It took 15 passes to create David Silva’s goal which as it turned out would have been enough to win the final. The illustration shows how Spain got the ball forward with laterals and back passes kept to a minimum. Spain barely edged Italy in total ball possession with 52% to 48%, after actually falling behind in the first half. In comparison, they averaged 65% in the rest of the matches. Here is the key stat: Spain completed 22 of 41 passes (53.7%) made into the box and scored three goals.
Thiago Motta’s injury stopped any chance of a comeback as Italy forced to play a man down for 30 minutes as Spain enjoyed a 237-99 passes completed advantage. After the Motta injury, Spain also had a 17-0 touches in the box advantage.
The emergence of Jordi Alba cannot be overstated. Against France defying conventional wisdom, Alba bombed down the left channel turning in a cross for Xabi Alonso’s first goal. Against Italy, Spain were a threat down the flanks through Alba and Arbeloa and this stretching force deformed the Azzurri’s midfield diamond forcing Claudio Marchisio and Daniele De Rossi even wider into defending and opening up space behind them. Here is Alba’s heatmap. He overlapped Iniesta every time an attack opened up down that channel.
Italy did possess a lot of the ball around and just beyond midfield but in a complaint usually aimed at Spain it was scattered and diffuse with few quality link ups into the box as Andrea Pirlo, easily had his worst game in a while completing just one of eight passes.