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Update: Is football coming home?

With Euro 2020 now at the knock-out stages, it’s time to reassess the chances of the last 16 teams progressing further. ‘Scorecasting’ economists make England slight favourites to reach the final from their side of the draw; while Wales have a 5% chance of going to Wembley.

Before the European Championships began, we published some forecasts about how the tournament would turn out. They weren’t particularly positive about England’s chances – and hence chimed with the semi-ironic usual usage of the phrase ‘football’s coming home’.

Now that the group stages are over, a substantial degree of uncertainty has been ironed out. Prior to the chaotic and enthralling end of the group stages, in which during the final 45 minutes of action in Group F, England at some point were due to face all four of the teams in the group, there was a lot of uncertainty about the route by which any team might reach the final. This is all resolved now.

The competition is has now moved into a straight knock-out format. All the best third placed teams have been determined, as the tournament has reduced from 24 teams to 16. We previously argued that the scheduling favoured the Groups finishing last. The four third placed qualifiers were evenly distributed throughout the groups, as Poland were unable to get the win against Sweden that would have qualified both teams participating in the match.

So what has changed, according to our forecasting model of tournament outcomes?

England now have an 11% chance of lifting the trophy, up from 7.3% before the group stages began. This is partly because there are fewer teams left, but also because their pathway to the final is now known – there is no uncertainty. Beat Germany, and with all due respect to Sweden and Ukraine, England’s pathway opens up in the quarter-finals to a semi-final with one of the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic or Wales.

The quirks of tournament design remain, however. For example, Italy have a relatively easy last 16 match against Austria, but then will face Belgium or Portugal in the quarter finals. This means they are more likely (86%) than England (65%) to make the quarter finals, but less likely (34%) than England (40%) to make the semi-finals.

The other side of the draw, somewhat reminiscent of 2018, is far more competitive, with Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Belgium fighting it out to get to a final against one of England, Germany, Sweden, Ukraine, Wales, Denmark, Czech Republic or the Netherlands.

Of those eight, England are the slight favourites to reach the final (27%), followed by the Netherlands (24%) and then Sweden (17%). The inconsistent German team only have a 12% of doing so. As it stands, Denmark have an 8% chance of doing another 1992, the Czech Republic a 2% chance of doing a 1996 (when they made it to Wembley, only to succumb 2-1 to Germany), while Wales and Ukraine have a 4-5% chance of reaching this year’s final.

Of the other eight teams, their chances of reaching the final are as follows: Belgium (35%), France (26%), Spain (10%), Italy (20%), Austria (0.4%), Croatia (0.8%), Portugal (7%), Switzerland (2%).

Belgium remain the favourites, a reasonable tag given their straightforward navigation of their group relative to France.

Table 1: Probability of reaching each stage of Euro 2020, by team in the last 16

TeamChampionsFinal Semi-finalsQuarter-finalsChampions (Pre-tournament odds)
Czech Republic0.32.08.318.00.13
Source: Author's calculations

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Author: James Reade

Editor's note: This is an update of an Economics Observatory article originally published on 11 June 2020 (previous version available here).

Photo by Aleks-Marinkovic on Unsplash
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