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Euro 2012: England is semi-final probability

Stats-cruncher lifts nation's hopes

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Euro 2012 stats Ahead of the first ball being kicked at the Euro 2012 tournament, England is the third-ranked team and has a 68 per cent chance of getting out of the group stage according to the UK's top academic soccer statistician.

You read that right. With one of its best players unavailable for the first two matches, a manager who's had his feet under the table for less than two minutes plus a racism controversy – England still might do OK.

The number-crunching has been done by Dr Ian McHale, senior lecturer in statistics in the University of Salford and chair of the Royal Statistical Society's sports section. McHale and his team have run a million simulations of the tournament, using data from 11,000 international games.

The Reg ran details of his work during the 2010 World Cup, where he predicted Holland would win before the tournament started. After the group stages, and using the new data, this was revised to a Spanish victory. You might recall an unattractive Holland team losing to Spain in the final.

This time round, Spain are favourites, Germany second and England third. A Germany/England semi-final beckons. Hosts Poland and the Ukraine are bottom ranked at 15 and 16 respectively.

McHale's model uses an objective rating of players using official match statistics, not one based on subjective notions such as flair. He uses an 'ordered probit' model (an ordered regression model, stats fans) to estimate the probability of the three outcomes of a match – whether the result will be a win, a draw or a loss.

The model only uses the results of previous International games, the number of goals scored, and location of game. Weighting comes from Fifa's database of team rankings.

Factors that favour a team:

  • if they're at home;
  • haven't travelled too far;
  • are ranked higher than the opposition;
  • if they're an improving team according to ranking;
  • the seriousness of the game (friendly or major tournament - better teams take major tournaments more seriously); and
  • if they've been winning recently.

The bottom line is that England is going into a football tournament seriously undervalued from a betting perspective. UK bookies are well known for relying on home sentiment, and a misplaced sense of soccer entitlement, to offer punters terrible odds on the England team. By contrast Spain and Germany, the favourites, are poor value in betting terms.

But don't get too excited. At this point there is a 90 per cent chance of England not winning the tournament. (Spain has a 12 per cent chance of winning, and Germany has an 11 per cent chance.)

Dr McHale's Rankings

rankings_graphic

In order, that's:

Rank Country % chance winning
1 Spain 12%
2 Germany 11%
3 England 10%
4 Russia 9%
5 Netherlands 8%
6 Sweden 7%
7 Denmark 7%
8 Republic of Ireland 7%
9 Greece 6%
10 Italy 6%
11 France 4%
12 Portugal 4%
13 Croatia 4%
14 Czech Republic 3%
15 Poland 3%
16 Ukraine 2%

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