Euro 2012: Statistics specialist says England won't reach the final


The chair of the Royal Statistical Society's sports section has made some calculations and he says that England will reach the Euro 2012 semifinals. But the expert also says that England will get beaten by Germany just before the final.

Dr Ian McHale, a senior lecturer in statistics at Salford University, has been busy running a million computer simulations of the tournament and he says the data suggests that England are the third best team at the championship, behind Spain and Germany.

According to the professor England will face Ireland in the quarter-finals before losing to Germany in the semi finals. The computer simulation showed that France and Italy will not get out of the group stages.

Dr. McHale points out that his model predicted that Spain would win the 2010 World Cup. "The maths doesn't say that England will definitely reach the semi-final," the professor says, "but it does suggest that supporters should not be so pessimistic about England's chances. The analysis suggest there is a 68% chance England will get out of their group and will do better than we all expect."

McHale used a two-stage process to make his calculations, computing the results of individual matches based on the last 11,000 international games. Then the computers were used to simulate a huge number of tournaments. The result is just a mathematical breakdown of the chance each team has of winning Euro 2012, without any opinions of how a team does or does not play.

"One of my students has written a programme that goes through the Fifa website and scrapes all results," explains McHale. "From this raw data I have built a model that estimates the probability of winning a match as a function of a number of variables - including the ranking difference between two teams, home advantage, the distance a team has travelled to a match, number of goals scored, the seriousness of a game, recent results, and more.'

"This results in an analysis that is much more in-depth and nuanced than basing predictions on something like the Fifa rankings, which can be a little bit dodgy when predicting match results because, as my research shows, Fifa artificially rate Middle Eastern countries higher than they should do."

According to the bookmakers, the 3-1 favourites Spain have a 25% chance of winning the tournament, but McHale's data suggests it should be more like 12%. And England, who are 14-1 with the bookies, implying a 7% chance of winning the tournament, actually have a 10% chance according to the statistics.

"Well, the data doesn't account for injuries or suspensions so it is not perfect," admits the statistics guru. "But it does suggest that, for the first time this century, England have a better chance of winning a tournament than the bookies' odds imply."

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