With occassional games here and there separated by months of absence, the story of a national team’s preparation is full of gaps and the quality and performance of the team can be difficult to predict. After the last batch of international games and before the next one which will be held at the end of May, we stop and take a look at the teams qualified for the Euro 2016.
It’s the perfect time to go back and check our StatiumElo©™♥ index for national teams that we introduced here0. As we explained at the time, StatiumElo is a customized Elo rating for football, tweaked and optimized with love by yours truly.
Let’s start by taking a look at our ranking and football predictions as of April 25th, wich includes the results of the international break from March 21st to March 29th. We’ll only be looking at the teams qualified for the Euro 2016.
By design, Elo ratings are dynamic and can be used to compute the odds of games to come, and they do so with good accuracy. As such, we introduce our #predictor3000, the oracle which will tell you the odds of any potential match-up between teams involved in the Euro 2016 if they were to meet tomorrow.
Looking more closely at this ranking, the Euro 2016 teams can be categorized into four groups:
Leading the ranking are the three teams we were expecting, Spain, France and Germany, together with Belgium, the “small team that could”, which has been maintaining its status for a couple of years now. In the middle of this group, England plays its role of the perennial outsider, having a decent performance during the preparation games for the Euro (yet they still managed to lose against the Netherlands in full rebuilding mode…). The somewhat surprising fact about this group is Germany’s “low” standing, which is the consequence of some disappointing performances since the last World Cup (we’ll get back to this later on). Let’s also note that, for the Euro 2016, France would be first in our ranking if we took into account the home field advantage1.
After the “favorites”, we find the would-be surprises of the Euro 2016: Croatia, Portugal, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Switzerland and Ukraine. Both Croatia and Portugal have maintained a decent performance level after a rather disappointing run in Brazil. Switzerland has not been able to validate the hopes that some had placed in them before the World Cup and their latest results do not make their prospects any better. Among the three countries from Eastern Europe, the most interesting is probably Poland, who have had a really good run these last two years.
Next up are the teams that have not yet demonsrated that they could be a serious threat for this Euro but still deserve to be taken seriously: Ireland, Austria, Romania, Italy, Slovakia, Sweden and Czech Republic. As much as the first three teams seem to be in the right place, it seems we could have hoped better than “underdog” from the the Swedes and Czechs. For the Czech Republic, it’s been a slow downward spiral since 2006 and the end of Nedvěd’s era3. Meanwhile, Sweden is also lagging but hoping for one last stand from their star forward. Finally, stuck in the middle of this group we find Italy. Their position might surprise some, but this is not just a consequence of their recent “under-performing”, but goes even further back than their disappointing run at the last World Cup.
Iceland, Hungary, Albania, Wales and Northern Ireland. Let’s be clear: the chances of any of these teams to even make it out of the first round are slight at best. Still, shouldn’t we show them some respect? Statistically yes : for each game against one of the “favorites” or “challengers”, a “spectator” team has an 8 to 20 percent chance of winning. In total, there are nine such games. Our bet: at least one of these games will be won by a “spectator”5. Oh, the joys of probabilities!
Robben and Van Persie. The Netherlands were ranked third in Brasil as well as in our world ranking at the time, they’re fifteenth today, between Portugal and Croatia, which is still not that bad. But then this happened.
Everyone seems to agree (maybe wrongly so) that friendlies, as well as qualifiers for the best teams, are not that meaningful. Nevertheless, we can’t reject the data outright when we look at trends over several years. Here’s a recap of the rankings in 2014 right after the World Cup, at the end of 2015 and today, as well as the changes in ratings between these rankings.
To get a better picture of what happened, the best is to look at a bar chart of the variations between 2014 and 2016, which tells an interesting story.
More or less stable, France and Spain seem to have reached their peak. The story for France was fairly different at the end of 2015 when their rating bottomed out. Among the best surprises, we find England with the fifth highest increase in rating as well as Poland, whose status as one of the true dark horses of this Euro has slowly grown over these past two years.
At the other end of the spectrum, Italy, Portugal and Ukraine have been struggling during this rebuilding period. Yet they still managed to stay close to their typical level.
And then there’s Germany, the big question mark of this Euro. Their preparation over the past two years has been mediocre at best: a series of defeats in friendlies against Argentina, the US, France and England as well as an unconvinving run during the qualifiers, where they lost against Poland and Ireland – these losses have put a dent in the aura of invicibility that Germany had acquired after their epic win of the last World Cup.
So what about our football predictions for the Euro 2016?
The StatiumElo ranking and probabilities give us a good sense of the strengths of the teams involved as well as their recent evolution, but there is still more to the the story before we can give our ultimate prediction of who will win.
First, there are still two months before the tournament, with a week of international games at the end of May. These games should give us a lot of fresh insight into the true level of the teams as they gear up for the competition, with most line-ups being set by then (and most last-minute injuries, judicial issues, or strange strategic decisions that might shake up our predictions will have been factored in).
Second, in order to get more precise evaluations of the chances of each team to reach a specific stage of the competition, we need to take into account each group’s initial make up and the subsequent possible brackets. We are currently analyzing this next level of detail, and once we are finished and we have the updated data of the May matches, we swear, we’ll tell you who will win the Euro 2016. Trust us, we’ve never been wrong.24
We introduced some changes in our computations since the first version which we will explain in a separate article. ↩
Which corresponds to adding 104 points to its rating, no more no less. This is the value that best reflects the advantage a team gains by playing at home. ↩
It’s true! ↩
and of amazing football players with mullets ↩
It’s also the first time we are making predictions for the Euro... ↩
A rough estimate, using an average of 15 percent chance of winning per game, gives about a 75 percent chance of this happening. ↩