By John Parolin, ESPN Stats & Information
Spain won its third-straight major tournament title Sunday, finishing a successful EURO 2008 title defense with a 4-0 win over Italy in Kiev.
Spain is the first team in history to win three major tournaments (EURO 2008, World Cup 2010 and EURO 2012) by exorcising a historical demon, beating the Italians for the first time at a major tournament. Italy previously had a 3-0-4 record against Spain in World Cup and EURO competitions.
Spain defended its European Championship by doing what it does best: creating and exploiting a possession disparity in the attacking third. Spain completed 179 of 227 passes into the attacking third against Italy (78.9 percent), while holding the Italians to 54.9 percent (67 of 122) passing into the attacking third.
Spain’s higher completion percentage stemmed from attempting high-percentage passes- The average Spanish pass into the attacking third traveled 16.0 yards, while Italy’s average pass traveled over seven yards further (23.2 yards).
Spain opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a David Silva header that capped off an impressive start for La Furia Roja. In the opening 15 minutes, the Spanish had 44 touches in the attacking third, tied (with themselves vs Ireland) for the most in the opening 15 minutes of a match this tournament.
Down 2-0 and without any substitutions left in the 60th minute, any chance the Italians had of climbing back in faded when Thiago Motta left with an apparent hamstring injury. Over the last 30 minutes of the match, Spain had a 237-99 passes completed advantage. After the Motta injury, Spain had a 17-0 touches in the box advantage.
Spain posted the second-best completion percentage on passes into the penalty area in a game this tournament. Spain completed 22 of 41 (53.7 pct) passes into the box and scored three times off those passes, while Italy completed only seven of 27 passes into the box (25.9 pct).
Italy’s midfield wizard Andrea Pirlo completed one of eight passes into the box (12.5 pct), his worst percentage of the tournament and worst in any game since completing one of eight (12.5 pct) for Juventus in a 1-0 win Jan. 8 at Lecce.
Pirlo wasn’t the only Italian who struggled. Striker Mario Balotelli finished the match with 33 touches in the attacking third, his second-highest total in a tournament game. However, for the first time this tournament (including his 19-minute substitute appearance against Ireland), Balotelli failed to record a single touch in the box.
Spain finished the tournament with 1,087 completed passes into the attacking third over six games, more than Ireland, Greece, Sweden, Poland and Denmark combined (1,068 in 16 games).
By John Parolin, ESPN Stats & Information
Spain and Italy will meet Sunday in Kiev in the EURO 2012 Final, the fourth EURO final between former group opponents. Italy and Spain drew 1-1 on Jun. 10, and Italy is unbeaten (3-0-4) at major tournaments against the Spanish.
Historically, Italy is the only side Spain has never beaten in at least five major tournament matches. However, Spain is playing for history of its own.
Winners of EURO 2008 and World Cup 2010, Spain looks to be the first team to win three straight major tournaments as well as the first to repeat as EURO champions. A Spain win would make La Furia Roja the second team to win the EUROs three times (Germany).
Italy’s last appearance in a EURO final was 2000, falling to France 2-1 in extra time. The Italians have not won the European Championship since 1968, a 2-0 replay win against Yugoslavia.
The Italians were opportunistic in the group stage draw against Spain, with Antonio Di Natale’s first touch of the game a 61st-minute goal after entering as a sub five minutes before.
Di Natale converted the only pass he received from midfielder Andrea Pirlo in the match to open the scoring. The matchup between Pirlo and Spain’s Xavi in the midfield was a microcosm of the match.
Xavi had over twice as many touches (121) as Pirlo (49) in the match and had a 10-3 advantage in passes completed into the penalty area. Pirlo created a single chance in the match, assisting on Di Natale’s goal with a perfectly-weighted pass.
Spain equalized three minutes later when Cesc Fabregas finished a David Silva pass. Spain pushed for a winner after Fernando Torres entered in the 74th minute, but could not crack the defense.
Overall, Spain had a 239-85 advantage on touches in the attacking third in their group match. There was a similar dynamic in Italy’s semifinal win against Germany, as the Germans posted a 249-92 touches advantage in the attacking third.
