18.8 seconds was more than three seconds more than next-highest Belgium, while their 6.9 passes per sequence and 90.5% passing accuracy also unsurprisingly lead the tournament.
But Olsen came up big to help earn Sweden a point with a full goal prevented, which is second in the tournament to Czech Republic’s Tomás Valik.
For Sweden, if they weren’t going to score from Isak’s first-half chance that Marcos Llorente defended off the post, they probably weren’t going to score. And if they didn’t score from Marcus Berg’s sitter at the far post after Isak worked through three Spanish defenders on the other side of the box in the 60th minute, it definitely wasn’t going to happen.
Spain’s chances to win the group dipped to 62.0%, but their chances to progress are still 95.1% according to our predictor model. Sweden’s chances to reach the last 16 are 77.9%.
It’s Poland not goal-land. We really should have learnt this by now. Once again qualification was a fairly simple affair and once again Poland are not showing that same composure and creativity in the actual tournament. They opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a game against Slovakia which, on paper, was their easiest task of the three. Conceding the first-ever own goal scored by a goalkeeper, which also happened to be the earliest own goal in Euros history (18 minutes) was not an ideal start, yet the second-half started just the way manager Paulo Sousa would have wanted, with a goal 32 seconds into the second period.
The stage was set, then, for Poland to start finding their star striker Robert Lewandowski more effectively and go on and win the game. Is that what happened? No, it did not. Instead Grzegorz Krychowiak collected a second yellow card in the 62nd minute, and seven minutes later Slovakia regained the league lead thanks to a delightful strike by newly-minted goal machine Milan Škriniar.
Poland are left to contemplate the fact that they have never scored more than one goal in a game at the European Championships. Quite a few longstanding yet-to-happen records have fallen in this Euros so far (Italy scoring more than two goals in a game, England winning their opening match, Scotland conceding a goal from 50 yards) but Poland’s woes continue. Possibly the only positive about Poland’s scoring at Euros is it continues to resemble the binary solo in the song ‘Robot’ by Flight of the Conchords: 0-1-0-1-1-0-1-0-1-1-1-1
Should Lewandowski offer more? Possibly, but he quite clearly doesn’t enjoy the service he gets at Bayern, and by ending the Slovakia game without a single shot on target he did something he only did in one Bayern game in the whole of 2020-21. His record at major tournaments is now two goals across three Euros and a World Cup. 35 shots and all he has to show for it is as many tournament goals as John Stones and one fewer than Nicklas Bendtner. Poland can still progress in Euro 2020 but they’ll need to show a lot more ingenuity and craft against Sweden and Spain.
Le Freak, C’est Schick
A lot of huff, plenty of puff, but Scotland couldn’t blow the Czech defensive house down at Hampden Park. The 2-0 defeat in their Group D opener leaves Scotland with a difficult but not impossible chance of making it to the knockout stages of a major international tournament for the first time.
Before kick-off, The Scots had a 48.3% chance of progressing from the group to the Last 16. Following this loss, that chance has fallen to 15.4% – a cruel blow to Steve Clarke’s side ahead of tricky games against rivals England and Croatia. As it stands the only team with a lower chance of progressing to the knockout stages at Euro 2020 are North Macedonia (13.3%).
Scotland had the better chances overall, with 1.85 xG from 19 shots – over double the Czech Republic’s 0.85. But they were undone by two very different Patrik Schick goals, which saw the Czechs snaffle the three points.
In our preview we highlighted the Czech threat from set-pieces in qualification and it was from the second phase of a corner than Schick opened the scoring with a first-half header. While that effort will probably only be remembered by fans of Scotland and the Czech Republic, his second goal will go down as one of the most memorable in tournament history.
With a strike from 49.7 yards out lobbing the stranded David Marshall in the Scotland goal, Schick scored the longest-range goal ever seen in recorded European Championship finals history (1980-2021). Scotland won the game on expected goals, the Czechs responded with the most unexpected goal yet see at Euro 2020.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom: Scotland’s best player was undoubtedly left-back Andy Robertson. The captain created six chances in the game for his side, the most by a player in a Euro 2020 match so far with only Gary McAllister against Germany in 1992 (10) creating more in a single Euros game for Scotland.
The Scots will hope to welcome back the injured Kieran Tierney for Friday evening’s crunch tie with England at Wembley, which should make them a much tougher proposition as they look for a point against their arch-rivals.
After neighbours England started with a victory in Group D, Scotland will be looking to do the same in their meeting with the Czech Republic to kick off day four at Euro 2020.
The Scots’ participation this summer is their first appearance at a European Championship since 1996 and they haven’t progressed through the group stage in any of their previous 10 attempts at a major international tournament. Our predictor gives them a 48.3% chance of doing so in this tournament, just shy of the Czech Republic (49%). That makes this match vital for both sides, with tricky meetings with England and Croatia to follow. Our match predictor gives Scotland the edge at 39%, and why not when they have beaten their opponents in their last three meetings?
Scotland will need to be wary of the Czech’s threat from set-pieces if they are to prevail in Glasgow this afternoon. 54% of the Czech Republic’s goals in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign came from set pieces (7/13), the joint-highest ratio of any side to qualify for the tournament.
Steve Clarke’s side are unbeaten in five matches coming into this fixture, but their two wins in this run came against lowly Luxembourg and the Faroe Islands – however, a 2-2 draw away at the Netherlands earlier this month shows that they can mix it with the bigger nations too.
The second match of the day gives us the opportunity to see current FIFA Player of the Year Robert Lewandowski in action, as Poland face Slovakia in Saint Petersburg.
Lewandowski was selected as one of our Twenty Players to Watch at Euro 2020 for obvious reasons. He enjoyed an exceptional domestic season at Bayern Munich with 48 goals in 40 matches, including a record-breaking 41 in the German Bundesliga. However, international tournaments are a different kettle of fish for the hotshot striker, as he’s scored only one goal in his last 10 games in the World Cup and European Championships combined.
Slovakia have qualified for the knockout stages in both of their previous international tournament appearances, at the World Cup in 2010 and at Euro 2016. We give them the lowest chance of getting to the last 16 from Group E at 31.4%, but an unexpected victory in this match would both improve their chances and dent Poland’s (currently 69.6%).
Our match predictor gives Poland a great chance of picking up the win here, at 59.7% compared to Slovakia’s 16.4%, but if the Poles don’t improve on their pre-tournament form, then we could see a shock here. They have won just one of their last seven matches and that came against minnows Andorra in March.
The final game of the day takes place in Seville, as 2008 and 2012 European Championship winners Spain host Sweden.
Spain are overwhelming favourites both in this match (75.6%) and to top Group E (72.8%) but will need to be wary of a Swedish team who have won all five internationals they’ve played in 2021.
Despite being an international football powerhouse across the last two decades, Spain often start tournaments slowly, and they have won only one of their last five opening matches across World Cups and European Championships (1-0 v Czech Republic, Euro 2016). Sweden have failed to make it out of the group stages in the last three European Championships, with their last knockout appearance coming back in 2004. Our predictor gives them a good chance of breaking that poor run this time out, at 68.8% to progress, but they are more likely to finish either second (35%) or third (33.5%) than shock everyone to win the group ahead of Spain (11%).