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The stats show England have been lucky, but they’re still Euros favourites

Euro 2020 has been unpredictable – but it could still be England’s tournament. The team have a 32 per cent chance of ending their 55-year major tournament drought, according to artificial intelligence models from sports intelligence agency Twenty First Group.

Their biggest rivals Italy, Belgium, and Spain – all on the other half of the draw – each have no more than a 20 percent chance of lifting the trophy. Omar Chaudhuri, chief intelligence officer at the company, explains why England can go into their quarter-final against Ukraine with confidence.

The draw has been kind

Before a ball was kicked, England’s route to the final looked treacherous. As such, Twenty First Group's tournament prediction model gave them a 13 per cent chance of winning the tournament, behind Germany, Belgium, and France.

However, a series of less-than-likely events have helped England. First, Spain (sixth-favourites) came second in their group, landing them in the other half of the draw instead of in England’s quarter. Second, the Netherlands – one of the strongest teams in England’s half of the draw – were eliminated by the Czech Republic on Sunday. 

And finally on Monday, World Cup winners France were knocked out by Switzerland on penalties in the round of 16. Helped by navigating a difficult round of 16 match against Germany, England’s odds of winning Euro 2020 have increased to 32 percent, making them the clear favourites to lift the trophy.

Home comforts help England

While there is no single host country for Euro 2020, England have benefitted from London being one of the 11 host cities for the competition, playing their four games to date at Wembley. Home advantage has been a much-debated and researched area since the pandemic forced stadiums to close their doors to fans. In the Premier League, home teams won or drew 70 per cent of matches before the pandemic, but only 61 per cent with no fans in stadiums. When even a small number of spectators were permitted entry, home wins and draws increased to 68 per cent, demonstrating the power of having supporters cheer on the home team (and intimidate opponents and the referee).

Playing in front of a 25 to 50 per cent full Wembley in the games to date has therefore given England an edge. Indeed, their round of 16 match against Germany was originally scheduled to be played in Dublin, but was moved to London after the Irish government could not guarantee that spectators would be admitted to the stadium – a lucky break.

England’s match against Ukraine on Saturday will be their first at a neutral venue, in Rome, with no supporters travelling over from England. A home game would have come with an 81 per cent win probability; instead they travel to Rome as 75 per cent favourites. A win would return them to Wembley for the semi-finals and potential final against tougher opponents, where home advantage has a greater marginal effect. Against the likes of Denmark, Belgium, Spain, and Italy, we forecast that home advantage is worth over eight percentage points in win probability for the Three Lions. Should England reach the final, they will be very familiar with their Wembley surroundings and fans, having matched the record for most games for one team at a single stadium during a World Cup or European Championships (6). An omen: that record is currently held by England’s World Cup winners in 1966, who played all six of their games at Wembley too.

A stroke of luck

England’s main concern heading into the knockout match with Ukraine is the form of Harry Kane. Despite scoring against Germany, he has not seemed the potent threat that he has been in domestic football. His ‘expected goals’ numbers – which measure his ability to get on the end of good goal scoring chances – back this up, with his tournament output down 40 per cent on his club output. 

However, England’s replacement options at centre forward are limited. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the only other ‘pure’ centre forward in the squad, but our Player Contribution model, which evaluates the impact of players within a team, suggests that England’s chances of beating Ukraine would fall slightly from 75 to 71 per cent with the Everton striker up front instead. Manager Gareth Southgate will almost certainly stick with his captain Kane.

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Having yet to concede, England’s defence has been held up as one of the team’s key strengths in the tournament so far. However, not everything is as it seems. England’s opponents have missed a number of big opportunities to score, and our expected goals model suggests that England would normally have conceded two or three goals so far. Only Belgium have been ‘luckier’ in this regard, and at some point England are likely to concede from the chances they are giving up.

Ukraine meanwhile come into the game off the back of a dramatic extra time win against Sweden. Teams that play 120 minutes often struggle to recover for the next match, winning just 41 per cent of their ties in the following round. Not only that, but Ukraine have travelled over six times as many miles as England so far in the tournament, having played games in Amsterdam, Bucharest, and Glasgow to date.

The battle for the final

England’s biggest threat from denying them a final spot is Denmark, who are actually the last team to beat England at Wembley. Brought together by the cardiac arrest and recovery of star player Christian Eriksen, the Danes were pre-tournament dark horses who have also benefited from a kind draw. With a quarter-final match against the Czech Republic, they have almost as good a chance of reaching the final (25 per cent) as even Italy, Spain, or Belgium, as those three teams will clash in the quarters and semis.

Our models make Belgium the second-favourites to reach the final, despite a tough quarter-final game against Italy in Munich. The Italians are on a 33-month unbeaten run but against largely weak opponents, and Belgium’s exceptionally strong team on paper – a key input into our model, given the scarcity of international football matches – means we give them a 34 per cent chance of making the final to Italy’s 26 per cent. In the final quarter-final, Spain are 65 per cent favourites against Switzerland, and third-favourites overall for the tournament.

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This article was originally published by WIRED UK

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