The Data Day at Euro 2020: No.11
Welcome to The Data Day, our daily Euro 2020 stats blog where we try and make sense of what just happened.
Everybody Loves a Long Shot
Sometimes football makes sense and sometimes it really doesn’t. Denmark had lost their first two games at Euro 2020, the first in a daze after the shocking Christian Eriksen incident against Finland, the second after outplaying Belgium for much of the match but ultimately not having Kevin De Bruyne in their ranks. In those two matches the Danes had 43 shots and scored just once. Everyone felt for them, but fewer felt that they could make it into the knockout stages with finishing like that.
In fact, no team had ever finished second in a European Championship or World Cup group after losing their opening two matches, but after Groups A & C had petered out with little to no drama, Group B pointed to a big box of permutations and said “alright who fancies it?” Denmark knew they needed to beat Russia in Copenhagen along with Belgium, their new friends, beating Finland, in Russia.
Yet that was not how the game started. The stadium was packed, the atmosphere was expectant and… Denmark didn’t have a shot until the 29th minute. It was a decent hit from Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, but it was from long range, and if we know anything these days we know that long range shots are a fallacy. Work your way into the penalty area and create high quality opportunities. To quote The Mandalorian, “this is the way.”
Or is it? Because in the 38th minute, 20-year-old Mikkel Damsgaard had Denmark’s second shot of the game and this one went in. In truth it wasn’t as good a goal as it first looked – too central to be a one for the ages – but frankly who cared? The breakthrough had been achieved, and with a chance worth 0.03 xG. Damsgaard has now been directly involved in six goals in his five appearances for Denmark in all competitions, scoring three and assisting three. As international careers start, that’s a good one.
In the second half, Denmark went two up after seizing on a monumentally loose backpass from Roman Zobnin, and 10 or so minutes after that news filtered through that Belgium had taken the lead against Finland. Except they hadn’t, reason: some classic VAR stuff, and then almost simultaneously Russia won a penalty, which was despatched by Artem Dzyuba. The perfect situation had crumbled and there was a palpable hush at the Telia Parken.
But that quiet exploded in a way that reminded the watching world just how much energy can be generated from an irl football crowd, when Andreas Christensen rifled home Denmark’s third on 79 minutes after a furious goalmouth melee. It was another 0.03 xG chance from outside the box but Matvey Safonov stood no chance. “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” is a line from Hamlet, but yes it can also be applied to Denmark’s shooting in this game too. After failing to take chances in previous games, it suddenly felt like anything they touched was flying in. This was it. This was football at its chaotic best.
Joakim Maehle added a fourth late on and Denmark, pointless, remember, before this game, jumped up to second place and a last 16 meeting with Wales on Saturday. Our predictor is taken with the Danish progression and it now makes them fifth favourites to win Euro 2020 with an 8.2% chance. The clouds from the first weekend have cleared and now they can see a pathway to glory. Few would begrudge them that fate either. DA
Meanwhile, with their passage to the next round already confirmed and only a point needed to seal top spot, Roberto Martinez took the opportunity to reshuffle his deck with eight changes to his side (the joint-most made by a manager at the tournament so far, level with Italy against Wales). Finland knew that a win or a draw would see them progress but toppling the might of the world’s No.1 ranked team to get that was no easy task.
As such, the Eagle Owls were happy enough to sit back on their perch and soak up the pressure, but a reorganised Belgium couldn’t find a way through. It took until the 23rd minute for either team to muster a shot on goal in a muted affair, the longest we’ve had to wait for a shot in a single Euro 2020 game thus far.
Finland came into the match with just two shots on target, but a shot alone in this one proved elusive. They failed to have a shot in the entire first half, with two of the three occasions of that happening this tournament belonging to them (also v Denmark, and Turkey v Italy).
The Finns were a completely different side after the interval, firing in two shots in the first 26 seconds, before things soon regressed to the norm. With Denmark beating Russia, Finland went into their shells further in order to hold onto their coveted second spot. They knew they were living a charmed life when Romelu Lukaku’s strike midway through the second half was chalked off by VAR after a lengthy delay.
Finally, Belgium got the breakthrough in the cruellest of circumstances, as Lukás Hrádecky palmed a shot behind him as it bounced back off the post. The Finnish stopper made seven saves in the match, the joint-most in a Euro 2020 game so far, but it’s that moment that will live longer in the memory. Coincidentally, it was the sixth own goal at the tournament, the most ever at a European Championships.
As Finland knew they needed an equaliser, they opened up and were ruthlessly exploited by Lukaku with less than 10 minutes to go to scored Belgium’s second. He became the first Belgian to score 10 major tournament goals with that strike. Kevin De Bruyne provided the assist, to take his tally to nine assists at the World Cup/Euros, level with Eden Hazard as the most for Belgium.
