With Euro 2012 about to kick off, we are encouraged to be optimistic about England’s chances.
The good news? According to Dr Ian McHale, Chair of the Royal Statistical Society’s new Sports Section, England is the third best team in the championship and has quite a good chance of beating Ireland in the quarter finals, getting to the semi finals… and then of probably being beaten by Germany in the semis.
This extra insight is down to use of statistical modelling. Just as we use our knowledge of the past to predict the future, a statistical model draws on past data to predict future outcomes. And, just as we would expect, the more your thinking factors in information on variables the better the end results…and the more accurate the model outcome.
Drawing on raw historical data – the results of the last 11,000 international games – Ian used a two-stage model that estimated the probability of the possible outcomes of any match - win, draw, loss - to run a model in two stages:
(i) taking account of as many factors as could impact on each match such as the ranking difference between two teams, home advantage, distance travelled, the number of goals scored, recent results etc. to fine-tune the outcome
(ii) simulating the matches throughout the tournament a million (!) times. See ‘Euro 2012: England will meet Germany in semi-finals, claims stats guru‘ , the full Guardian article for more detail.
Ian’s results are surprising. The bookmakers’ 3-1 favourites Spain have an implied 25% chance of winning the tournament, but his data suggest 12% is more likely. And the bookmakers have England at 14-1, implying a 7% chance of winning, whilst his data suggest something nearer to a 10% chance.
What is certain is that nobody is being encouraged to place bets based on these predictions. The model is not perfect. For example, it does not take account of injuries or suspensions. What it does do is suggests that there is cause for cautious optimism with England having a 68% chance of getting out of their group and doing better than the bookies’ odds imply.
To hear Ian on BBC Radio 5 Live (timing: 0656.45 hrs, 8 July 2012), listen here.