For most Americans, Euro 2012 is the reason the sports bar across the street keeps erupting during the middle of the day. The tourney has not become a mainstream event in America. Sports Illustrated has yet to mention a word about it in their magazine, opting instead to run a story about new United States men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
But European Football Championships (that’s soccer) is one of the most exciting, competitive tourneys in the world. To make it more accessible for an American audience, we compared a few top teams to NBA teams. Really, this is an unsubtle attempt to convince our readers that we actually watch the games instead of just crunch numbers. While you can always see our win probabilities in this interactive bracket, we’ll attempt to pin a personality on three top team that have made the final 8 in Europe. You tell us how we do in the comments.
England is the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies
England uses their size and physicality on the pitch. Many of their goals come from long passes into the box, such as Andy Carroll’s header off a Stephen Gerrard cross against Ukraine. Their back line features imposing players like John Terry, Joleon Lescott and Glen Johnson. They’re happy knock opponents off the ball, like Lescott did before his goal against France.
The NBA equivalent is the Memphis Grizzlies, a team build around physical post players Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. These big guys are surrounded by athletes like Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo. Sure, these are fine NBA players, but no one is drafting these guys for their dribbling or shooting skills.
We picked the 2010-2011 version of the Grizzlies because they knocked off San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs. This England team has the same potential to beat Italy in the quarterfinals. In fact, our algorithms give them a 49.2% chance of advancing. But just like Memphis got stoned in the next round against Oklahoma City, England’s journey will most likely end in the semi finals against Germany. England is a fine team, and our rankings place them at 7th in the world. They just live on a continent with Spain and Germany. Anything can happen though, and our methods give them a 10% chance to win Euro 2012.
Spain is the 2012 San Antonio Spurs
Spain plays a short passing known as tiki-taka. It’s a mischievious little game of keep away. When the Spanish artists play to their full potential, it’s one of the most beautiful thing in all of sports.
There is really no basketball equivalent. The closest comparison is this year’s San Antonio Spurs. Tim Duncan’s team was a passing machine, always swinging the ball around the court to find the open shot. This artistry led to a 39.3% shooting percentage from three point range.
Unfortunately for Spain, the comparison runs a bit further. Both San Antonio and Spain have players on the down side of their prime. On the Spurs, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are 36 and 35 respectively. They couldn’t quite get over the hump against a young Oklahoma City team in this year’s playoffs. Spain’s midfield duo of Xavi and Andres Iniesta are 32 and 28 respectively. Their club team Barcelona could not reach the same play as in previous years. While The Power Rank gives Spain a 28.7% of winning Euro 2012, it reasonable to shave a few percentage off in favor another, younger team…
Germany is the Los Angeles Lakers of the early 80’s
I understand this is a hard comparison to stomach at first glance. The stoic Germans are like the flashy Lakers in the Magic Johnson days?
It’s about the style of play. The Germans are fearsome on the counter attack, the soccer equivalent of the fast break. It seemed almost inevitable they would score a winning goal against Denmark when the Danes were pushing hard for a goal. They have scored 2.69 goals per match in meaningful competitions since the start of qualifying for the last World Cup. While they haven’t scored more than 2 goals in any Euro 2012 match, they did have 4 goals outbursts against England and Argentina in the 2010 World Cup.
Now, this 2.69 goal average is inflated by 15 goals in 4 matches against Azerbaijan. However, our algorithms allow us to adjust for strength of schedule. The Germans have a 2.27 offensive rating, the best in the world. This means they would score 2.27 goals against an average international team.
We compare the Germans with the Lakers of the early 80’s because of their youth. Midfielders Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller are 23 and 22 respectively. Even at this young age, this duo has already played together in a World Cup and European Championships. The Germans are improving as a unit, while Spain might be past its prime. The Power Rank gives the Germans a 25.9% of winning the tourney. From watching the Germans play, I think they should inherit a few percentage points from the aging Spain team.
What do you think?
We would love to hear other comparisons for England, Spain, Germany or any other European teams. Please leave us a comment.
Thanks for reading.