Jun 12, 2008

A preliminary analysis of the Euro results

The Euro UEFA Cup 2008 currently jointly hosted by Austria and Switzerland, has already emitted its first verdict. At the time of writing, one of the host countries, having lost both the first and the second game, is out of the tournament...sad but true, but the other will probably follow soon the same faith.

In terms of results from the first wave of games, they have also been in some cases surprising, confirming once again that the tournament is really competitive and unpredictable. Take the example of Italy (guess why??). The latest World Cup Champion, has badly lost against Netherlands with a striking 3-0: in one game, Italy has conceded more goals than the ones conceded in the whole World Cup in 2006! A little worried by this event, me and Cosimo had a look at the data of the results in the Euro cup since 1980, to answer the following question: does it matter if you lose the first game? Can you still pass the round? The answer is, yes and no. It does not matter overall, but it matters if you have lost badly, with a big margin of difference in goals. For those of you interested in the methodology and the exact results of the exercise, they are described here. It's quite intuitive to understand that a bad start may be psychologically costly, but, if you are able to score 4 points, depending on the level of the group, may be sufficient to pass the round.
What about the probability of winning the tournament? Do those who qualify as first have more chances to win the cup? Well, apparently not. It does not give you better chances. It may sound strange, but actually, it gives you slightly more chances if you arrive second! How can you interpret this strange result? If you think harder, it is actually not so strange. Being as competitive as it is, there is really not so much of a difference between the winner of a group and the runner up of another. If you have poorly performed in your group, while the other teams have had supreme performance, the psychologic effect may work in reverse, favoring those who had a worse start. We are not giving advice on betting. The intention is not to forecast anything. We just wanted to see what has historically happened in the Euro so far. Then, let's wait and see what happens on the field, and enjoy this wonderful show!

I just saw that Germany, one of the favourite team for the final victory quite unanimously across bookmakers has just thirty minutes ago incredibly lost against Croatia for 2-1. May my Germans friends be scaramantic as much as I am, but maybe they should not worry that much...

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