EURO 2016 technical report 4: Goals

In the four extract from the new UEFA EURO 2016 technical report, the expert panel examine why there were such low scoring in the group stage and where the goals came from.

Eder fires in the goal that won UEFA EURO 2016 for Portugal

After UEFA EURO 2012 produced an average of 2.45 goals per game and the two previous EUROs both yielded a very similar figure of 2.48, the eye-catching statistic to emerge from the first 24-team final tournament was that only 69 goals were scored in the 36 group matches, producing an average of 1.92 per game.

"The group stage is always attritional," Germany coach Joachim Low commented, "but in the knockout rounds it opens up."

He was proved right when 39 goals in 15 knockout games hoisted the tournament average to 2.12 per match. The late recovery nonetheless failed to mask a downturn of 13.5%.

Watch every goal scored at UEFA EURO 2016
Watch every goal scored at UEFA EURO 2016

"The group phase allowed us to see some great coaching, especially from the benches of the 'smaller' countries," said technical observer Savo Milošević. "Those teams were very well prepared to fight against bigger opposition. But, as a striker, I have to lament the low number of goals."

His colleague Peter Rudbak added: "When the objective was not to finish last in the group, the focus was often on very good, well-organised defending. It wasn’t easy for attackers."

One of the salient features of the group stage was that no fewer than 19 of the 69 goals were scored from the 80th minute on; 15 of those were after the 85th minute, and 7 of them fell into the 90+ bracket – all of which added up to the highest percentage of late goals in the tournament's history.

The fact that so many of the goals were late contributed to another eyebrow-raising statistic: 14, or 20%, were scored by substitutes, with five more adding their names to the list during the knockout rounds. It was a substitute who scored the last goal of the tournament and the one that earned Portugal the title.

Ronaldo, Bale, Pogba – watch the best EURO 2016 set-piece goals
The best set-piece goals

This could be used as a pretext for congratulating coaches on shrewd substitutions or as an argument that the general policy was to keep the powder dry until there was a need for an explosive late effort to achieve a result. The same slant could be given to the fact that across the whole tournament only 42 goals were scored during the first half, compared with 66 after the interval.

The tournament's goals were scored by 76 different players. It was sometimes difficult to categorise players clearly, as the roles of some middle-to-front players, especially in the wide areas, blurred the definitions of forward and midfielder. During the group stage, forwards accounted for 29 goals, midfielders 32 and defenders six. With forwards accounting for 12 of the tournament's last 20 goals, the final balance read: 47 by forwards, 45 by midfielders and 13 by defenders. The other 3 were own goals.

Of the 21 goals scored by wingers/wide midfielders, the left flank supplied 17 and the right only four. Only one goal was scored by a full-back: Neil Taylor of Wales during the 3-0 win against Russia. Left-footed shots accounted for 37 goals (13 of them shared by France and Wales), versus 47 with the right foot.

The number of headed goals fell sharply from the record level of 29% set at UEFA EURO 2012 to 22% in France. Of the 24 headed goals scored at UEFA EURO 2016, five had their origins in corner kicks, four came from free-kicks, and the remainder from crosses or cutbacks.

Crossing emerged as one of the salient features of the tournament. Crosses and cutbacks led to 42% of the open play goals, including the three own goals – all of them resulting from crosses delivered from close to the byline.

The above article appears in the official UEFA EURO 2016 technical report: DOWNLOAD NOW