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To try and assess which nations have the best chance of winning Euro 2016 we collated a number of football and non-football related statistics on the 24 competing nations.
For our analysis we used the same metrics we utilised to predict the outcome of the 2014 World Cup. These include factors such as where the teams currently rank in the world on both FIFA and ELO ratings, their form in qualifying, the value of each squad, the average age and experience of the players, goals scored and conceded, size of the population and the size of their respective economies. We then assigned a ranked score for each metric listed in Table 1, before arriving at a total combined average score for each nation - the lower the Rank Score, the higher the ranking.
World cup holders Germany score highly in all categories and are top of our ranking with a score of just 3.8. Germany is currently ranked 4th in the world by FIFA, and 2nd by ELO. With players like Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Tony Kroos (Real Madrid) and Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) they have the most expensive squad worth an estimated €562m. Impressively, although they have the second youngest team with an average age of just 25.9 years, they are the third most experienced squad in terms of caps with 41.6, behind just Spain and the Republic of Ireland. On average they scored 2.4 goals per game in qualification, only bettered by England (3.1) and Poland (3.3).
Spain will be eager to put their recent World Cup debacle behind them having gone out at the group stages in Brazil and based on our ranking will push Germany close for the title. Coach Vicente Del Bosque has the most capped team in the tournament at his disposal with an average of 45.8 per player. Spain also boast impressive records at both ends of the park, scoring an average of 2.3 goals per game in qualifying while only conceding an average of 0.3 per game during the campaign.
Hosts France boast an impressive squad full of in-form players such as Paul Pogba (Juventus), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Dimitri Payet (West Ham) and Olivier Giroud (Arsenal). As the host nation France did not have to take part in qualifying so their form refers to all friendlies since 2015. France rank 3rd in our ranking with a score of 7.1 and have an expensive squad valued at €454m. On average they score 2 goals a game but their defensive record is a bit suspect letting in on average 1.3 goals a game, the second worst record in the tournament.
According to FIFA Belgium are the highest ranked team in the tournament but come 4th on our ranking. Like Spain they failed to deliver in Brazil but boast an impressive record in qualifying both in attack and defence scoring 2.4 on average per game compared to just 0.5 conceded. Brilliant young talent including Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) and Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea) mean they have one of the highest valued squads and also rank highly in caps considering age with an average 33.5 caps and an average age of 26.4 per player.
With Brexit looming large on the horizon, perhaps for the first time all of Europe will be hoping England get off to a good start in the tournament. Roy Hodgson has picked the youngest squad with inform players such as Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) and Dele Alli (Tottenham). As usual England were very impressive in qualifying, scoring on average 3.1 goals and conceding just 0.3 per game. They should progress to at least the quarters but at some stage may have to face old rival Germany. Penalties anyone?
Martin O’Neill has gone for experience with the Republic of Ireland squad. Ireland have one of the most impressive defensive records, but also have the oldest squad with players like Robbie Keane, Shay Given and John O’Shea bringing up the average. With perennial finalists Italy, much fancied Belgium and a dangerous Sweden with Ibrahimovic spearheading their attack Ireland have their work cut out for them if they are to progress past the group stage. Based on our ranking they could just inch ahead of Sweden in the group but will come behind Italy and Belgium and it will be a flip of a coin if Ireland are to progress as one of the four third-place runner ups.
Under Michael O’Neill Northern Ireland boast the longest unbeaten record of anyone in the tournament, standing at 12 games and stretching back to March 2015. Northern Ireland are appearing in their first major tournament since the World Cup in Mexico in 1986 and are eyeing an upset after a strong qualification campaign, winning 6 of their 10 games and losing only 1. They are the second most improved team based on the ELO rankings over the past twelve months and could be a dark horse for progression to the knockout stage.
Of course over the years the Euros have thrown up a few shock winners – Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004. The bookmakers have Turkey as an outsider at 66/1 but our model ranks them as the 6th strongest team in the tournament. If they can navigate a tough group containing Spain and Croatia they could be a team to watch. Similarly Poland ranks 7th yet are 50/1. Italy of course deserves a mention given their previous form in knock out tournaments. For the defensively minded a real outsider is Romania. Despite ranking as one of the lowest on our rating system they let in fewer goals than any other team in the tournament with only 2 conceded in qualifying so could prove hard to beat.