image source: reuters
Before we get into the preview, make sure to download our EURO 2016 match tracker. It contains all fixtures, lets you enter scores, calculates standings (including the 3rd place standings!), and uses our rankings to project group outcomes. All in one sheet! You can’t find this anywhere else, and if you enjoy, please share on Facebook or send a tweet. Would be very much appreciated.
EURO 2016 Competition Tracker – <—— DOWNLOAD
Raise your hand if you had Germany in 3rd place at any point in the competition. After the World Cup, it looked like Germany was sure to run away with this group. While that still may be the case, they’ve now taken only 4 points from their first 3 matches. Ireland’s stunning stoppage time equalizer was a massive point for them on the road. Meanwhile, Poland looks like they mean business. They were close to being on 9 points through 3 matches.
Right now, we only give Germany a 53% chance of finishing top of the group, while Poland stands at over 20%. We give Germany about an 81% chance of qualifying directly, and just a 4.5% chance of not finishing top 3. While that seems small, their odds were 0 heading into qualifying. We give Poland about a 59% chance of qualifying directly and Scotland about a 40% chance. Despite a strong performance thus far, we still peg Ireland 4th in the group at around 19% direct qualification. Every simulation has Georgia and Gibraltar 5th and 6th, with a 99.7% chance of Georgia in 5th and Gibraltar dead last.
Georgia v. Poland – Tbilisi, Georgia
If Poland wants to reach the finals in France, they have to take 12 points from Georgia and Gibraltar. If they don’t, somebody else will. Ireland has already won at Georgia, so any sort of slip up will be a huge blow to their qualifying chances. A draw will see them projected 3rd or 4th while a loss will certainly see them drop to 4th choice. We like Poland by a healthy 2 or 3 goals, despite Georgia being at home. We give them an 82.5% chance of winning the match. Don’t expect anything more than 3 goals total. Ranch on under 3.5, if you can get it.
Prediction: Georgia 0 – Poland 2
Germany v. Gibraltar – Nuremburg, Germany
This is going to be pretty unfair. We have Germany by 7, but don’t be surprised to see a total even higher than that. Gibraltar’s team of firemen and other non-professionals won’t be any match for whoever Germany sends out there. This is just a formality.
Prediction: Germany 7 – Gibraltar 0
Scotland v. Republic of Ireland – Glasgow, Scotland
This is certainly the match of the day in Group D. With Ireland’s arguably two toughest games back to back (including the October match at Germany), if they’re able to emerge with more than a single point, they’ll be in great shape. While it is true that above we have Ireland as 4th choice, a win in Glasgow would see them leapfrog Scotland and have their projection numbers shoot through the roof. Concurrently, a win for Scotland could see them vault Poland, pending other results. There is a lot at stake in this one. We have 12 Scotland home matches on record. Against the WGF top 15 at home, Scotland has yet to score. Against teams outside the Top 15, they’re averaging 1.56 goals per game, scoring in every one. Ireland is currently ranked outside our top 15. Again, Scotland team total over 0.5, if you can get it. We like the Scots to emerge victorious with around a 65% chance of victory. Our predictor actually thinks a 2 goal victory, but don’t be surprised to see it much closer than that.
Prediction: Scotland 2 – Republic of Ireland 0
Raise your hand if you had Northern Ireland with an unblemished record through 3 matches. That’s awesome. It’s exciting to see teams of former glory return to form. With other favorites in the group stumbling, the door has opened for the North Irish to walk through. We now give them an almost 70% chance of qualifying directly for France, with an additional 20% chance of ending up in the playoffs. But we still think Romania ends up top of the group. Already with wins at Greece and at Finland under their belt, they have green pastures ahead of them. We have them all the way up at 95.6% to grab one of the top two spots. It would be truly shocking if they did not.
Beyond the top two, things are much more wide open. We have Finland, Greece, and Hungary projected in that order, but that could easily change. Finland had a chance to make their statement at home against Romania and came up completely empty. They’d probably still be OK if not for the emergence of Northern Ireland. Greece looks terrible, with just 1 point through 3 matches. We give them a 64% chance of not even making it to the playoffs. Not sure what more Greece could have asked for with this group, and it still wasn’t enough. Alarming results for the 2004 champions. We currently have Romania as the 5th highest odds of any team of qualifying for France.
