Euro 2020 Favorites: Modeling The Beautiful Game

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Jun 10, 2021 - 02:45 AM

Following a year of COVID-lockdown-driven delays, the Euro 2020 tournament kicks off on Friday 11 June when Turkey take on Italy in Rome.

As fans from most of the continent's major 'footballing' nations cheer on their teams, they recognize that some have a far higher chance of winning than others.

As the excitement for the tournament builds, Goldman Sachs' Economics Research Group constructed a statistical model to simulate the European Cup. As Sven Jari Stehn and Christian Schnittker explain, they start by modelling the number of goals scored by each team using a large dataset of international football matches since 1980.

We find that the number of goals scored by each team can be explained by:

(1) the strength of the squad (measured with the World Football Elo Rating),

(2) goals scored and conceded in recent games (capturing the side’s momentum),

(3) home advantage (which is worth 0.4 goals per game) and

(4) a tournament effect (which shows that some countries tend to outperform at tournaments compared to their rating).

Goldman then simulates the tournament using our estimated scoring model.

So will win?

Goldman's framework predicts that Belgium will win the Euros for the first time in history, narrowly beating Italy on July 11.

The reason the model gives Belgium the edge is primarily its high Elo score, where it is ranked first amongst European nations.

That said, we see a close race between Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain, which make it to the semi-finals.

The model also offers a few unexpected insights. One is that Denmark is projected to do well in this tournament, winning its group and losing only to Portugal in the quarterfinals. Although France—as world champion—has a high Elo score, Les Bleus are penalised in our model by a difficult group stage, lack of home advantage and negative momentum in recent games.

Compared to betting odds, our model favours Belgium and predicts a lower probability of success for England.

Of course, this is all rubbish as football is not a game of 'perfect... and it is clear that England will win.