Euro 2016 is wide open – win probabilities at knock out stage


At the knock out stage of Euro 2016, it’s any country’s trophy.

These win probabilities come from my world football/soccer rankings, which performed favorably in predicting matches according to an academic study.

The Economist cited this study in a recent article.

A few notes on the results.

  • Germany is the top European country at 2nd in my rankings, but they haven’t impressed so far. In addition, their back four looks vulnerable.
  • France has home field advantage, which gives them the largest win probability at 28.9%.
  • Belgium has their golden generation of talent (8th in my rankings). However, they always seems to disappoint.
  • Italy has a rich tradition of football excellence. However, this seems like the least skilled Italian team I’ve ever seen.
  • England? Nah… or maybe their poor performance in big tourneys is bad luck.

Here are the win probabilities for Euro 2016 at the knock out stage for all 16 teams.

1. France, 28.9%.
2. Germany, 16.9%.
3. Belgium, 16.5%.
4. Spain, 9.6%.
5. England, 6.0%.
6. Portugal, 5.0%.
7. Croatia, 4.8%.
8. Switzerland, 3.9%.
9. Italy, 2.5%.
10. Poland, 2.1%.
11. Wales, 1.1%.
12. Hungary, 1.0%.
13. Iceland, 0.8%.
14. Slovakia, 0.4%.
15. Northern Ireland, 0.4%.
16. Republic of Ireland, 0.3%.

Who would England, Spain and Germany be if they were NBA teams?

The Power Rank predictions for Euro 2012 after the group stage
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.

What are Germany’s odds of winning Euro 2012 now that they own the Group of Death?

For updated win probabilities for Euro 2012, click here to view our interactive bracket.

Group of Death

Germany marches on while the Netherlands lingers on the brink of Euro death. Since the Germans are almost certain to make the knock out stage (92%), they now have the highest chance of winning Euro 2012 at 24%. This is higher than Spain’s odds at 20%. The Netherlands now need Denmark to lose to Germany and then beat Portugal by a bunch of goals. It’s still possible. 9.7% possible.

Croatia is ranked 8th in the FIFA rankings?

When we mentioned that Croatia was the worst team in Euro 2012, Morgan kindly pointed out their lofty status in those other rankings. A big reason why Croatia lands at 35th in our rankings are two World Cup qualifying games with England. Croatia lost 9-2 on aggregate in this home and home series. In rankings without those two games, Croatia jumps up to 22nd. (England drops from 9th to 17th.) Moreover, Croatia didn’t astound anyone in a Euro qualifying group with Latvia (85), Georgia (95), and Malta (114). They even lost to Georgia.

Croatia faces a serious test in Italy tomorrow morning.

Home field advantage.

We use a home field advantage of 0.41 goals for Poland and Ukraine, since this was the average advantage over all qualifying matches for Euro 2012. Greg asked why we used all qualifying games instead of only games with teams that qualified.

Great question. First, there are only 248 games in qualifying. Eliminating any of those games reduces our sample size, which reduces the accuracy with which we can calculate home advantage.

Second, the objective is to determine the advantage of playing at home, no matter what the strength of the teams. We’re interested in Luxembourg just as much as Germany. Fortunately, the home and home structure of fixtures between any two teams in qualifying really helps. If Germany only played San Marino at home, they would, on average, win by more than 6 goals. This would seriously skew the estimate for home advantage. But since Germany plays a home and home with San Marino, they might win by 7 goals at home but only 5 goals on the road. In our calculation of home advantage, the large positive goal differential at home for Germany is negated by the large negative goal differential for San Marino at home. This leaves a clean estimate for home advantage when one European country travels to another.

What do you think?

Do the Dutch have a chance? Does Croatia’s play on the pitch seem like that of a top 10 team? Please leave us a comment.

Thanks for reading.

What are England’s odds of winning Euro 2012?

For all the latest win probabilities for Euro 2012, check out our interactive bracket.

Here are 3 thoughts about today’s fixtures in Group D.

1. What analytics say about England.

England played well enough to salvage a 1-1 tie with France in the 86 degree heat in Ukraine. The results didn’t change England’s probability of winning Euro 2012. It’s 5.4%, about the same chance that the scientific study that guides your medical treament is wrong. From our analysis, England excels on offensive, with a ranking of 10th in the world. Against an average defense, they would score 1.9 goals on average. From the game today, England might need suspended star Wayne Rooney to reach this type of excellence. On defense, England is ranked 30th and predicted to concede 0.85 goals to the average team.

2. France is still an enigma.

The French are a cross between the 2012 New York Knicks, who are talented underachievers, and a 16 year old girl, who just wants to look pretty. With stars like Frank Ribery, Simon Nasri and Karim Benzema, this team should be scoring hordes of goals. Instead, they show up as the 46th best offensive team in our rankings. They play beautiful one touch football. It only seems natural that this skill would translate into lots of goals. Maybe it will happen in Euro 2012 and prove our rankings way off.

3. Host country advantage.

I didn’t see much of Ukraine and Sweden match. But in the 10 minutes I did see before halftime, the home crowd energized the Ukraine team. It was a stark contrast to the French, who couldn’t be bothered to pressure England’s goalkeeper in the 90th minute. In Euro 2012 qualifying, the home team won by 0.41 goals on average. With this edge, the Ukraine actually had a higher win probability, 39.5%, than the more highly ranked Sweden team, 33.9%. With their 2-1 win today, Ukraine’s odds to win Euro 2012 rose from 4.5% to 6.5%. In a scheduling quirk, they could play up to 3 knock out games on home soil if they finish second in the group, but only 2 games if they win.

What do you think?

Am I not giving England enough credit for their play today? Please leave a comment.

Thanks for reading.