Euro 2020: Using AI to predict the winner

By Sports Desk July 06, 2021

Euro 2020 is disappearing before our eyes, with the delayed tournament somehow already at the business end as we head into the final three matches.

It's been a thrill ride since the very beginning. From Italy making a sparkling start and Denmark rallying after Christian Eriksen's medical emergency, to France falling at the last 16 and England reaching the semi-finals of a second successive major tournament.

Italy, England, Spain and Denmark are all that's left as Euro 2020 enters its final week, and at this point it seems particularly tricky to call, particularly between first three.

But, given how integral statistics are to football these days, data can potentially give you edge when attempting to predict certain outcomes, and this is where Stats Perform's Artificial Intelligence team comes in as they've used Opta's extensive data reserves to quantify each semi-finalist's chances of winning tournament.

Every match has been run through the Stats Perform Euros Prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances and also takes into consideration the strength of each side's opponents.

The games are then simulated 40,000 times and analysed, providing the AI team with a percentage for each nation, showing the probability of them ultimately lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 11.

Without any further ado, let's take a look at the results…

Denmark (8.8 per cent chance of winning Euro 2020)

The fact Denmark even got out of their group was an achievement in itself as they became the first team to ever reach the knockout phase having lost their opening two matches. Yet, here we are.

The Danes are into the last four for the first time since winning the competition in 1992 and have really hit their stride since their two early defeats, with only Spain (12) outscoring Kasper Hjulmands' men until this point (11) – that haul is the most they've ever managed at a major tournament.

 

Denmark have projected a real sense of unity since Eriksen collapsed against Finland, and it's hard to believe they will fear anyone at this point.

Nevertheless, England should represent trickier opposition than the likes of Wales and the Czech Republic, which is perhaps reflected by the fact their 8.8 per cent chance of winning the title is the lowest of the four remaining teams.

But if standout performers such as Joakim Maehle, Simon Kjaer and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg continue to deliver the goods, who's to say they cannot emulate the 1992 vintage?

 

Spain (23.1 per cent)

Luis Enrique's Spain have been a fascinating watch at Euro 2020, partly because they somehow manage to flitter between exceptional and unrefined. Their erratic nature has become one of the sideshows of the tournament.

For example, only the Netherlands (53) have forced more high turnovers than Spain, while La Roja are the sole side to break the 100 barrier in terms of sequences of 10 or more passes (147). They only allow their opponents 8.3 passes on average in the defensive third before they initiate a defensive action, indicating they are the most intense pressers at the tournament, and their haul of 12 goals is more than anyone else.

 

Yet, their xGA (expected goals against) of 6.8 is comfortably the worst of the four teams left, and their xG underperformance of 3.6 is the biggest of all 24 teams. In short, these points suggest that not only have Spain been lucky to only concede five times, they are also the most wasteful team at Euro 2020.

 

That's obviously not helped by the fact Gerard Moreno (no goals from 3.3 xG) and Alvaro Morata (two goals from 3.95 xG) are among the three players with the worst xG underperformance records in the competition.

However, they've got this far and have still crafted plenty of goal-scoring opportunities, with their record of 25 big chances a tournament-high. If the penny drops with Spain's forwards and they start to convert in line with their xG, they could have real joy.

 

England (29.1 per cent)

It would be fair to say England's performances in the group stage, although not alarming, certainly didn't inspire a huge amount of confidence as they scored just two goals. But in the two games since, they have netted six times and attracted significant acclaim.

The fact they don't necessarily stand out in many specific team metrics (perhaps bar 10+ passing sequences – 98, second to Spain) is arguably partly down to how flexible Gareth Southgate's team have been in their approach to specific games. For example, their passes per defensive action (PPDA) dropped from 13.7 against Scotland to 25.9 against Germany, suggesting they were concerned about the German midfield playing through their press and instead sat back more in order to cut off passing routes.

Of course, adapting to your opponents is hardly revolutionary, most teams do it to a certain extent, but in a tournament where Spain and Italy have almost religiously stuck to principals and formations that govern their setups, England have chopped and changed.

 

It's clearly worked as well given the fact the Three Lions have equalled a major-tournament record of five successive clean sheets, while their 2.95 xGA (with no goals conceded) leads the way at Euro 2020.

With their defence seemingly watertight and Harry Kane finding some confidence with three goals in two games, England look in great shape. If our prediction model took into consideration that all of the remaining games are to be at Wembley, they'd likely be a bit closer to top spot.

 

Italy (38.9 per cent)

It seems like a long time ago now that Italy came into Euro 2020 as – some claimed at the time – unknown quantities. The common conception was that their 27-match unbeaten run coming into the tournament was misleading because most of the games were said to have been against sub-optimal opposition.

Well, they are now at 32 games unbeaten having won or drawn all of their five matches to this point at Euro 2020, setting a new national record in the process.

But, more than that, they've been utterly joyful to watch. They are relentless in attack, as highlighted by their tournament-leading shot (11) and goal-ending high turnovers (three), but also impressive at the back having only conceded one non-penalty goal.

 

Built around a solid core of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella that expertly blends craft and guile arguably unlike any team at Euro 2020, Roberto Mancini's turned Italy into a side that's not only been generally fun to watch, but also effective.

Spain represent a completely different challenge to any other side Italy have faced thus far, yet Luis Enrique's men have afforded their opponents plenty of chances. The Azzurri have been consistent throughout in attack, as demonstrated by their 11 goals from 10.3 xG. Without the one own goal in their favour, it would be 10 from 10.3 xG.

