The Data Day at Euro 2020: No.15
Welcome to The Data Day, our daily Euro 2020 stats blog where we try and make sense of what just happened.
The Scrap in Seville
In one corner, Belgium, the best team in the world as ranked by FIFA for three years. In the other, the reigning champions Portugal, still feeling their effects of making it out of The Group of F. This one had all the hallmarks of being a classic. What we got was more of a slugfest.
Belgium’s starting XI was their oldest ever at the European Championships and the second oldest by anyone at this tournament (30y 148d). Marshalling at the back were the tried, tested and trusted trio Toby Alderweireld (32y 117d), Thomas Vermaelen (34y 064d) and Jan Vertonghen (34y 064d) who have a combined age of 102.
Portugal themselves were no spring chickens, fielding the three most experienced players in Euros history (Cristiano Ronaldo 25 apps, João Moutinho and Pepe both on 19). Pepe in fact became the oldest outfielder in the knockout stages at the Euros at 38y 121d. As such, the game was a bit of a slow burner, as both teams played out a tactical chess match that soon descended into a brawl.
Portugal’s best chance of the first half came from the position known as ‘Cristiano Ronaldo Territory’. His effort tested Thibaut Courtois but not much more. He would have two direct free-kick shots in the game, taking him to 28 direct free-kick efforts at the European Championships, yielding 0 goals.
Since making his Euros debut in 2004, he’s had more attempts at goal from free-kicks than any other nation, with Portugal themselves having 46 in total without scoring. Throw in the World Cup and that’s 52 shots and one goal from direct free-kicks from the global superstar.
The game was waiting for a moment from a big name and it come from one, just maybe not the one we expected, as Thorgan Hazard scored his second goal in three Euros games (taking him one ahead of brother Eden who was playing his ninth game) with a powerful strike from the left to give Belgium the lead. Since 2016, Belgium have scored six times from outside the box at the Euros, double the number of any other team.
Chasing the game, Portugal threw on Bruno Fernandes, João Félix and André Silva to keep the dream of retaining their crown alive. But despite restricting Belgium to two shots in the second half, Portugal couldn’t make their chances count with tempers flaring on both sides, as this contest threatened to boil over. Only Poland vs. Spain (six) had more yellow cards at Euro 2020 than this bitter duel.
Despite losing Kevin De Bruyne and later Eden Hazard to injuries, Belgium held their nerve to dump out the 2016 winners. They only needed one shot on target in the whole match but it turned out to be enough to claim a quarter-final berth. However, only two teams (Turkey and Austria both against Italy, one of which was over 120 minutes) have faced more shots than the 23 they gave up tonight, suggesting a brittleness to the Golden Generation that could be exposed later down the line.
Could this be the final hurrah in the European Championships for Cristiano Ronaldo? This was a night he won’t remember in a hurry, having four attempts on goal and creating three chances with no reward. Now he won’t have the chance to score that all-important goal to secure the men’s international goal scoring record outright at this tournament. Is this the end of the Euros line for the all-time top goal scorer? CM
Oranje Is the New Slack
As we’ve said before during Euro 2020, tournament football is more often about progression football than it is progressive football. The Netherlands were fancied to go far after winning all three of their group games, and their reward was to face the Czech Republic, who could only finish third behind England and Croatia in Group D. A foregone conclusion? Come on.
It’s easy to look at the entire game and see steady Czech progression to their completely-deserved 2-0 win but in truth the match also turned on one key minute early in the second half. Donyell Malen found himself one on one with Czech goalkeeper Tomás Vaclik who managed to superbly pluck the ball from the Dutchman’s feet before he could shoot. Within 30 seconds Vaclik’s side were at the other end of the pitch and Matthijs de Ligt was using his hand to prevent a goalscoring opportunity. Yellow turned to red for Oranje and Frank De Boer’s team had to play more than a third of the game one man down.
Our pals at OptaJoe quickly pointed out the weird red Euros card hoodoo the Dutch suffer against the Czechs, with this the fourth time out of four that it has come against representatives from that country (or a former version of it).