Germany had a 38-25 edge in the first 20 minutes. Once Mario Balotelli put the Italians up, the Azzurri were content to defend, and the disparity grew to 211-67 over the last 70 minutes of the match.
Balotelli recorded only 10 touches in the attacking third, his tournament-low in a start. However, his brace (on his only two shots on target) exemplified the attacking efficiency the Italians need when conceding such a drastic possession advantage.
Continued opportunistic finishing would be critical for an Italian win, especially when Spain has controlled the ball better than any other team in the tournament.
Spain has completed 909 passes into the attacking third in its five games, or 86 more than the bottom four teams - Ireland, Greece, Sweden and Poland - combined in their 13 games. Italy’s ability to defend against Spain’s possession-heavy style will decide the outcome.
ESPN’s Soccer Power Index rates Spain a 72.4 percent favorite to win the title. Spain is ranked first in SPI, based on offensive and defensive ratings that are each about 50 percent better than Italy, which SPI ranks 15th.
By John Parolin and Zack Singer, ESPN Stats & Information
Italy ousted Germany from EURO 2012 with a 2-1 win in Warsaw behind a pair of goals from Mario Balotelli. The Italians are headed to Kiev to face Spain, who advanced yesterday on 4-2 penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw with Portugal.
Balotelli had only 10 touches in the attacking third and three total shots against the Germans, but netted both of his shots on target. It’s the fewest touches Balotelli has had in the attacking third in any start this tournament.
Balotelli’s brace gives him three goals at EURO 2012, and ties him with Antonio Cassano for the most goals ever by an Italian at the European Championship.
The Italians held off German pressure to advance. Germany posted a 249-92 touches advantage in the attacking third on Thursday.
Through the first 20 minutes, the Germans had only a 38-25 edge until Mario Balotelli scored the first Italian goal. The Italians were content to defend after gaining the lead, and the disparity grew to 211-67 over the last 70 minutes of the match.
Germany tried attacking from the wings against the centralized Italian defense. The Germans had 72 percent of their total touches from the left or right third of the field, while the Italians had 46 percent of their touches in the central third.
Germany’s reliance on the wings led to tournament-high totals in crosses attempted (45) and completed (11), but Germany’s 24 completion percentage on crosses ranked 28th in a game this tournament.
Italy finished with 32 total clearances, 25 of which came from its own penalty area (both tournament highs). England posted 25 total clearances against Italy in its quarterfinal clash that went to extra-time. The previous high for clearances out of a team’s defensive penalty area was 17, by Greece in its quarterfinal game against Germany.
Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo was named UEFA’s Man of the Match. Pirlo completed 60 of his 65 passes (92 percent) against Germany on Thursday. Pirlo has now improved his passing percentage in three straight games, topping 80 percent in each contest.
By Zack Singer, ESPN Stats & Information
Longtime rivals Germany and Italy square off in Warsaw on Thursday for a spot in the EURO 2012 Final.
Germany has only failed to advance to the final once in six previous European Championship Semifinal appearances, in 1988. Italy has never won a European Championship Semifinal, advancing to the 1968 Final on a coin toss, and winning a shootout to make the 2000 Final.
The Italians are undefeated against Germany at major tournaments, including two draws at the European Championships.
Germany eased into the semis with a 4-2 win over Greece. Die Mannschaft pressured Greece throughout the game, finishing with 349 touches in the attacking third and completing 271 passes into the attacking third. Both were single-game highs for any game at the European Championships since 1980.
Mesut Özil was the star of Germany’s quarterfinal win, with two assists on chipped passes. Germany has attempted only 108 chipped passes in the tournament, the fewest of any team. Despite rarely using this style of pass, Germany is tied for the tournament lead in assists on chipped passes (3).
Ball control has been a staple of the German attack at EURO 2012. The Germans are second in touches, touches in the attacking third, and touches in the box, trailing Spain.
One reason Germany has had so much possession of the ball is that its rarely given it away, committing just 39 turnovers, fewer than every knockout stage team except Portugal.
Italy’s place in the semis came via penalties, after drawing 0-0 with England. Despite not scoring, the Italians dominated the match, completing 801 passes, the second-most for any team at EURO 2012.
