So You Want To Win The Euros.....Here’s What You’ll Need!

This weekend, one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events kicks off in Rome. 

Whilst it’s a year late, Euro 2020 will be a special one as it'll be played in 11 cities across the continent. 

This will be the 16th staging of UEFA’s showpiece event, and you can be sure Stats Insider will be covering as much ground as N’Golo Kante, providing day-to-day game and tournament projections, while we also highly encourage you to check out our famous tournament simulator.

For now though, let’s take a look at some of the key themes each participant should be looking out for should they want to be holding the trophy aloft in London on July 11. 

RELATED: Check out all of Stats Insider's Euro 2020 projections 

Lead-in form

Lead in form is tricky, particularly this time around, with the bulk of qualifying winding up 18 months ago.

With that said, the qualifying phase of the Euros has traditionally provided a good guide to tournament performance, with the 6 previous champions all winning their qualifying group with varying degrees of menace. 

Germany in 1996 won with a +17 goal difference in qualifying, while Spain’s back-to-back triumphs in 2008 and 2012 were also heralded with blistering qualifying form, with 'La Rioja' winning 17 of their combined 20 matches, while posting a monstrous +35 goal difference in the process.

The Euro’s most recent champion Portugal did top their qualifying group in the lead-up to the 2016 tournament, though only narrowly, which was a similar case with Greece in 2004 along with France four years prior. Speaking of France, they enter this year’s edition as favourites, but didn’t exactly maraud through qualifying, and in fact required a last day victory over Albania to ensure they held out Turkey as group winners. 

So what does this mean for the tournament? 

Well, qualifying for this year’s expanded tournament means there was no less than 10 group winners ranging from traditional power-houses Germany, Spain and France (this trio are the Euro’s only multiple champions) through to the like of Poland, Ukraine and Switzerland. 

If you’re looking for teams who were the most rampaging, Belgium and Italy were the only nations who won each and every one of their 10 games, combining for a ridiculous +72 goal difference along the way. Spain was undefeated in qualifying and posted a +26 GD, and while England dropped just the one game, their 37 goals scored was a number only bettered by Belgium’s 40 in qualifying. 

Ok, so what’ll I need to do in the group stage?

Well first and foremost you’ll need to simply survive, with recent history suggesting that setting the world on fire during the tournament's initial phase is by no means a pre-requisite for glory.

Interestingly, 3 of the last 5 European champions didn't even top their group, while even Spain didn't exactly sizzle early on in either of their consecutive wins.

At the last Euro’s, you’ll remember Portugal squeaking out 3 group-stage draws and only advancing to the Round of 16 thanks to an expanded tournament that allowed four 3rd-place teams to progress. 

In 2004, Greece advanced thanks to just one win in the group stage, and only because they’d scored more goals than Spain. Four years earlier, France secured their ticket out of the group-stage having finished second to the Netherlands.

Winning one's group isn't everything.

So what does this mean for the tournament?

It’ll mean every team with championship ambitions needs to keep a keen eye out for potential banana skins. 

While yes, the expanded tournament will once again provide safe heaven for four 3rd-place finishes, teams will still need to tread with extra care should they want to avoid leaving early. While obviously bombarding one’s way through the group is never a bad thing, pacing yourself is also an advisable approach.

Anything I should be particularly packing in the suitcase? 

Yes, defence. 

In Portugal’s most recent triumph they were simply impenetrable by the time the tournament reached the knockout stage, conceding just a solitary goal over their 4 elimination games.

While Spain’s mesmerising play characterised their 2008 and 2012 victories, it’s easy to forget that defence was the backbone of both campaigns, incredibly conceding just a single goal over their 6 knockout games over both tournaments. 

Speaking of defence, Greece’s famous 2004 win relied almost exclusively on opponent suppression rather than anything it did with the ball. In fact, in Greece’s six games over the tournament, they scored more than once on just occasion, however they incredibly produced 3-straight clean sheets in the knock-out phase.  

When Germany won their 3rd and most recent European crown in 1996, they conceded just 3 goals in their 6 games throughout their summer in England.  

So what does this mean for the tournament?

Well, it means one should be skeptical of teams who haven’t demonstrated a sound level of defence in qualifying, or in recent friendlies, and to keep a more open mind upon nations who have.

Of the 10 teams to win their group in qualifying, Germany and Croatia were the leakiest, shipping 7 goals a piece. England too had their troubles, surrendering 6 throughout qualifying, famously shipping 3 to Kosovo.

As for the best defences in qualifying, Belgium and Italy were particularly stingy conceding just 3 and 4 goals respectively, while it’s important to note Italy have now produced 8-straight clean sheets, most recently blanketing the Czech Republic in a friendly in Bologna. 

Unlike Italy, Belgium’s lights-out defence in qualifying hasn’t carried through in recent friendlies. In fact, one of the tournament favourites enters with plenty of questions defensively, having conceded at least 1 goal in 9 of its past 12 games. 

So you’re saying I don’t need to be loaded with firepower?

When did we say that? While sure Greece was able to win it all almost entirely off the back of defence, the reality is every other recent European champion has needed to demonstrate an ability to put the ball in the back of the net. 

When Germany won in 1996, they had one of the world’s best strike pairings in Jurgen Klinsmann and Oliver Bierhoff, with the decorated pair combined for 5 of Germany’s tournament-best 11goals. 

When France won 4 years later, they produced a group-stage best 7 goals, while in their 3 knock-out games 'Les Blues' added 6 more. Throughout that tournament France had no less than 5players who registered multiple goals, including a certain Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry

In 2008, Spain scored 8 times in the group stages with David Villa winning the golden boot. When they defended their title 4 years later, their attack was arguably even more menacing, ultimately trouncing Italy 4-0 in their Kyiv final. 

And finally, while Portugal’s defence played a larger role in their 2016 title, this was still an attack which averaged better than a goal a game throughout the tournament, while also enjoying the services of Cristiano Ronaldo who netted 3 times.

So what does this mean for the tournament?

Well there’s not shortage of scintillating attacking talent heading to the Euros with all of the big candidates dripping with star power. 

England’s Harry Kane led all qualifying with 12 goals, which was the same number Belgium's Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard combined for.

That guy Ronaldo? Well he still means business having fired home 11 goals in qualifying, while Finland’s first-ever appearance at a major tournament will come with a familiar face courtesy of Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki who scored 10 times in qualifying. 

Of the qualifying teams who won their group, some questions might be asked of both Croatia and Ukraine from an attacking perspective. Both scored just 17 goals in qualifying, while neither squad has a player who produced more than 4goals during this phase. 

So who’s gonna win this thing? 

Who knows?

This tournament is wonderfully open with no clear-cut favourite. Currently, the oddsmakers are suggesting there’s 8 teams who separate themselves form the rest, while a similar story is playing out where Stats Insider’s tournament projections are concerned. 

The model currently has France as 14.5% tournament favourites, closely followed by England at 14.4% and who are desperate to break their 55-year major tournament drought.

The model is expecting Belgium to perform well, with the 'Red Devils' holding a 41.9% chance of making the Semis, while Spain are occupying a 38% chance of also making the tournament's Final Four.

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James Rosewarne

James is a writer and Managing Editor at Stats Insider. He likes fiction and music. He is a stingray attack survivor. He lives in Wollongong.

Email- for story ideas or opportunities.

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