Romania vs Spain – Data Analysis

1996 European Championships

Group B – Match Round 3

Romania 1 – 2 Spain

Elland Road, Leeds

Tuesday 18th June 1996

By Alistair Bain (@allybain)


To give us some context on the data here is a quick overview of each team:

Romania Attacking Structure

  • Romania maintained their use of a narrow front three, supported by the forward movements of Hagi. Ilie offered lots of dynamic movements to stretch the game, which was complimented by Stinga & Raducioiu linking the play into the final third.   
  • Hagi’s free role saw him pull into the inside left channel predominantly. Galca and Popescu managed the central spaces, often switching play between the full backs or feeding forward passes into Raducioiu.
  • Both full backs were very advanced, providing the sole genuine width in the game. At time this would contort the shape into 253 of sorts, with all three strikers moving centrally.

Spain Attacking Structure

  • Spain continued their use of direct play, however reverted to a more traditional 442 shape.
  • Nadal joined Hierro in center mid, both offering balance when switching play, but also to advance into deeper areas of the attack to shoot from distance.
  • Manjarin operated more like a traditional winger, but was also comfortable when moving inside to attack the central spaces. Amavisca is more comfortable when inverting to central spaces, almost serving an attacking midfielder role.
  • Sergi continued to attack at pace, where as Lopez was a little more conservative with his attacks, staying back to offer balance when needed.
  • The Kiko Pizzi partnership was an interesting one, both target strikers who like to stretch the game & work higher spaces. While they rarely linked, they did provide a threat and opened up supporting space from deep for midfielders to attack into.

WHAT DO THE NUMBERS TELL US?

Value of Chances

xG Timeline:

Spain entered this game requiring a win, and even after their early goal it was evident that an element of complacency set in. Romania’s equalizer would only serve to inspire a second half fight back, where we see a significant surge in the Spanish attack play.

Romania were playing for pride in this match having already been eliminated from the competition. We’d see a solid first half performance, but the second half saw them completely run out of steam & were left with very few attacking players on the field who could make an impact.

Chance Quality:

Spain gave themselves every opportunity to win this game, not only from the amount of chances they created but also in the significant increase in the shot value (expected goals), compared to the last two games. We saw them record 3 “big chances” during the game, with two of them hitting the target, so they are taking more of the chances we’d expect a team to at this level. It also shows they are making more advances into the box and reducing the amount of speculative efforts from distance.

Romania’s first half display brought a solid return in the xG, however this work was negated by their inability to maintain the same standard as they went into the second half.

Type of Chances Created

Spain’s control of the game is clear to see, as they would create almost three times as many attacks as their opponents. There was a nice variety of attack creation from Spain, which shows their versatility. While they did favor a more direct approach, their ability to fashion chances only brought 1 attack from a cross, with the rest predominantly a result of switching play and quick combinations.


Romania had enjoyed lots of possession in the first two games, however they were unable to create the same levels of dominance in this match. By starting on the back foot more often, we saw a lot more hurried attack play and attempts to expose space. They would use through passes in more instances than they have in any other game (3 in total), which perhaps speaks to why they would create so few chances overall.

Where Chances are Created

From Spain’s 19 attacks we saw 7 take place in the box, which on the surface isnt exactly earth shattering, but when we see that all 7 attacks would take place inside the “Golden Zone” we begin to understand the reasoning behind Spain’s xG rating (2.30). I still feel there are too many needless efforts from distance by Spain’s center mids (predominantly Hierro) however the more box entries they create, the more dangerous they have become throughout the tournament. The amount of open play xG was also a sea change for Spain, with 92% of their xG being created by open play attacks.

Im not sure this game will live long in the memory of the Romanians, with little attacking edge of note to take away. With only 20% of the xG coming from shots on target it illustrates Romania’s over reliance on set plays & shots from distance, that have been far too frequenet throughout the Group B matches.

Who Created Chances

Fernando Hierro would create the most attacks for Spain, however only 1 of his 7 attacks would hit the target. I am therefore going to look elsewhere and will award Spain’s best statistical attack to Javier Manjarin. He performed very well during his substitute appearance in the last match, so getting a start in this game he took his opportunity with both hands. He would be part of 4 attacks overall (2 for himself and 2 he created for others) returning two shots on target, one key pass that resulted in a shot on target and the a goal that would open the scoring.

In what was a disappointing team performance by Romania, their captain Hagi remained one of the shining lights in the match. Romania would only record 7 attacks in 90 minutes, however Hagi would be involved in 4 of them, creating one for himself and three for his teammates.

Match Predictor

Using our very own Retro Football Analysis Match Simulator, we use the probability rating of each attack to calculate the odds of the matches outcome. Here are the results we got back.

Out verdict:

No real surprises in this outcome as Spain dominated the match in terms of territory and chance creation for almost the duration. The scoreline perhaps flattered Romania a little, given their second half slump, but Spain’s second half surge brought them the three points they so very much desired.

Why not check out the Full Match Report from this match? CLICK HERE to do so.

%d bloggers like this: