At least one ‘major’ team will fail to progress beyond the group stage. The results will be hundreds or, in England’s case, thousands of column inches dedicated to their failure to work as a team, their inability to adapt to the play of opposing teams or the ineptitude of the coach.
This post isn’t aiming to de-bunk any of that (I’m not sure of a way to disprove narratives that are, naturally, written after the fact), but simply a demonstration of luck and hopefully showing that having a three game group stage at a major competition, whilst unfortunately being the only really feasible option, is a pretty asinine way to determine who the best teams are at a given tournament.
The aim is to look at the number of points required to reach the knockout stage of the Euro’s and see how often the Premiership champions achieve that threshold. Firstly lets identify the teams I’m using as a comparison: those who’ve finished second in their group at each of the past three European Championships:
The methodology I’m going to use to determine whether a Premiership champion would have reached the knock out stages is as follows:
Take the title winning season and break it into 36 sets of three game samples (game 1-3 being the first sample, game 2-4 being the second and so on). Given twelve seasons of data this gives me 432 three game samples.
Determine the points and goal difference recorded in each of those three game samples
For each of the twelve teams above, determine how many of those 432 times the Premiership champions had a better, tied or worse record
Discount all of the ties and use the remaining numbers to determine the percentage of the time that the Premiership champions would progress to the knockout stage
The results are summarised in the table below:
Basically the champions would fail to qualify for the knockout stages about one time in six. Given that eight teams qualify for the knockout stages we should expect about one shock per tournament just due to random.
The limitations in this analysis are very obvious, I’m not suggesting that this is what would happen (strength of opposition is different for one) but the point I’m driving at here is that it’s nigh on impossible to judge a teams ability based on the results of three games. One bounce, a bad refereeing decision, a couple of injuries,
Joey Barton – any of these can change a game very quickly and that can have a significant effect when your sample size is only three games.
Finally here is the break down of how Premiership champions perform over a three game sample. Points along the top, goal difference down the side