The criticism of Spain’s conservative approach to ball possession—the crowd in Donetsk was jeering and whistling La Roja’s square passes after only 20 minutes—ignores the defensive reality. It’s hard for opponents to score when they can’t get the ball. France coach Laurent Blanc, whose team lost to Spain, 2-0, in the quarterfinals, said this:
"The problem with Spain is that they average 65 to 70 percent of possession. ... For 70 percent of the game, you have to adapt to Spain because they have the ball and you don't.”
Spain didn’t hold it that much Wednesday, but it was enough to tire the Portuguese toward the end and to extend an amazing streak: In the past eight knockout-round games at either the Euro or World Cup, Spain has yet to yield a goal. During the current competition, it has been broken just once.