Andrea Pirlo will long be remembered for converting a chipped penalty kick with his side trailing in the shootout against England.
But Pirlo dominated play long before his signature moment, finishing with 154 touches, 39 more than anyone else on the team. Pirlo’s 118 completed passes were 23 more than any other Italian, and 88 of those passes originated in the middle third of the field.
The midfield has been the key for Italy throughout the tournament. Italy has 1,409 touches in the middle third, second to Spain, but leads the tournament in chances created on passes from the same area, with 17.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is available for Germany despite a nagging ankle injury. Schweinsteiger completed 92.4 percent of his passes against Greece, and had the second-most passes completed and attempted on the team.
Italy expects Giorgio Chiellini (hamstring injury), Daniele De Rossi (sciatic nerve problem) and Ignazio Abate (left leg injury) to be available. The only player suspended due to card accumulation is Italy’s Christian Maggio, thanks to the caution he picked up after coming on for Abate against England.
The winner of this match plays Spain in the final on Sunday in Kiev.
By John Parolin, ESPN Stats & Information
Spain advanced 4-2 on penalties after a tightly contested 0-0 draw in Donetsk with Portugal. Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo, set to take the fifth kick for Portugal, did not participate in the shootout despite converting 23 of 25 penalty kicks (including shootouts) in the past two La Liga and Champions League seasons.
After the French failed to handle Spain by sitting back and defending, Portugal started out by taking a more offensive approach to containing the Spanish attack.
Spain held a narrow 65-55 touches in the final third advantage at halftime. As the match went on that disparity grew, but Spain couldn’t convert a 138-54 advantage into a goal over the final 75 minutes.
Spain outshot opponents by an average of over 10 shots per match in its first four games, but only outshot Portugal 11-10 on Wednesday.
The wing play from both sides was poor. The teams combined to complete two of their 43 crossing attempts, the worst percentage in a game this tournament.
Portugal entered the match having completed the second-most crosses (22) of any team at EURO 2012. However, the Portuguese completed only 1-of-19 crosses (5 percent) against Spain, the fourth-worst percentage of any team at the tournament.
Spain had averaged 14.5 crosses per game in its first four games, completing 26 percent of attempts. Against Portugal, Spain completed 1-of-24 crosses (4 percent), the third-worst in a game this tournament.
While Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty kick status will dominate the conversation, his teammate on the opposite wing had his worst game of the tournament. Nani finished with 37 total touches in 120 minutes after averaging 46.5 per game in his first four games. Nani created 13 chances in his first four games, and failed to create one against Spain.
La Furia Roja posted a tournament-low passing percentage (81 percent) and completion percentage on passes into the attacking third (71 percent). For the tournament, Spain has completed 909 passes into the attacking third in its five games, or 86 more than the bottom four teams (Ireland, Greece, Sweden and Poland) did in their 13 games combined.
By Jonathan Costa, ESPN Stats & Information
Portugal and Spain meet in an elimination match for the second straight major tournament, following up their meeting in the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup.
Spain was victorious 1-0 in that match en route to winning its first ever World Cup. Portugal is still seeking its first major tournament trophy and a win over Spain would put Portugal into its second major tournament final, having previously reached the final at Euro 2004.
When these two teams met in South Africa, Portugal was without two players who have made a major impact at this summer’s tournament – Nani and João Moutinho.
Moutinho has completed 178 passes at an 84 percent success rate, both numbers surpassing what any Portuguese midfielder accomplished in South Africa. Nani, meanwhile, currently leads all Portuguese players with 13 chances created and his two assists are tied with Moutinho for the team lead.
Portugal’s passing as a team is leaving something to be desired at this tournament. It has the second-fewest passes completed and second-worst completion rate among teams that made the quarterfinals.
The driving force behind Portugal’s success has been the play of Cristiano Ronaldo. His three goals have him tied for the tournament lead and his 29 shots are more than any other player has taken so far.
His headed goal against Czech Republic was his sixth career goal at EURO, tied with Nuno Gomes for most by a Portuguese player and leaving him just one behind England’s Alan Shearer for second-most in EURO history. He also became the first Portuguese player to score at five different major tournaments.
