A glance at some of the key numbers for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists suggests Spain are the most accomplished team in the tournament, and by some distance: of the sides still standing Luis Enrique’s men head Uefa’s charts for possession, passes attempted, passing accuracy and cumulative ground covered.
The 2008 champions have achieved an average of 67% possession across five matches; Italy rank second with 56%, then come Denmark with 54% and England with 53%. Spain’s 4,307 passes attempted is also streets ahead of the competition: Italy come second with 3,028, before England with 2,630 and Denmark with 2,513.
The Spanish passing game is a matter of quality as well as quantity, however, with an accuracy of 89.4% to Italy’s 88.4%. Denmark have registered 87.6% while England, notably, lag behind with 82.4% – perhaps surprising in view of their increasing emphasis on a possession-based style.
The selección have also been the busiest runners, covering 623km in total, Italy ranking second with a cumulative 587km. Denmark and England have almost a dead heat here, having run 525.9km and 524.6 respectively.
Italy’s incisive, high-tempo attacking style has seen them muster the most attempts on goal, 101, but they have hardly been clinical, with only 26 on target. Spain have had 95 attempts (39 on target) and Denmark 90 (37 on target). England again trail with only 37 attempts across the tournament, although with 15 on target they have the most favourable ratio for what commentators are fond of calling ‘making the keeper work’.
Some of England’s numbers seem to compare unfavourably but it is defence, traditionally, that wins tournaments and Gareth Southgate’s team possess the baldest, more significant statistic here: a zero in the goals conceded column. The Azzurri have let in two goals – one each against Austria and Belgium – but before Sasa Kalajdzic’s strike in the last 16, they had gone 1,168 minutes without conceding. Spain and Denmark have both conceded five goals at the tournament. Known more as a creative linchpin, Italy’s Marco Verratti leads the tournament’s tackle charts, with 15.
After England’s dominant victory over Ukraine on Saturday, Gareth Southgate said his team’s run to the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia had taught him valuable lessons about how to manage resources and keep his players as fresh as possible. Raheem Sterling was withdrawn after 65 minutes against Ukraine, two minutes after the fourth goal, with Harry Kane then coming off with 17 minutes left.
By the end of the semi-final against Croatia in 2018, the full-back Kieran Tripper had played the most minutes of any England player at the tournament: 576. Should John Stones play for 90 minutes against Denmark, he would reach 529 minutes of game time at Euro 2020, so could surpass Trippier’s mark from 2018 only if England make the final.
Of the semi-finalists, Italy have used the most players – 25 – while England, Spain and Denmark have all used 21. Italy have two outfield players who have been on for more than 400 minutes – Jorginho and the central defender Leonardo Bonucci – compared with England’s four: John Stones, Kalvin Phillips, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. Denmark have five outfield players to have passed the 400-minute mark, and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Joakim Mæhle have both had 450 minutes.
Will travel fatigue be a factor? It is notable that the semi-finalists were among the sides who covered the least distance between countries and venues, although Switzerland made it to the last eight having covered more than 10,000km in the group stage, the most of any side.
By several key metrics, it would seem Spain and Italy are superior to their potential opponents on the other side of the draw, but England remain the only team yet to concede. Judging by the numbers, Spain should be favourites to lift the trophy at Wembley next Sunday. But the sense of togetherness Denmark have built since Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest is something that cannot be quantified. Perhaps a human factor such as this may prove decisive.