Italy clinched their second European Championship title last Sunday after beating England in the Euro 2020 final on penalties.
It was the same old story for the Three Lions, who have now lost seven of their last nine penalty shootouts in major international tournaments.
To add to the misery, it means that 55 years without winning a trophy continues.
Anyway…earlier I posted an article about a Euro 2020 Stats Tracker I created in Google Sheets. If you haven’t already: have a read, download it, and play around.
I wanted to pick out a few interesting insights from the tournament and elaborate on them.
Let’s get straight to it…
Coronavirus Hits Stadium Capacities
Due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the only stadium allowed to operate at full capacity was the Puskás Aréna in Budapest, Hungary.
This meant it had the luxury of hosting by far the most fans in the group stage—averaging above 55,500 over three matches. To put that into context, the St. Petersburg-based Krestovsky Stadium was the next highest, but it only managed 26,264 when Russia faced Belgium there.
Come the knockout phase, the cap was lifted at Wembley so 41,973 fans could attend a mammoth last-16 clash between England and Germany.
This was superseded after the capacity limit was raised again to over 60,000 for the semi-finals and final.
Predictably, the final saw the highest official attendance (67,173) of the tournament. However, with reports that at least 5,000 ticketless fans stormed into Wembley, the actual number inside was certain to be greater.
Immortal Italy Continue Unbeaten Streak
Champions Italy were the only side to win all their matches, although three of their four knockout games went to extra-time, and two of these were settled on penalties.
It was no fluke though. Before the tournament commenced, the Azzurri had already strung together an impressive 27-match unbeaten run. On completion, that became 34.
2008 and 2012 winners Spain could only muster one win in 90 minutes, despite reaching the semi-finals.
Two other powerhouse nations, France and Germany recorded solitary victories as both crashed out in the round of 16.
Five teams failed to win a match, but two of these — North Macedonia and Turkey — didn’t even obtain a single point.
Intriguingly, Denmark lost their first two group matches but still finished second, going on to win two knockout ties before bowing out to England in the semis.
Spain and Italy Emerge as Goal Kings
Spain and Italy scored the most goals, with 13 each. La Roja averaged slightly more though, notching 2.17 per game compared to the Azzurri’s 1.86.
Finland, Scotland and Turkey were the lowest scorers, racking up a single goal each in their group matches before getting dumped out.
Spain were also involved in the highest-scoring match of the tournament — a 5–3 victory over Croatia. It did take extra time for two of the goals though.
And there were just two stalemates: Spain vs Sweden and England vs Scotland.
Squandering Spain Fail to Capitalise
Spain were a paradox. Despite just labelling them ‘goal kings’, there is something that contradicts this.
The Iberian side have long been renowned for being the possession masters of international football. Remarkably, they clocked up a whopping 85.1% against Sweden — the most since records began.
In fact, they broke two other Euros records as well: most passes completed in a first half (419) and an entire match (917).
All three of these were already held by La Roja. Coincidentally, it was nine years ago to the day when they originally set them by demolishing the Republic of Ireland 4–0.
Four of the five matches with highest possession mismatches also featured Spain. This doesn’t come as a surprise though given they averaged 72.85% across the whole tournament along with the highest passing accuracy (89.57%.
In contrast, surrendering the ball was a reoccurring theme for Sweden in all their matches, but they didn’t have the lowest average possession (33.93%) — Hungary did (29.37%).
Despite Spain’s dominance, in their opener against Sweden, they created five excellent scoring chances but didn’t convert any.
Having drawn with Poland and struggling again to burst the net, there was some respite against an impotent Slovakia side and World Cup finalists Croatia. However, it was déjà vu in the Switzerland and Italy games—scoring only once again in both.
Overall, they averaged 3.67 clear-cut chances per match but were guilty of failing to convert too often when it mattered most.
Italy Live Up to Their Reputation
Truth be told, the Italy football team has long had a reputation for simulation, gamesmanship and professional fouling. Just look in the final how veteran Giorgio Chiellini blatantly tugged Bukayo Saka’s shirt as the fledgling winger was about to maraud towards goal.
Based on this, it wasn’t surprising they committed by far the most fouls, albeit having played several extra games compared to Turkey, who averaged the highest.
They also accumulated 12 yellow cards, although five did come in the final match.
In defence of the Azzurri, they were the most fouled side, and actually committed fewer fouls than their opponents did.
North Macedonia’s relatively low foul count combined with a leading average of 2.67 yellow cards indicates when they did tackle, they tackled hard.
There were only six red cards, and Wales earned a third of them.
Ethan Ampadu was shown a straight red for a reckless challenge on Federico Bernardeschi during the last group match in Italy.
In the following game, Harry Wilson picked up a red towards the end of the Denmark hiding.
Three Lions’ Formidable Defence
Much had been made of England’s watertight defence en route to the final. Before the penultimate match against Denmark, they had kept seven consecutive clean sheets and conceded just once in 11 games.
A stunning free-kick from Mikkel Damsgaard ended the clean sheet run, but it was Leonardo Bonucci who bundled in the first goal from open play in 13 games.
Ukraine, who were the last of the third-placed sides to qualify for the knockout stage, conceded the most. Five goals in the group phase were followed by another against Sweden, before getting heavily thumped 4–0 by England.
England’s Emphasis on Quality Chances
Thanks to the 19 shots Italy registered in the final, they leapfrogged Spain to become the highest shooters of the competition.
Shot-shy England only fired in half that number — and out of the four semi-finalists, it was easily the fewest.
When you look at average shots taken, it becomes clearer that England were an anomaly. Averaging nine a match put them fifth bottom, behind the likes of North Macedonia, Turkey, Poland and Scotland, who all exited early.
England’s cagey style meant they were never going to create a catalogue of chances, but when they did, they were likelier to be quality ones.
They were joint-second for clear cut chances, with Spain out in front. 16 out of 63 shots equates to 25.4%, which meant a higher percentage were gaping opportunities compared to Spain (19.13%) and Italy’s (12.7%).
There you have it. Few can deny that Italy were deserving winners and that England overachieved by reaching their first final since 1966.
Having watched most of the matches in the tournament, I remember saying after the group stage that Italy were the side that had impressed me most.
Whilst data is never the be-all and end-all when analysing performance, there are enough indications in there to justify Italy as the best-performing side.