Unsurprisingly, La Furia Roja also have the tournament’s best passing display so far with a tournament-high 2,779 passes completed. Spain’s 78 percent completion rate in the attacking third also leads all teams and its 60 chances created are second-most in the tournament behind Italy’s 77.
Keying the passing charge from Spain’s midfield is Xavi. He has completed 416 passes and has 19 chances created, both which lead the tournament.
Spain comes into this semifinal with a 299-minute shutout streak, 25 minutes shy of the longest single-EURO streak, a 324-minute run by Italy in 1980.
One key to its near-perfect defense has been its ability to simply keep the ball away from its opponent. Spain has a 61 percent possession rate in its first four matches, more than any other team.
Spain is limiting opponents to a 62 percent completion rate in its defensive third, best among the four semifinalists, and has also limited its opponents to just 17 chances created in the attack third.
The winner of this match takes on the winner of Thursday’s Germany-Italy match in the final on Sunday in Kiev.
By Jason York, ESPN Stats & Information
Italy advanced past England in the EURO 2012 quarterfinals Sunday on penalty kicks, but the Italians carried the majority of play with a dominating performance in the midfield.
Midfielder Andrea Pirlo was the midfield maestro against England as he orchestrated his team’s possession by playing in a deeper, holding role. Pirlo had 68 percent of his touches during the game in the middle third of the field and 88 of his 118 completed passes (75 percent) originated from that area as well.
Italy was able to hold possession against England by dominating the midfield. Italy completed 801 passes against England, the second-best total of the tournament, and 464 of its pass completions originated from the middle third of the field.
Italy also had its best game of the tournament in terms of completed passes into the attacking third of the field. Italy completed 234 passes into the attacking third, the third-best single-game total of the tournament and created 28 scoring chances from those passes, tied for the highest single-game total since the advent of group play in 1980.
England captain Steven Gerrard struggled to complete passes into the attacking third of the field against Italy. Gerrard was only 4 of 15 on passes attempts into the attacking third. Gerrard had completed at least 11 passes into the attacking third in each of England’s first three games of the tournament.
Wayne Rooney’s impact on the game in terms of touches in the attacking third of the field progressively decreased for England. Rooney had 33 touches in the attacking third in 120 minutes of playing time, but only five touches came in the penalty area and none of them occurred in the 30 minutes of extra time.
By Zack Singer, ESPN Stats & Information
England and Italy meet in Kiev on Sunday in the final quarterfinal match of EURO 2012.
England appears in the knockout stage for the fourth time, having lost in the quarterfinals in their last trip to the European Championships in 2004. Italy, which won EURO in 1968, is making its fourth appearance in the knockout stage in the last five European Championships.
One of the keys to England’s success at EURO 2012 has been its success on crossing passes. England attempted only 53 crosses (8th out of 16 teams), but they averaged a tournament-high 34 yards.
Despite this, three of England’s five goals came off crosses, the most of any team in group play. England’s 15 completed crosses tied for second-most during the group stage. England completed 28 percent of crosses, third-highest during the group stage.
England has frequently been on the back foot at EURO 2012, with 243 touches in their own penalty area. That was the second-most for any team in the group stage, trailing only Denmark, who had 262.
Joe Hart has been a force between the posts for The Three Lions, with more touches than any other keeper in group play (50), and the second-most saves (14).
Wayne Rooney returned from suspension for England in their final group stage match against Ukraine, heading in the game’s only goal. Rooney’s suspension was the consequence of a mental lapse in England’s final EURO 2012 Qualifier.
But his head has always been a big asset at the Euros. Rooney has five headed shots at the European Championships in his career- four have been on-target and he’s scored twice.
While they will never be mistaken for Spain, Italy’s 80 percent passing rate is the highest for any Italian side at the Euros since the tournament installed group play in 1980.
It’s also the third-straight European Championship in which Italy’s passing percentage has increased. Italy‘s midfield passing is paced by Thiago Motta (85 percent) and Daniele de Rossi (83 percent).
Italy relied on strong defensive principles in group play, finishing with the third-most interceptions (60) and 10 offsides drawn (tied for the most).
