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Euro 2024 update: is football coming home?

The second round of matches in the group stage of the Euros kicks off today. So far, there have been a couple of surprise results – and we can expect a few more that may affect some teams’ routes to the last 16. England’s probability of winning the tournament remains at 10%.

Five days into the UEFA European Football Championship and the first round of group stage matches are complete – each team has played once, and the scene has been set for the tournament.

There have been 34 goals in total so far. This equates to a rate of 2.8 goals per game, compared with an average of two per game since the competition was expanded in 2016, and 2.25 per game when the tournament consisted of 16 teams (between 1996 and 2012).

So far, there has been a relative lack of draws. Prior to the competition being expanded to 16 teams, half of the first round of matches (eight out of 16) ended in draws, and in the 16-team era, about a third of matches (13 of 40) ended tied. So far, there has been just one draw from 12 matches in the competition, a mere 8%.

Further, since 1996, when three points was first awarded for a win in group stage matches at the Euros, the second placed team has achieved, on average, 4.9 points. This indicates that the 11 teams that have three points so far are more than half way to the knock-out stages.

So, it’s time to update our predictions. We can first get the formalities out of the way. Germany, Portugal and Spain will – barring the most unfathomable of sequence of events – be in the last 16. Germany has a 99.74% chance after thrashing Scotland, Spain a 99.84% chance after disposing of Croatia 3-0, and Portugal after their late show against the Czechs, have a 99.52% chance of progressing.

Six other teams have more than a 90% chance of making the knock-out stages. England and France are 98% likely after opening 1-0 wins, the Netherlands have a 97% chance, Switzerland are at 95%, Italy at 94% in the group of death, and Turkey at 90%.

Slovakia’s 1-0 win over Belgium – the biggest shock of the tournament so far – has put the cat among the pigeons, so to speak. The Slovakians now have an 87% chance of reaching the last 16, with Belgium only at 81%. Before a ball was kicked, Belgium had a 97% chance of progressing and Slovakia just a 42% chance.

Belgium are still more likely winners of the whole competition (6% to Slovakia’s 0.05%), but their route to the latter stages may be more complicated now. If they are runners-up in Group E (a probability of 38%), they will face the runners-up in Group D – which is likely to be either France or the Netherlands.

If Belgium make it through as a best third-placed team (with probability of 22%), they move across to the other half of the draw. This would mean that their last 16 match would be against the winners of Group B or C – which could be England (a 42% chance conditional on Belgium qualifying in third), Spain (32%), Italy (13%) or Denmark (7%).

The beauty of the group stage of a football tournament is that simply getting that first win can dramatically alter the likelihood of progression. England were far from convincing against Serbia, France struggled against Austria, and Portugal just about scraped past Czechia in injury time.

Comparably, Germany cruised past Scotland and Spain made easy work of a tough and experienced Croatia. Nevertheless, all of these teams still have roughly the same chance of progressing. The French remain most likely winners of the tournament, with their probability inching up to 21%, Spain move up to 17%, the Netherlands to 13% and England stay at 10%.

Figure 1: Team strengths and chances at the Euros

Source: Ilo rating, author's calculations

Figure 2: Top ten teams by win probability, before tournament and after first round

Source: Ilo rating, author's calculations

The last 16 matches are starting to take shape, too. The most likely last 16 tie is Germany versus Denmark (31%), assuming Germany win Group A and Denmark finish runners-up in Group C, followed by Switzerland versus Italy (29%) if both teams finish runners-up in their groups. France versus Turkey is at 26% if the French win Group D and the Turks finish second behind Portugal in Group F.

It is far from clear whom England will face, since if they do manage to win Group C (78% chance), they would face one of the best third-placed teams. As such, England’s most likely last 16 opponent is still Germany (12.5%) – if they finish second behind Denmark. Slightly behind this is Romania (12%), though that would require Romania to finish third in Group E despite their fine opening win against Ukraine. This is not that implausible given they remain the fourth weakest team in the competition according to our Elo ratings, even accounting for that win.

Perhaps the less said about Scotland, the better. But they do still retain a 30% chance of progressing out of Group A despite their heavy opening defeat against the hosts. While a fourth-place finish in the group is most likely (53%), there’s a 34% chance they achieve third place and thus enter the reckoning for progressing to the knock-out stages.

A third-place finish would be most likely to see the Scots pitted against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. The wild optimists can take solace that there is a 13% chance that they could even reach second place. In this case, they would face the runners-up in Group B – most likely to be Italy, followed by Croatia and Spain.

The first round of matches has yielded two shock results – at a rate of about one in six or 17%. This is not necessarily out of line with the likelihoods of outcomes of these matches before the event.

We can therefore expect another couple of surprise results in the second round of matches, which may yet throw open the match-ups for the last 16. But we may have to wait for them – Group F seems the most likely place, where Georgia’s attacking threat may trouble Czechia, and Turkey will seek to upset Portugal.

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Author: James Reade
Image: gorodenkoff for iStock
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