Across the last three tournaments, no European player has more assists than Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard (seven). That should be a real concern for other nations looking at Belgium as opponents down the line.
For the second tournament in a row Belgium claimed maximum points at the group stage. Could this be the year it finally all clicks for them? As for Finland, their resolve wasn’t enough and now they face a nervous wait to see if they can sneak into the last 16. With a negative goal difference and only three points, it seems unlikely. CM
Like Clockwork For Oranje
You could have forgiven the Dutch for taking this one easy. Regardless of the result against North Macedonia, they were guaranteed to finish top of Group C. But just two changes from Frank de Boer suggested he wanted to keep building momentum ahead of the knockout stages.
Momentum is perhaps an apt word for this Dutch side. Look at their talismanic striker, Memphis Depay: Nine goals and four assists to his name in his last 10 games in all competitions. Their captain, Georginio Wijnaldum: involved in eight goals in his last eight competitive matches (seven goals, one assist). The Netherlands themselves: well, they just scored two or more goals in 10 consecutive games across all competitions for the first time in their history. After coming into the tournament a little under the radar, all signs suggest this is a side peaking at just the right moment.
Depay, who de Boer had the luxury of substituting just after the hour mark, opened the scoring. His goal finished off a rapid, incisive counterattack that started with Daley Blind winning possession on the edge of his own box. In a flash, just 12 seconds to be exact, Donyell Malen and Depay had combined to shred the North Macedonian defence with the latter coolly slotting home.
Malen, given his first start at Euro 2020 after de Boer clearly listened to some very insistent fans, has now created four big chances in Euro 2020. Only Gareth Bale (five) has created more in the tournament. To be fair, Bale did that in one single game, but Malen’s showing today demonstrated he’d more than justified his selection.
Denzel Dumfries was once again at his marauding best. The full-back has more goals (two), shots (six) and touches in the opposition box (16) of any defender in the tournament.
One of the hallmarks of the Dutch play at Euro 2020 has been the intensity of their high press. So far, they’ve completed 44 high turnovers, a tournament high. Two of those have led to goals, including Wijnaldum’s first today. The PSG-bound midfielder scored his 24 and 25th goals for his country, surpassing the likes of Dirk Kuyt and Marco Van Basten in the national scoring charts.
Despite entertaining many, North Macedonia go home with three defeats to their name. They join Denmark in 1984 and Turkey in 1996 as the only teams to have lost their first three matches at the European Championships. Regardless, it’ll be a tournament that lives long in the memory of all their fans, not least because it saw the last international game for the legend that is Goran Pandev.
Pandev, the man who inspired his nation to their first major finals, and scored their first ever European Championships goal, bows out with 122 caps to his name. He is the second-oldest scorer in Euros history.
Victory here sees the Netherlands win all three group stage matches at a Euro tournament for a third time, after achieving that feat in Euro 2000 and Euro 2008. OH
With Group C’s top spot already tied up by the Netherlands, Austria and Ukraine could have shaken hands and agreed to a low-tempo contest to end the group stage. However, with memories of World Cup 1982 clearly weighing heavy on their minds, Austria weren’t going to play out that script again, roaring out the blocks with seven shots in the first 25 minutes to Ukraine’s zero.
It was a set piece that opened the scoring for them, as the ever-reliable captain David Alaba connected with Christoph Baumgartner from a corner. The Hoffenheim midfielder became the tournament’s youngest scorer at 21y 324d, and Austria’s youngest ever at a European Championships.
To call the first half one-sided would be entirely justified, as Austria fired in 13 efforts on goal, the second most by a team in a first half at Euro 2020 so far (Italy had 14 versus Turkey). It was also more than Austria had across 90 minutes against either North Macedonia (10) or the Netherlands (nine). Austria had never led a Euros match at half-time beforehand, so this was unchartered territory for them.
David Alaba’s set-piece delivery was a problem for Ukraine during the match, as he created four chances in the first half alone. That took him to nine chances created for the tournament, the outright most for any player, with six of those via set plays.
Player Team Chances Created Chances Created From Set Play David Alaba Austria 9 6 Daniel James Wales 8 5 Ruslan Malinovskiy Ukraine 8 3 Andrew Robertson Scotland 7 3 Cengiz Ünder Turkey 7 3 Hakan Calhanoglu Turkey 7 2 Pierre-Emile Højbjerg Denmark 7 0
Andriy Shevchenko’s half-time team talk/rant/scream of frustration probably wasn’t a tough one to formulate, and his team duly improved by having more shots (two) inside six minutes than they’d had in the first 45. However, this was a false dawn as Austria nervily settled for a 1-0 win and Ukraine continued to offer very little threat on goal, with five shots and one on target over the 90 minutes.
