Just as we are about to enter the third acts of the Group Phase, it is good to recap what happened the past two days and where this brought our forecasters. Do we have a new front-runner? Well … it is complicated.
Well it has been quite a two match days! Although most of the confrontations we have seen ended in draws, some even goalless like England – Scotland, some very surprising like Hungary – France, and some not entirely unexpected like Croatia – Czech Republic, the eye-catching stunner was Portugal – Germany‘s 2-4 spectacle. Not only did we see the largest number of goals in any single game this tournament yet, but it all came at only 2 yellow cards despite the intensity and speed of the match. Quite a contrast to Spain – Poland, a draw that cam at a cost of 6 yellow cards, the largest in a single game of the tournament so far. It is however most pleasing that so far there has been only 1 red card, which went to Poland which now holds the dubious honour of having collected most red and yellow cards of all teams this tournament so far.
Yet it is my impression overall, without having dug in the statistics to back this up, that the EURO2020-21 is a fair and relatively clean tournament so far. Of course this might all change now that the games enter a more decisive phase.
The groups have now all completed their first two games and as a result we might be seeing something about where the results to far are taking those teams. Let’s have a look.
In Group A Italy is clearly in the lead after two wins. A draw today is enough to get them through the group phase as group winner. A draw would also certainly get Wales through to the last 16, as second of group A. Ironically Wales play Italy in the last group game and so we might see some cautious playing this afternoon.
Theoretically Switzerland has a chance if they pull off a convincing win against Turkey and Wales loses badly against Italy. But now, at 2h pm on a Sunday afternoon, that seems like a long, a very long shot. Turkey will go home after today.
It seems most likely that Italy and Wales will go on in the tournament.
Group B has a clear favourite to win it, Belgium. With 6 points from 2 wins there is little that can happen that would upset a Belgium win except a inexplicable disastrous loss against Finland and a huge victory of Russia over Denmark. Things look grim for Denmark. It is basically on its way home, except when it would pull off a big win over Russia, and Belgium would trash Finland … which quite honestly seems more likely than Belgium dropping out.
In Group C the Netherlands is practically certain of qualification. The main decision to be expected there in the final group game is whether Ukraine or Austria continue to the next round. North Macedonia are basically also on their way home. As Austria will be playing Ukraine, it is satisfying that this decision will basically be decided in a contest between the two. My best would be on Ukraine going through from Group C, in addition to the Netherlands.
This is a tense group as no one has qualified yet, while all still have a, even when slight, chance. The 3rd game in this group will see England – Czech Republic, a match in which both would have enough from a draw to qualify. Losing it would imperil the loser of the match and make them vulnerable to the result of the other 3rd match of this group: Croatia – Scotland. For the latter game, both teams must win in order to have a chance of progressing to the next round.
England winning against the Czech Republic would potentially open a door for Scotland to go through, however this would come at the risk of running into Czech counters that could render the English progression questionable. Given that both the Czechs and the English have incentives to ‘take it easy’ in their 3rd game, secure a point, prevent injuries and rest critical players … we might see a very unspectacular end to the group phase for group D despite there being so many possibilities.
My guess is we will see England and the Czech Republic through to the knock-out stage.
In Group E there are also still many possibilities and there is no clear winner yet, although Sweden’s chances look best. Sweden will play Poland in the 3rd game and Poland looks unlikely to progress. They must win and this may allow Sweden to await their counter chances whilst a draw would also bring Sweden through.
The other game, between Spain and Slovakia is likely to decide the group 2nd, unless Poland does pull off an unlikely large win over Sweden. Slovakia has the distinct advantage that even a draw against Spain will see Slovakia through as group 2nd, even under a Polish win over Sweden. So Slovakia too can await its counter opportunities while Spain must win.
So if you ask me, I guess we will see Sweden and Slovakia come through. A draw would still give Spain some chance to be among the best 3rd placed nations to fill the final 2 spot in the best 16.
After Germany’s convincing win against Portugal they are actually in a pretty neat position. Although they are 2nd in Group F, behind France, I would think a German win against a Hungary that can no longer qualify, realistically, for a German home audience whilst the Hungarian’s have their first outward game, is likely.
That places a heavy weight on the last game of France as the current World Champion is meeting the current European Champion. In fact, France – Portugal will be a re-play of the EURO2016 final. This will be a high-stakes game, with the French team knowing that a draw will be enough for them. So the French can decide to let Portugal come, awaiting the opportunity of a lightning fast counter with Mbappe. So far the French defence has seemed sturdy and up to the task, while the Portuguese offence relies a lot on Christiano Ronaldo to be truly dangerous.
To me it seems likely France and Germany will go through to the next round.
So, where are we with the scores of the ECON forecasters? Do we have a new front-runner? Well, yes and no! Let us first look at the “how we got here” graph of the scores against the matches played.
If you look closely you will see we have 3 competitors close to each other at the top, two with the same score. Indeed “Surfing Manatees” and “Ferris Bueller” now share the top position with 91 points, whilst Luke Langer has almost joined them with 90 points.
“Would Rather Be Watching Cricket” has lost some ground at 86 points and next is Alex Ralphs at 83. “Never wins anything” and yours truly are determinedly securing the rear guard.
So, from today we have the 3rd matches coming up. Those of you less familiar with EURO and World Cup football might wonder why the 3rd matches of the Group Phase are played concurrently. Some of you might think it is so bleedingly obvious why they are being played concurrently that you haven’t considered that in the past this was not the case. And some of you … well … will remember Germany -Austria at the 1982 World Cup.
I wish you an enjoyable Sunday and an exciting start of the “3rd matches” of the Group Phase.