Before Euro 2016 started, John Eakins and I discussed the probability of qualification from the group stages of the tournament given the conditions of the four team round-robin structure. We had previously examined this for Euro 2012. Euro 2016 is more complicated as four of the six third place teams will qualify for the last sixteen. John proceeded to present all possible group outcomes (there are 729 in total) and the probability of qualification associated with each number of points. For example, nine points obviously results in 100% chance of qualification, while one point will see a country occupy 4th spot almost 90% of the time.
Given Ireland’s results to date, we now know the team can achieve a maximum of 4 points from Group E. Assuming (probably naively) Ireland beat Italy, and given the team’s head-to-head record with Belgium, it will be impossible for the Irish to finish ahead of the Red Devils if they manage at least a draw with Sweden. Should Sweden win, Ireland can only finish ahead of the Swedes if they can outscore Zlatan and co. by three goals or more. While the chance of a second place finish is still possible, it’s highly improbable. Scoring goals hasn’t been Ireland’s forte. Wales have now scored twice as many goals at Euro Finals (in the past ten days) than Ireland have (since 1988!).
Much depends on the outcome of the other group games. Group A is finished, with Albania sitting 3rd on three points. Ireland can better this and must hope another group ends with a third place team on 3 points or less. Had England beaten Slovakia, Ireland would now know that a win against Italy would be enough to progress.
Two more chances are presented tonight. A German victory over Northern Ireland or a draw in the Turkey Czech Republic game, will ensure four points guarantees a place in the last sixteen. Are either of these outcomes likely? The econometricians might be able to help us here. In early June Goldman Sachs published The Econometrician’s Take on Euro 2016. Exhibit 2 presents their model’s predicted results in each group game. Germany are predicted to win 2-1 against Northern Ireland tonight. The Turkey Czech Republic game is predicted to finish 1-1. Either will suffice for Ireland.
A word of caution. The model fails to predict a single clean sheet for any country in any group game. Past results shows that roughly one-third of games end with at least one team failing to score. So far, the model has predicted 9 correct match outcomes from the 28 games. Just 5 games have finished in the predicted score line.
It shouldn’t be overly concerning that Ireland’s game with Italy is forecast to finish 1-1. Let’s hope the econometricians are off the mark again.