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Larsson's goals defy perfect passing

Published: Tuesday 15 June 2004, 18.46CET
Henrik Larsson, Stilian Petrov and Alexei Smertin star in our first analysis of the BenQ Official Statistics for UEFA EURO 2004™ with Olivier Dacourt making a surprise cameo appearance.
by Pete Sanderson


Published: Tuesday 15 June 2004, 18.46CET

Larsson's goals defy perfect passing

Henrik Larsson, Stilian Petrov and Alexei Smertin star in our first analysis of the BenQ Official Statistics for UEFA EURO 2004™ with Olivier Dacourt making a surprise cameo appearance.

Sweden's dazzling display against Bulgaria was undoubtedly the most striking team performance of UEFA EURO 2004™ so far and the match certainly made a dent in the BenQ Official Statistics for UEFA EURO 2004™.

Larsson role
They top their group having scored more goals than anyone in the competition, possess the joint top scorer and have a great shots to goals ratio. The statistics confirm it was no coincidence that Henrik Larsson was making his much vaunted return to competitive action in the same game. His two strikes put him alongside Zinedine Zidane in the goal scoring charts with the tournament now six games old and, as if Bulgaria weren't sick enough of his meddling, he was even on hand to assist a goal too.

Strike rate
Like the true assassin that he is, Larsson converted two of the three chances he had throughout the game - few players in the tournament will top a 67 per cent opportunity to goals ratio.

Pass master
Despite their defeat, it wasn't all bad news for Larsson's former Celtic FC team-mate Stilian Petrov. Over the 90 minutes, the Bulgarian captain proved why he is regarded as one of the most effective midfield players in the world, racing to the top of the passing charts with 62 completed passes. Impressive statistics when you consider Bulgaria were second best for most of the game.

Forward thinking
The central midfielder also completed a staggering 89 per cent of his passes, nine per cent more than French midfield player Zinedine Zidane the previous night. It would be easy to dismiss most of these as sideways passes but, most of them, some 24 per cent, were to the feet of attacking midfield player Marian Hristov, who himself lies third in the passing stakes sandwiching Croatia's Josip Šimunic who sits second.

Defensive crisis
Like Bulgaria, Russia began their UEFA EURO 2004™ campaign with a defeat. A defensive crisis left coach Georgie Yartsev with little option but to employ midfield player Alexei Smertin in an unfamiliar position in the heart of the defence. Smertin excelled in the role, executing 17 successful tackles on his Spanish counterparts and keeping the usually so dangerous Raúl González in check. Other players who have run Smertin close in the tackling stakes include Greece's Theo Zagorakis and Giorkas Seitaridis.

Bravo Raúl
Spain remain the tidiest team at the European championship. Their intricate passing proved too much for Russia in the second half of their opening match with Raúl Bravo (56 complete passes) and Vicente (56 complete passes) seeing plenty of the ball as they took the game to Russia.

French connection
One statistic which may have bypassed even the most astute statisticians came in the game between England and France. With France grabbing an injury-time equaliser courtesy of Zidane's free-kick, coach Jacques Santini threw on Olivier Dacourt for Claude Makelele as England tried to regroup. It seems the substitution was something of a lucky because, although Dacourt never even touched the ball, within four seconds of his arrival France and secured a memorable victory.

Last updated: 15/06/04 19.05CET

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