 

Italy have shown no major weaknesses en route to the semi-finals, and as such our model suggests it is they who have the greatest chance of success this week.

Related items

  • Wimbledon: 'Phew! I am lucky!' – Djokovic relieved to get job done just before curfew Wimbledon: 'Phew! I am lucky!' – Djokovic relieved to get job done just before curfew

    Novak Djokovic beat Tim van Rijthoven on Sunday to take his place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, and was very relieved to get the job done ahead of the 23:00BST curfew.

    World number one Djokovic saw off the Wimbledon debutant 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 on Centre Court to set up an intriguing last-eight clash with Jannik Sinner.

    The contest did not go all the defending champion's way, however, as Van Rijthoven's display in the second set suggested Djokovic would have to dig deep.

    But the Serb's response was emphatic as he went on drop just three games in the following two sets, blowing the 25-year-old Dutchman away impressively to reach a 13th Wimbledon quarter-final.

    It was also Djokovic's 25th successive win at Wimbledon, a sequence that has only ever been bettered three times in SW19.

    For a while there seemed to be a real threat of Van Rijthoven taking the match into a second day, with the curfew looming.

    Djokovic suggested he was not entirely aware of the deadline, and that only increased his relief after clinching victory with 22 minutes to spare.

    Speaking on court afterwards, Djokovic said: "I don't know if there was a curfew, 11pm? Is that still on? Okay, phew!

    "I am lucky, I am lucky. It's only 20 minutes, too, so I'm lucky. I have had some previous experience of playing a match over two days under the roof against [Rafael] Nadal some years ago, and it's never really pleasant if you can't finish the match the same day.

    "I am glad I did and now I am just looking forward to the next challenge."

    Specifically on Van Rijthoven, Djokovic added: "He was very tough, he's kind of a new face on the tour and actually won his first ATP match in the tournament he won a few weeks ago in his country, beating players in top five, top 10 in the world.

    "He was on a streak on this surface, so I knew it wasn't going to be easy with that serve and a lot of talent, great touch and a powerful forehand. He can do a lot of damage.

    "It took me a little bit of time to get used to his pace, and the conditions under the roof are a little bit different, a bit slippery, so it takes a bit of adjusting, but overall I closed out the match well."

  • Trincao returns to Barcelona as Wolves opt against triggering option Trincao returns to Barcelona as Wolves opt against triggering option

    Francisco Trincao has returned to Barcelona after Wolves opted against triggering their purchase option.

    The 22-year-old winger joined Wolves on loan last July, reportedly paying £5.1million (€5.9m) to borrow him for the season.

    As part of the deal, Wolves secured an option to buy the Portugal international for £25million (€29m) at the end of the loan, but that rarely looked a realistic outcome.

    Trincao featured 28 times for Wolves in the Premier League, though only 16 of those appearances were as a starter, and he had a hand in just four goals.

    Despite Wolves letting Trincao return to Barcelona, they will – according to a report published on Sunday by the West Midlands-based Express and Star – receive 20 per cent of his next transfer fee.

    He heads back to Barca with his future at Camp Nou unclear, as the club are keen to offload deadwood amid something of a financial crisis.

    Barca reportedly spent €31million in January 2020 to bring Trincao to the club from Sporting Braga, but his impact has been largely minimal.

  • Wimbledon: Sinner labels Alcaraz triumph one of his best after sinking Spanish star's hopes Wimbledon: Sinner labels Alcaraz triumph one of his best after sinking Spanish star's hopes

    Jannik Sinner said his win over Carlos Alcaraz ranked among the highlights of his young career after reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals with an impressive 6-1 6-4 6-7 (8-10) 6-3 victory.

    The 20-year-old Italian converted his sixth match point of an enthralling encounter on Centre Court to reach his third grand slam quarter-final.

    The contest had been billed as a clash between two of the sport's future superstars, with their combined age the lowest in a fourth-round grand slam match since Juan Martin del Potro faced Kei Nishikori at the 2008 US Open.

    At 19 years and 66 days old, Alcaraz had become the youngest male player to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon since 2011, and Sinner was keen to credit his opponent after a battle which lasted three hours and 35 minutes.

    "First of all, Carlos is a very tough opponent and a very nice person, so it's always a huge pleasure for me to play against him," Sinner said.

    "Today was such a great crowd and especially today, 100 years [since Centre Court opened]… it's just amazing.

    "It's tough when you have match point and you still have to play. It's part of the game, part of tennis, and obviously I'm very happy with how I reacted.

    "I'm very happy to be in the next round, and hopefully I can play some good tennis also in the next round."

    Sinner, who boasts a 5-0 record against Spanish players in 2022, was asked where the triumph ranked among the best moments of his career.

    He said: "In the top list, for sure. I didn't expect it because I was not playing so well on the grass.

    "Then match after match I was better, I won my first grass-court match here in the first round, and now I'm here in the quarter-finals. I tried to adapt myself and the crowd helps me a lot."

    Sinner had previously lost four fourth-round meetings with top-10 players at grand slams, being beaten by Alexander Zverev at the 2020 French Open and 2021 US Open, Rafael Nadal at the 2021 French Open, and Andrey Rublev at Roland Garros last month.

    Sinner also improved his 2022 record against top-10 opponents to 2-5 with the victory, with his only previous win coming against Rublev at the Monte Carlo Masters.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.