Why more goals are scored from outside in the Euro Cup than ever before | Euro Cup Germany 2024

It’s Tuesday, two days before the match against Italy, after already ten days of concentration in Donaueschingen. Training has finished, but Nico, Lamine, Fermín and Morata do not leave the field. They have fun throwing free kicks over the mechanized barrier that rises with each shot. There is laughter. The Euro Cup ball, the Fussballliebe, has a catchy point. “I like him because he does strange things for the goalkeeper and he is harder to stop,” says a Spanish national team player.

At stake is a Euro Cup record for goals from outside the area. The shot taken from 28.7 meters by the Danish Hjulmand on Thursday in Frankfurt, and which was unattainable for Pickford, did two things. England, dense and disoriented, saw how that ball that hit the base of the post and went in stole the advantage they had achieved only 16 minutes before (1-1). The distant goal also had an effect on the tournament’s records: with it, 13 goals had been scored from outside the area in 17 games, and they surpassed the 12 that were seen in the 64 matches of the entire World Cup in Qatar, the last great national team championship.

It is being the Euro Cup of sniper success. Already from the first goal: 10 minutes into the opening match, Germany-Scotland, Kroos found Kimmich released on the right wing with a long diagonal and the full-back spotted Wirtz jogging towards the front. Before crossing the line, he shot down and bent Gunn’s hand. Between Wirtz’s goal and Hjulmand’s, prizes have not stopped being distributed to those who try their luck from a distance: 0.72 goals from outside the area per game until the end of the day on Thursday, according to StatsBomb records. This is the Euro with the most distant goals at least since 1996, which is the first for which they have data.

The jump in the German tournament is formidable. In the last edition, for example, less than half were scored, 0.35 per match. The one that comes closest, that of 2000, was still far away, with 0.42.

The jump does not respond to a sudden appetite among footballers for peripheral adventures, but to an unusual peak of success. This edition of the tournament is the second in which the least shots are taken from outside the area, only 9.8 times per game, compared to 14.5 in 2008, when only 0.19 hits per game were recorded.

They don’t shoot anymore, and they don’t shoot from more favorable positions, or more clear of defenders. Long shots in this Euro Cup have an average of 0.09 expected goals (xG), in line with what defenses have allowed in previous Euro Cups. In the pass, for example, the StatsBomb model calculated that those shots had even more chances of ending in a goal, 0.10 xG on average.

The difference is the success of the shooters, which has experienced a sudden explosion: they make 7% of the shots they attempt from outside the area, much more than in the rest of the Euro Cups. It is true that two of the goals came from rebounds on defenses—Gapko’s for the Netherlands against Poland and Danza’s for Slovenia against Denmark—but the jump seems significant: the Euro that comes closest is the last one, with a 4%, but all the others recorded successes of less than half, 3% or less. What happened?

The most significant change, and common for all, is the ball, of which the footballers highlight a mixture of that surprise mentioned in the Spain camp and precision. At Adidas, the ball’s manufacturer, they have received similar comments, according to its product and design manager, Sam Handy: “The ball has already left several memorable moments,” he says. “It has been designed to improve aerodynamics, stability and control over long distances.” The raised grooves on the surface, tested in the wind tunnel, contribute, according to the manufacturer, to “granting maximum precision.” The ball at the World Cup in Qatar, from the same factory, favored the goalkeepers, as Ramsdale, from England, explained there. His colleagues only saw 12 goals there from outside the area.

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