Gareth Southgate's UEFA EURO 2016 analysis

England Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate, a UEFA technical observer at the finals, shares his thoughts on some of the significant themes to have emerged from the 48 matches so far.

Gareth Southgate's UEFA EURO 2016 analysis
Gareth Southgate's UEFA EURO 2016 analysis ©Getty Images

On crosses and cutbacks
Stat: There have been 29 goals scored from crosses – three of them own goals.

Statistically in the group stage, goals from crosses made for a higher percentage than in most recent tournaments. It's a consequence of teams being very organised defensively, staying compact and defending quite deep.

There has been little space in behind and it's been quite difficult to play through them, so getting around and putting crosses in has been one way of opening them up and scoring.

Iceland's Birkir Sævarsson scores an own goal against Hungary
Iceland's Birkir Sævarsson scores an own goal against Hungary©AFP/Getty Images

What has changed from the past is the areas from which crosses are delivered and the type of crosses. There have been a reasonable number of inswinging crosses, which tallies with teams playing opposite-footed wingers.

Cutbacks have also become more and more part of the game as you don't see so many wingers running to the byline and crossing from wider.

On set plays
Stat: Thirty of the 103 goals so far have come from set pieces.

One of the interesting things is in how many matches the first goal has been a set play.

In tight matches, as games at a major championship are, teams are very well-organised defensively and don't seem to have exposed themselves as much to counterattacks at the beginning, so the detail of scoring from set plays and being able to defend them is very important.

Maybe the second or third goal you score has more chance of being a counterattack because teams then have to come out.

Gareth Bale scored two free-kicks in the group stage
Gareth Bale scored two free-kicks in the group stage©Getty Images

On scoring first
Stat: The team who scored first lost only twice in the group stage.

There's the huge psychological advantage of scoring, then there is the tactical advantage as well – you don't have to commit people forward, you can protect the lead you've got and don't have to risk additional bodies.

Maybe you can score through more opportunities on the counterattack as the opposition start to push. It was a notable statistic from the group phase, in particular. Also, for a side likely to not dominate the game in terms of possession, it is a huge boost to score first.

On possession
Stat: There have been more wins (17) than defeats (15) for the teams with less possession in matches (not including penalty shoot-outs).

We've seen a higher percentage of teams who have failed to win by having more possession. We have to ask the question why we want to dominate possession.

Iceland have been one of the tournament's surprise packages
Iceland have been one of the tournament's surprise packages©AFP/Getty Images

For some teams it's to score goals. For other teams it's maybe to defend with the ball, to rest with the ball, to control the game rather than to actually progress and score with it. There is no right or wrong answer, just different approaches. The only thing that is clear is that possession itself is not an indicator of winning.

There is an admiration of the way Barcelona have played among all young coaches. However, not everybody has those players. While we might aspire to be that way, the question is: how do we win matches if we are not able to do that?

On Wales, Iceland, the team ethic and superstars

Being involved with an international set-up myself, it's clear that with the amount of time you spend together, the chemistry within the group is very important. But we have to credit the coaches of those teams and their tactical set-up.

In their own different ways they have set up in a manner that has been very difficult for the opposition. Of course, teams will talk about spirit – if you don't have that bond you will suffer – but you won't win matches on that alone at this level.

In any team you will only succeed if everybody is prepared to work for the team and sacrifice themselves at times. You can look at Wales and Gareth Bale, and at Portugal too – Cristiano Ronaldo has also done that in terms of the defensive role he has been asked to do, which has meant less opportunity to show his attacking prowess at times.

Croatia's Luka Modrić in action against Portugal
Croatia's Luka Modrić in action against Portugal©Getty Images

Having a world-class player in your team is a help as it gives the opposition something in particular to worry about and maybe allows others more space, but you don't succeed by relying on one individual.

And finally ... my favourite game

I enjoyed the chance to study Luka Modrić when Croatia played Portugal. Even though Portugal set up to try to minimise his impact, his ability to find space for himself, his technique at receiving under pressure and his all-round game with and without the ball was phenomenal.

I also enjoyed watching the young midfielder who came on for Portugal, Renato Sanches. He had wonderful attributes – strength and tactical awareness – and was very mature in his outlook in the game.

Southgate was speaking to reporter Simon Hart

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