Under Franco Foda, Austria secured their first group progression at a tournament since 1982 (second group stage) and will make their first knockout stage tournament appearance since the 1954 World Cup, where they finished third. They now face the impressive Italy at Wembley in the Last 16, a team they’ve lost to four times out of four (all at World Cups). For Ukraine, they now face a tense wait until Wednesday evening to find out their Euros fate… CM
Word of the Week: Permutations
Any of the various ways in which a set of things can be ordered.
The only acceptable word to describe the possible qualification outcomes at major football tournaments.
As this Twitter thread demonstrates, we’re going to hear a lot about Permutations™ over the next few days. That’s what happens when third-placed teams are allowed to qualify for the Round of 16. Things get messy, things get crazy and – let’s hope – things get fun.
We start the day with group C, which ranks fairly low on the possible permutations scale.
Regardless of the result against North Macedonia, the Netherlands have qualified top of the group and are in the fortunate situation to be drawn against one of those third-placed teams in the Last 16.
Despite entertaining many, North Macedonia are already eliminated with two defeats. Only two nations have lost their first three matches at the European Championships: Denmark in 1984 and Turkey in 1996, so they will be keen to keep their name off that unwanted list.
Our win probability gives them just a 33.7% chance of avoiding defeat though, with the Netherlands the clear favourites (66.3%) to win today. In doing so, The Dutch would win all three group stage matches at a Euro tournament for a third time, after achieving that feat in Euro 2000 and Euro 2008.
The other ‘clash’ in group C is Ukraine against Austria. This fixture has all the hallmarks of a pretend-to-try-and-win-but-really-we’re-happy-with-a-draw encounter. A draw sees both sides almost certain to qualify, while neither even has the incentive of trying to finish top, because, well, they can’t.
Whichever way this pans out, the group C teams don’t have an easy route. The runners-up in the group, probably Ukraine, face the unenviable task of taking on Italy in the Last 16, while finishing third gets you a game against the winner of the Group of Death or the winner of Group E – probably Spain.
Here are those permutations broken down by our tournament predictor model:
Now, the latter slate should offer up a little more spice. Here’s how things stand in group B:
Quite remarkably, Belgium have failed to beat Finland in their last seven meetings (D3 L4). Their last victory over the Finns dates back to October 1968, in a World Cup qualifier (6-1).
Perhaps even more remarkably, Finland can finish top of Group B. They’d need to beat Belgium (unlikely), and hope Denmark get a point or more against Russia (quite likely). But it’s certainly within the realms of possibility.
In most of the timelines though, this doesn’t happen. Finland have looked toothless going forwards at Euro 2020. They’ve mustered just two shots on target across their two games so far. Since 1980, no team has ever had fewer than four shots on target over their three group games at the European Championship. Rise, Joel Pohjanpalo, your country needs you.
Obviously, what’s a lot more likely is that Belgium come away victorious. The Red Devils are looking to win all of their group stage games for the second consecutive major tournament (3/3 at the 2018 World Cup), while it would be the first time they have won all of their group stage games in a single edition of the European Championships.
Against Denmark, substitutes Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard transformed the game. Since the 2014 World Cup, Hazard (nine) and De Bruyne (eight) have more assists than any other European players at major international. Indeed, both players assisted against Denmark last time out, becoming the first substitute duo to both assist for the same team in a game at the European Championships since Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben in 2008 (for the Netherlands versus France).
Denmark against Russia could be a lot of fun. For the Danes, it’s now or never. They have to win to stand any chance of qualifying. Our win predictor gives them a 48.9% of doing just that.
Should they win, and Belgium beat Finland, they could finish as high as second which would be remarkable considering they’ve started the tournament with consecutive defeats.
Despite those defeats, Denmark have performed admirably in extremely difficult circumstances. They can feel themselves unfortunate not to have anything to show for their efforts thus far. In their two games, Kasper Hjulmand’s men have had 43 shots and scored just once (2% conversion rate), while they’re opponents have been far more clinical, scoring three times from the seven shots they’ve faced (43% conversion rate).
Denmark will take comfort in the fact that, Russia’s 1-0 victory over Finland aside, they had conceded in 16 of their previous 17 major tournament games.
For Russia, a draw here (28.3%) sees them tick up to the ‘magic’ four-point mark and, assuming Finland don’t beat Belgium, would be enough to see them finish second in the group. Their reward? A Last 16 match-up against Wales in Amsterdam.
Our tournament predictor shows the chaos that could be instore later. Finland can still finish in any position, Russia have almost as much chance at finishing bottom (40.5%) as they do in second (43.9%), and there’s a genuine chance Denmark come second (31.1%).
We can’t wait. OH