4 – Netherlands have been shown four red cards at the EUROs, with two coming against Czechoslovakia (both in 1976) and two against Czech Republic (2004, 2020). Spooky. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/247Qyj4n2F— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 27, 2021
More pertinent is the theory that international teams struggle more than club teams when having a player sent off. Lack of training time together can show when down to 10 men, and invariably the best coached club teams are the best sides at handling a numerical disadvantage on the pitch. Think of how England have only ever scored one goal when down to 10 men in their entire history (Raheem Sterling from the penalty spot against Iceland last September). The Netherlands didn’t look like scoring in this game either, not when they had 11 men, not with 10, not when 1-0 down and not when 2-0 down. We have analysed every Euros since 1980 and every World Cup since 1966 and in no Dutch game in that database have they gone an entire match without generating a single shot on target. Well, they have now.
Ultimately this game will generate further questions about De Boer’s decision making. Maarten Stekelenburg did not look like a reliable goalkeeper, especially with in form Tim Krul on the bench, and the Czech tactic to press and isolate Gini Wijnaldum worked a treat. The former Liverpool man completed only four passes in the first half (two of those coming in injury time) and a further six in the second half. That total of 10 is the lowest ever recorded by a Dutch outfielder in a 90-minute appearance at the European Championships. Wijnaldum was the face of the free-flowing football produced by the Dutch in the group stage. Now we have a reminder that group stages don’t really mean anything; they are just a way to get into the knockout stages and quickly forgotten, like footballing A-Levels. And what a lesson for the Netherlands to learn.
The Netherlands have won one knockout match at the European Championship since winning the tournament in 1988.— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) June 27, 2021
For the Czechs, the route to further glory now looks promising. Our predictor gives them a juicy 29% chance of reaching the semis now, while England and Denmark are, temporarily, joint favourites to reach the final, both on 29.4%. Talk of draws “opening up” is semi-nonsensical when we have just seen the fancied Dutch so outplayed, but either way, there are surely plenty more surprises to come at Euro 2020. DA
Two Through, Six to Go
Denmark and Italy progressed to the quarter-finals at Euro 2020 yesterday, and there are four teams vying for two more of the spots in the last eight on the second day of knockout action.
The first game of the day sees the Netherlands face off against Czech Republic in Budapest, with neutrals hoping for a game as exciting as when these two last met in the European Championships. In 2004, the Dutch led 2-0 before Czech Republic turned the game around to win 3-2 thanks to an 88th minute winner from Vladimir Smicer.
The Netherlands are looking to win their opening four games of a European Championship for only the second time, having last done so at Euro 2000. Current coach Frank de Boer played in every minute of their four victories to open the tournament in 2000, so will be looking to transfer that experience to his players later today.
The Dutch have been the most impressive side at pressing opposition defences during the tournament so far, with more high turnovers (open play sequences that start within 40 metres of the opponent’s goal line) than any other side in the group stages (44). Seven of those have led to shots, with two of those scored. The Czechs will need to be aware of this if they are to a chance of progressing to the quarters.
Czech Republic won their opening game of the tournament against Scotland, but this is their only victory in their last seven games at the European Championships. With the Netherlands winning every game at Euro 2020 so far, coupled with the Czech’s relatively poor record in the competition in recent times, our match predictor makes the Dutch heavy favourites in this one, at 74.1%.
Today’s late tie sees the Ron versus Rom battle, as Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo come up against each other in a shootout for the last eight.
Already the top scoring player in European Championship history with 14 goals, Ronaldo is now the top-scoring European player at major tournaments (World Cup & Euros), with his brace against France moving him beyond Miroslav Klose (19) to 21 goals. With 109 international goals for Portugal, Ronaldo is now level with Iranian legend Ali Daei as the top scoring male footballer in international history, so a goal in this game will make him outright leader.
Belgian hotshot Lukaku will be hoping to outdo his fellow Serie A striker, however. Since the end of the 2018 World Cup, he’s scored 23 goals in 21 appearances for Belgium, while also providing four assists in this run. Lukaku has already netted three goals at Euro 2020 so far, just one shy of his best return at a major tournament (four at the 2018 World Cup).
Portugal are unbeaten in their last five matches against Belgium across all competitions (W3 D2) since a 3-0 defeat in World Cup qualifying in September 1989. Our match predictor isn’t confident of a sixth in a row, however, with the Portuguese being given a 33.3% chance of progressing to the quarter-finals today. MF