How could the Euro 2016 knockout stages look?
Ahead of the final round of Euro 2016 group matches I was struggling to get my head around all the different permutations for the knockout rounds, so I coded a simulation to see what was likeliest to happen.
I took an average of the latest match odds from some of the leading bookmakers and exchanges to generate probabilities for each of the 12 remaining group fixtures and simulated the rest of the group stage 10,000 times to see which teams ended up where. This gave me a percentage likelihood of each team filling each of the 16 knockout berths, which I then graphed for each game.
Without further ado, here’s the result in animated GIF form. This replaces a slightly scruffier version I tweeted earlier (as I was rushing to get out of the door) and I also re-ran the simulation with the latest odds:
Hopefully it’s obvious what’s going on. Each frame is a separate match (as highlighted on the left), with the teams capable of ending up playing in it listed in descending order of likelihood. You can click the image to bring up a version that can be paused and rewound and, to make it easier to follow, I’ve also provided a frame-by-frame breakdown of each match below.
The first knockout game brings together two runners-up. With France considered likely to prevail over Switzerland in Group A, the Swiss have an almost two-in-three chance of finishing runners-up. Poland are by far their likeliest opponent, with the markets expecting Germany to cruise past Northern Ireland to win Group C, while the Northern Irish set to remain third.
The labyrinthine method for calculating which third placed teams can qualify took me a little while to code around and, even with one match remaining, plenty of teams can still finish third in their group. Spain are expected to beat Croatia to take top spot and their opponents are the only side capable of overhauling them, so the “home” side of this fixture is nice and simple. However 10 different teams can still be drawn against them, including England should things go wrong for them in a very specific way on Monday. Austria are the likeliest “away” side here, with the markets optimistic of them defeating Iceland in their final game.
England are strong favourites to win Group B but if they follow the form book they will have to wait for the field of their potential opponents to narrow. Romania or the Czech Republic look the likeliest to be drawn against them, given their winnable final group matches against Albania and Turkey respectively. It’s not impossible for them to meet Northern Ireland however, and a shock win for Michael O’Neill’s side against the Germans could even drop the world champions into England’s path.
This looks like a simpler encounter to predict, with Belgium likeliest to finish immediately below Italy in Group E and meet whoever edges draw-happy Group F. Portugal’s dominant displays make them the most probable candidates, but there remains a roughly 50:50 chance that one of Hungary – the surprise group leaders – or Iceland will beat them to the punch.
This is the most open fixture of the lot. Germany may not be on top form but few are betting against them topping Group C, but the identity of their next opponents will take some time to resolve. Of the 12 teams in the three groups that feed the “away” side of this fixture, only one (France) are unable to finish third, leaving 11 possible opponents for the Group C winners. Slovakia look the most likely to make the cut, as their opening defeat to Wales gives the Welsh the edge in any tie-break situation for second place in Group B.
With Italy already guaranteed to win Group E, this tie looks the simplest to anticipate. Croatia aren’t considered likely to beat Spain in their final match but, barring a heavy defeat, the runners-up spot in Group D looks to be theirs. Defeat for Spain or comprehensive wins for both them and the Czech Republic could mix things up however.
Switzerland aren’t considered likely to overturn France in their final game, so the hosts appear the solid favourites to win Group A. Their range of opponents is relatively slim due to the poor performances of the stragglers in Groups D and E: two of the three that can feed the “away” half of this tie. Northern Ireland look by far the likeliest to face them as it stands, as even defeat to Germany in their final game would probably leave them in better shape than Ireland (who face Italy) or Sweden (who meet Belgium).
A nice symmetrical one to finish with: this looks like Wales v Hungary in the making, although both Groups B and D could still see any of their four constituents finish in second place. With four points on the board and a decent goal difference, the Hungarian claim is the strongest even if they do lose to Portugal as the bookies expect.
I’ve added in a graphic using the same odds that compares all 24 teams based on where they’re likely to end up. The graph below sorts each teams in descending order of how high the bookmakers think they’ll finish.