But Italy may be without the anchor of their defense if Giorgio Chiellini fails to recover from the thigh injury he suffered in their game against Ireland. Chiellini led the Azzurri in tackles, clearances and interceptions during group play.
Neither England nor Italy has any players serving discipline suspensions. The winner faces Germany in the semifinals on June 28th.
By Zack Singer, ESPN Stats & Information
Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso put together an all-around performance for the ages Saturday against France, leading La Furia Roja to a 2-0 win in the quarterfinals of EURO 2012.
Alonso’s goals came on his only two touches in the penalty area. Alonso finished the game leading all Spanish players in touches (121), passes completed (97) and passes attempted (109), and tied for the team lead in tackles (4) and interceptions (3).
Alonso’s 19th-minute goal was a header off a cross from Jordi Alba from the left wing. It’s Spain’s first goal at EURO 2012 that came from a play starting on the left wing, and was their only chance created from the left wing in the entire game.
Spain started the match playing six midfielders, emphasizing their greatest strength. Spain’s midfield finished with 534 touches and just 8 turnovers. 353 of Spain’s 534 midfield touches came on France’s side of the field.
Spain’s midfield has 2,118 touches, more than any other midfield at EURO 2012. Spain’s midfield also has only 28 turnovers, just one more than that of Germany, despite having 616 more touches.
France was unable to break down Spain, finishing with only one shot on target and 104 touches in the attacking third. In 30 European Championship games since 1984, it’s the third-fewest attacking third touches France has had in one game.
Franck Ribery finished with just 57 touches for France and his number of touches decreased in each game at EURO 2012. Ribery’s 22 attacking third touches were 19 fewer than his previous low at EURO 2012.
It’s the second-fewest total touches Ribery has ever had in a match at the European Championships. Ribery had just 7 touches against Italy at EURO 2008, where he was subbed off in the 10th minute due to injury.
Karim Benzema had another forgettable day for Les Blues, finishing with two shots, neither of which was on target. Benzema finishes the tournament with 12 shots on target and no goals, more shots on target than any other goalless player at EURO 2012.
By John Parolin, ESPN Stats & Information
The tournament’s two top passing sides will meet in Donetsk on Saturday when Spain plays France for a spot in the semifinals.
Spain is rounding into form, bouncing back from a 1-1 draw with Italy to win matches against Ireland and Croatia by a combined score of 5-0. The French drew 1-1 in their opener to eventual group-winner England, and defeated Ukraine before falling 2-0 to Sweden in their last group match.
The only team to win its group in both 2008 and 2012, La Furia Roja hasn’t lost in 17 straight competitive matches at major tournaments or in qualifying.
The undisputed kings of possession, Spain completed almost 600 more passes than any other team and still posted the highest pass completion percentage (88 percent) of any team at the tournament. Spain relied on high-percentage passes, averaging only a tournament-low 17 yards traveled per pass.
Not just masters of the middle third, Spain also led the group stage with 65 completed passes and a 43 percent completion rate on passes into the penalty area. Those passes led to 26 scoring chances created, a mark that not surprisingly led all teams in the group stage.
France employed a heavy reliance on high-percentage passing as well, averaging 17.8 yards traveled per pass, the second-shortest in the tournament.
As a result, Les Bleus completed 1,542 passes, more than any team but Spain. However, the French also turned the ball over a tournament-worst 58 times, or once every 37.3 touches.
Four of the top five individual touches totals at the tournament belong to Spaniards: Xavi (388 touches), Xabi Alonso (293), Sergio Busquets (281) and Jordi Alba (277). Xavi also owns the highest number of attacking-third touches in a single game, posting 62 against the Irish.
France’s Franck Ribéry leads the tournament with 142 touches in the attacking third. Three of the top six touches in the attacking third match totals in the tournament belong to Frenchmen, with Samir Nasri and Franck Ribéry (twice) topping 50 touches in the final third.
In addition to the passing statistics, Spain and France are first and second respectively in shots on target. Spain has 39 through the first three matches, while France has 36.
Spain has no disciplinary concerns, but France defender Philippe Mexés will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation. Mexés was the tournament’s leader with 27 clearances, 11 more than any other player.
The winner of the match will face Portugal on Wednesday in the semifinals.