Were Spain possessed in South Africa?

A reader asked Differentgame to look into whether the big international tournaments were won by teams with high possession percentages.

We only looked back as far as Euro 2008 before we stopped and rubbed our eyes to make sure our peepers weren’t playing tricks on us.

Spain won Euro 2008 averaging 49.5% of possession per game. Spain played six games and only had more possession than their opponents twice.

In South Africa, Spain had more possession than their opponents in every game. But still only averaged 58% of possession per game. To put that into perspective, England averaged 52% possession in their games.

No way? Yes way.


The Spain national football team make a mockery of the old adage that you let the ball do the work. It simply doesn’t. In South Africa, Spain ran around 20% further than other top teams when it had the ball. All this for just 6-7% more possession than Holland, England and Germany.

Those three had a pass completion rate of 71%, 73% and 73% respectively. Spain’s was 80%. It’s easier to pass a ball accurately when you have several team mates working hard to show for the ball in close proximity to you.

Differentgame agrees with Bananarama. It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. And that’s what gets results.

New England manager, Roy Hodgson, concurs:

“Gaffer,” a fed-up Danny Murphy, tired of Hodgson’s endless match simulation drills at Fulham, once asked, “can we play some five-a-side today?”

“Are we playing five-a-side on Saturday?”


“Then there’s your answer.”

At last the England players and fans know where they stand.

Follow me on twitter here.

Sources: ESPN, FIFA

This entry was posted in Sports and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Were Spain possessed in South Africa?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Where are you sourcing your stats and figures from? Have you thought about providing references?

  2. This got put on the back burner in trying to get some content on our new site. All updated. Thanks!

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