Soccer-Stats show differing approaches as attacking Germany sparkle at Euro 2024

By Thomson Reuters Jun 23, 2024 | 7:51 AM

By Toby Davis

LEIPZIG, Germany (Reuters) – You don’t need reams of statistics to know Germany and Spain have played well at Euro 2024 or England have failed to sparkle and Croatia have struggled but crunching numbers offers insight into why some teams have thrilled and others have fallen flat.

Spain’s high tempo attack flattened Croatia and made Italy look average, while Germany steamrollered Scotland and dominated Hungary – so it is no surprise that in some of the key attacking metrics the hosts come out on top.

England have four points from two matches in the group stage but Gareth Southgate’s side have faced criticism for perceived negativity and when you look at the stats it is easy to see why.

Comparing England with Germany and Spain shows not only contrasting outcomes but perhaps also a different approach, especially when it comes to attacking intent.

For example, one of the main criticisms levelled against England is that they retreat too easily, getting men behind the ball rather than pushing forward and looking to pin their opponents back and win possession in more dangerous areas.

Whereas Spain have made 10 of their 30 tackles in the attacking third, and Germany seven of 27, according to the football statistics and history website fbref.com, England have made just three in the same area of the pitch from their 19.

Yet it is not just in their efforts to win back the ball where England have been less attack-minded than others.

According to Opta, England are also bottom when it comes to touches in the box with 25 over two games. Belgium, who got their campaign back on track with a 2-0 win over Romania on Saturday, lead with 75 ahead of Portugal (68) and Germany (67).


England boss Gareth Southgate pointed the finger at his side’s fitness to explain why they are not pressing to win the ball back higher up the pitch.

“We have limitations in how we can do that with the physical condition,” he said.

Yet the stats would also suggest that England are less brave on the ball than others.

Germany are top for progressive passes with 134, according to fbref.com, followed by Portugal, France and Croatia, while England are only on 63, and Southgate’s side do not fare much better when it comes to running with the ball.

Germany top the list for total distance in carries with 5,646 yards, followed by Portugal, Italy and Croatia, whereas England struggled again with a total of 3,955 yards.

Football history has swung between different approaches to the game, as systems and styles change over time, with ideas sometimes revisited years later having been earlier consigned to the dustbin.

The debate around balancing attacking and defensive responsibilities, or where on the pitch those roles are most effective, continues to rage and, if the past is any guide, it is unlikely to be resolved at any point in the future.

An attacking approach to the game, for example, where you look to dominate the ball in your opponent’s territory, has been no guarantee of success at Euro 2024.

Croatia are third in the possession stats with 60.5% of the ball over their two games behind only Germany and Portugal, but whereas those two sides have six points, Zlatko Dalic’s outfit have one.

The Croats top Opta’s expected goals metric, ahead of Spain, second on completed passes into the penalty area, according to fbref.com, with 27, behind Germany (28), and in the same position for shots on 37, again only adrift of the Germans (38).

Yet turning that dominance into goals has proved tough for Croatia. When it comes to goals per shot (excluding own goals), the Germans are again top with 0.16 of their efforts hitting the back of the net, whereas Croatia are second bottom with 0.03.

(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Ken Ferris)