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Day 8: Spain without the s
Spain's slow starts are costing them at the Euros
Yesterday’s match between Germany and Spain was billed as one of the most exciting of the group stages but it did little to live up to its reputation. Germany scored with their first (and only) two shots on target and from then on were content to sit back and see if Spain could unpick das Schloss. The answer was that they couldn’t.
Spain have placed themselves at a disadvantage at this Euros, having been forced to try and overturn deficits right from the start. They have now conceded in the opening five minutes of both of their group stage games, with Finland scoring after only 50 seconds and Germany scoring after 3 minutes. Obviously against Finland, Spain found it relatively easy to break down and eventually won 4-1 but against a German side who had already shown their defensive strength against Denmark, it did not feel like much of a surprise that Spain managed to make little headway.
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Spain’s slow starts do not just extend to this Euros. Using data from WyScout, we can compare their opening 15 minutes of games they have played against sides ranked 30 or above by FIFA to those of some of their main rivals, in this case England, Germany, and Sweden.
Looking at these fixtures over the past year, Spain have come bottom in all four of the categories considered. They have less shots and shots on target than the other three, and concede more shots and shots on target. Not only are they slow out of the blocks when it comes to attacking, they are also more open defensively.
Yet when we look at the same fixtures across the full ninety minutes played, Spain do a lot better. Over the past year, Spain average more shots per 90 than the other three teams, conceding less shots on target and less shots generally. The only metric they fall down slightly on is shots on target.
In this calendar year, Spain have only won four of their nine fixtures played, although the loss to Germany last night was their first since they played the USA at the SheBelieves Cup back in March 2020.
They have particularly struggled in major tournaments, beating only Portugal, South Africa and Finland in the past four World Cups or Euros.
Now to ensure that they make it into the quarter-finals, they will need at least a draw against Denmark, who beat Finland 1-0 thanks to a Pernille Harder goal yesterday.
Spanish fans will have to hope that the urgency of the match forces them not to fall into their same old ways of starting slow.