See Why Spain Won Euro 2012

Spain did not convince all so-called football experts during the group stage of UEFA Euro 2012. Even though they finished 1st, many expected France to kick them out of the tournament in the quarter-finals. France did not and neither did Portugal, though the result was much tighter with their semi-final only decided in penalty shoot-out.

Before the Euro 2012 final many experts expected a tight game again between Spain and Italy, similar to their 1st clash during group stage. It wasn't. Italy were brushed aside by a rampant Spain as Scott Murray wrote in the Guardian. Spain eventually convinced the critics and finished the tournament with the impression to have deserved the title of European Champions.

This last impression is confirmed when you look at the charts below. They show some of the tournament statistics compiled by Opta Sports and released publicly by the Guardian Data Blog. While statistics don't decide games and even may mislead, I think this selection of key indicators shows why Spain deserved to win Euro 2012.

To make the stats more meaningful I calculated per game values where total values were given in the original dataset.


To win a football game and eventually a tournament you have to score more goals than you concede. Spain did this almost perfectly by scoring 12 and conceding only 1 goal in 6 games.


Spain not only scored the most and conceded the least goals, but also produced the most shots on target and had the best shooting accuracy of all teams.


Tiki-taka is a style of play characterized by short passing and movement. Spain excels at Tiki-taka and their lead in the number of passes per game is particularly striking. Spain's passing accuracy was only slightly surpassed by the Netherlands.

Touchs & Dribbles

Spain has by far the most touches per game — Tiki-taka style. Only France dribbles more, did it help them? No.

Fouls & Tackles

Spain won the most fouls by game. Their style of play leaves opponents hardly any other choice when trying to get the ball. Spain was also quite good at tackling.


The UEFA Euro 2012 ended more than 5 months ago, and when the availability of the data was announced, I intended to use it for a story, which didn't happen until now. I came back to the data seeking a basis for the final assignment of Alberto Cairo's highly recommended online course Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization.

Moreover, I wanted to give the Datawrapper visualization tool a try. It doesn't yet offer such a wide variety of chart types as competing tools, but it's based on very reasonable intentions, i. e. limit the number of pies in pie charts, enforce chart titles, zero baseline for bar charts, color combinations that can be distinguished by colorblind people etc. To put it differently Fox News wouldn't use it.

I take this as an opportunity to thank Nicolas Kayser-Bril of Journalism++ for introducing me and others to Datawrapper and talking about Teaching data literacy at the recent 3rd Data Science Day in Berlin, which was an awesome event by the way.

Data Sources

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