Football and probabilities

Based On Probabilities: The ‘Euro 2016’ Winner Will Be France – After A Victory Over Spain In The Final

When Romania and France kick-off the ‘Euro 2016’ tonight in the ‘Stade de France’ in Paris, the host and World Cup winner Germany will be – based on a predictive ‘bookmaker consensus model’ – the odd-on favorites for the title.

Researchers from the University of Innsbruck (Austria) – who previously correctly predicted the ‘Euro 2008’ final (Spain vs Germany) and Spain as the World Cup 2010 champion and the ‘Euro 2012’ winner – calculated the probabilities for each national team to win the ‘Euro 2016‘-title as follows:

1  France 21,5 %

2  Germany 20,1 %

3  Spain 13,7 %

4  England 9,2 %

5  Belgium 7,7 %

6  Italy 5,1 %

7  Portugal 4,1 %

8  Croatia 2,9 %

9  Austria 2,3 %

10 Poland 1,7 %

11 Russia, Switzerland 1,4 %

13 Wales 1,2 %

14 Turkey 1,1 %

15 Ukraine 1,0 %

16 Czech, Sweden, Iceland 0,9 %

19 Rep.Ireland, Slovakia 0,6 %

21 Romania 0,5 %

22 Hungary 0,3 %

23 Nothern Ireland, Albania 0,2 %


There is a high probability that the friendly game between France and Germany, which took place in Paris on 13 November 2015 (and was interrupted by the terror attacks), will be replayed as a tournament match at ‘Euro 2016’- semifinal.

The winner of this match will most likely play against Spain in the final as the results of a study carried out by statistician Professor Achim Zeileis from the University of Innsbruck and his colleagues Dr. Christoph Leitner and Professor Kurt Hornik (from the Vienna University of Economics and Business) show.

The scientists have applied a statistical model that proved reliable in forecasting the results of the last two EURO and FIFA World Cup events: the bookmaker consensus model. To forecast the winner, the academics obtained long-term winning odds of 19 online bookmakers, which, in combination with complex statistical models, allow for the simulation of all possible courses of the tournament and results.

According to this model, France will be the most likely winner of the tournament with a winning probability of 21,5 % closely followed by Germany with a winning probability of 20,1 %. The defending European Champion Spain follows, after some gap, with 13,7% while England and Belgium are the “best of the rest” with lower winning chances of 9,2% and 7,7 % respectively.

Spain will lose in the final

The bookmaker model also allows the prediction of the likely teams for the final game, by simulating the whole tournament 100’000 times and assessing who will proceed from the group-phase to the round of 16, the quarter and semifinals and eventually to the final. “In all models, France and Germany are determined the clear winners within their group. Therefore, it is much more likely that these two teams will meet in the semifinal rather than in the final – the winner of the semifinal will most likely play against Spain,” explains Zeileis.

Because of high uncertainty, due to the high number of teams and new tournament rules – 24 teams instead of 16 start off the tournament – predicted probabilities for particular pairings decrease compared to general winning predictions:

The probability that France and Germany play against each other in the semifinals is higher (7,8%) than playing in the final (4,2%). Since both teams are estimated to be equally strong, with France having a very small lead, the probability to meet Spain in the final is 5,7%  for France and 5,4 % for Germany. Both teams are estimated to win against Spain with a probability of 56,3 % for France and 55,8%  for Germany.

Bookmaker knowledge and statistical expertise

“The bookmakers want to make money and, therefore, base their odds on the most realistic results. They not only take historical data into account but also the tournament draw and short-term events such as injured players,” says Zeileis. This system is an excellent basis for the model developed by Zeileis, Leitner and Hornik. “We still have to adjust the quoted odds of the bookmakers for profit margins before we can derive probabilities.”

The quoted winning odds show general winning probabilities for each team. In addition, the statisticians calculate the probability of each team to meet and win against another team. Together with the expectations of the bookmakers, the pairwise winning probabilities are added to the computer model, which then runs a simulation of every possible course of the tournament. “Compared to other models, ours has the advantage that it also yields ‘survival’ probabilities of each team over the course of the tournament,” explains Zeileis. However, he also adds: “We only deliver probabilities and not certainties and are still a long way from predicting the outcome with 100% certainty.”

The study can be accessed online at

Sceptic about academic studies based on bookies? Well, I can offer an alternative with an ‘Econometrician’s Take’ on ‘Euro 2016’ and reference to the ‘Elo’-rating system originally devised to rank chess players published by investment bank Goldman Sachs.

However, different input, same output: France will take the ‘Euro 2016’ title after winning the final vs Spain according to the investment bank’s model. By the way: for tonight’s opener, the model predicts France to win 2:1 vs Romania.

Still not convinced? Then maybe this ranking by current market values of the 24 teams – calculated by – might help to pick the ‘Euro 2016’ winner:

  1. Spain, 592 million €
  2. Germany, 580 million €
  3. France, 487 million €
  4. England, 477 million €
  5. Belgium, 468 million €
  6. Portugal, 322 million €
  7. Croatia, 288 million €
  8. Italy, 263 million €
  9. Poland, 193 million €
  10. Turkey, 182 million €
  11. Switzerland, 175 million €
  12. Wales, 170 million €
  13. Russia, 136 million €
  14. Austria, 128 million €
  15. Ukraine, 123 million €
  16. Sweden, 94 million €
  17. Ireland, 87 million €
  18. Slovakia, 84 million €
  19. Czech, 66 million €
  20. Romania, 55 million €
  21. Albania, 46 million €
  22. Iceland, 41 million €
  23. Northern Ireland, 38 million €
  24. Hungary, 27 million €


Before kick-off: These 5 teams have the highest probability to win the trophy, according to the researchers from the University of Innsbruck:

  1. France 21,5 %
  2. Germany 20,1 %
  3. Spain 13,7 %
  4. England 9,2 %
  5. Belgium 7,7 %

France vs Spain – The ‘bookmaker consensus model’ as well as Goldman’s eonometrician approach show the highest probability is for a ‘Euro 2016’-final between France and Spain.

This wouldn’t be a premiere, both teams already played the final of ‘Euro 1984’ – also in Paris – with France as a 2:0 winner. Disgraced ex-UEFA president Michel Platini was France’s captain back then and scored the opener.

euro 2016 group stage

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