Greece v. Faroe Islands – Piraeus, Greece
As much as we’ve ripped on Greece, they should win this game. 96.5% chance of victory is a pretty certain number. Greece has defeated every team outside of our top 60 that they’ve played at home. We rank Faroe Islands #138. If Greece cannot win, they don’t deserve to be at the finals. I’m sure their coaches and players would tell you the same thing. Scoring 3 goals is a pretty ambitious projection, as sad as that seems.
Prediction: Greece 3 – Faroe Islands 0
Hungary v. Finland – Budapest, Hungary
Hungary refuses to play road matches! 21 of their past 31 have been at home. They also have a nice run of form in goal scoring. They’ve scored in 10 straight and 15 of their last 16. The problem has been keeping other teams at bay. In 17 games against teams in our Top 50, they’re conceding at a rate of 1.76 per match. That has to end if the team wants to have success. Finland actually defeated Hungary in Budapest back in March. Could a repeat be in the cards? Finland could really use some points here, as they are behind both Northern Ireland and Romania and need to keep pace to have any shot of qualifying directly. We think this will be a close and entertaining match, ultimately ending level.
Prediction: Hungary 1 – Finland 1
Romania v. Northern Ireland – Bucharest, Romania
Romania has always been a favorite in this match, but Northern Ireland certainly has proven to be more than capable at this point of pulling the big upset. It might not even be an upset anymore. If Northern Ireland takes 3 points here, they’re going to France. To be on 12 points through 4 matches is a huge lead, and it would take some massive choking to relinquish. While we expect Romania to win, a loss would not be that bad for Northern Ireland. This is the toughest match in the group, and others will surely fall short in the same conditions. Romania hasn’t won at home since October 2013 (only 3 matches). We think they turn the tide here and seize control of Group F.
Prediction: Romania 2 – Northern Ireland 0
Surely if you’re reading this preview you’re aware that there was an incident in the Serbia-Albania match in October. A drone flying a flag with the Albanian flag inside a Kosovo border incited a riot. The match was abandoned. Awkwardly, Serbia was awarded a 3-0 win, but subsequently docked 3 points. The goals will count towards the overall goal difference, but Serbia now shows just 1 point instead of 4. So what does all of this mean? It really means that the other 3 teams in the group heavily benefit. Having a match where neither team gets points in such a small group is huge. Portugal is now the clear favorite to win the group, despite losing the home match to Albania. They got a gift.
But the real beneficiary through all of this may indeed be Denmark. Had Serbia gotten the expected 3 points against Albania, Serbia would be clear 1st or 2nd choice. That’s no longer the case. Denmark is traveling to Serbia for what would have been a very difficult match. It will still be difficult, but the game must now be played behind closed doors. That drone busted Group I wide open, as any team can stake a claim to the automatic qualifier. More importantly, the decision virtually ensures that the best 3rd place team will not come from this group.
Portugal v. Armenia – Faro, Portugal
This is a tall task on the road for Armenia. Despite Nate Silver giving them an almost 28% chance of finishing Top 2 in the group, we’re far less optimistic. We only have Armenia with about a 1 in 250 chance of finishing in the Top 2. Armenia got a really tough draw, but that’s what happens when you are in a low pot. It shows the importance of getting into a high pot. For as bad as they look at times, Portugal always plays a tough schedule. We only have 8 matches on record against teams ranked lower than Armenia. Portugal has only conceded in two of those, and averaged 2.63 goals scored. We project a similar result here.
Prediction: Portugal 3 – Armenia 0
Serbia v. Denmark – Belgrade, Serbia
This is a massive match. Denmark will have just 4 matches after this remaining, as they are the team in Group I that got the bye last. Every other team in qualification will have 5, 6 or 7 matches still to play. It makes this match of even greater importance. Denmark must take advantage of this opportunity to play Serbia behind closed doors and get at least something out of this match. Serbia, meanwhile, must be ruing that drone. Being stripped of 3 points for basically no reason whatsoever hurts a lot. The team can make amends by taking 3 points against Denmark. We still give Serbia around a 70% chance of finishing top 2 in the group despite their penalty.
Prediction: Serbia 2 – Denmark 1