BBC Sport asked 16 of its pundits to say who they thought would be the champions and who else would make up the final four. Here’s a breakdown of how often each team was selected to get as far as at least the semi finals:
Germany - 16 (10 wins, 4 runners up, 2 semis)
Spain - 16 (5 wins, 7 runners, 4 semis)
Netherlands - 15 (1 win, 3 runners up, 11 semis)
France - 12 (3 runners up, 9 semis)
Portugal - 2 (2 semis)
England - 1 (1 semi)
Poland - (1 semi)
Germany, Spain, Netherlands and France are the bookies top four teams. You could ask anyone in the street and they’d probably tell you those 4 teams in some order too.
Are the pundits giving us any actual insight here? I don’t think so.
It might well be that the pundits genuinely believe the top four will be the semi finalists, but honestly, how often does that happen in major tournaments?
Here are the last four over recent tournaments:
2010 - Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Uruguay
2008 - Spain, Germany, Turkey, Russia
2006 - Italy, France, Germany, Portugal
2004 - Greece, Portugal, Netherlands, Czech Republic
2002 - Brazil, Germany, Turkey, South Korea
2000 - France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal
Spain were marginally ahead of Portugal in most bookies eyes in 2000, but 3 out of 4 is still the closest we’ve come recently. Half of these tournaments feature a complete outsider either winning or making the semi finals. If we went back another few tournaments we’d run into Denmark, Bulgaria and Sweden.
One of the top teams not making it through is very probably. One of the real outsiders making it through is also quite likely.
Alan Hansen’s picks feature 3 teams from the same group, so only 2 can possibly make it to the semis or beyond. When Twitter spotted this a change was made so that the intro points out that the pundits were only asked to say who they were tipping. If this is true, given there were no constraints on tournament logistics, nobody backed Italy, Croatia, Russia, the Czechs etc to make the semis. They all went for the favourites anyway.
The only BBC pundit to pick an outsider is Jan Molby.
His selection of Poland is an interesting one because it’s not backed up by a particularly favourable draw. Here’s what he says:
"Poland are one the host nations and in a group where they should get through to the quarter finals. As a host nation in the quarter final a lot can happen."
To make the semi they would need to defeat one of Germany, Netherlands, Portugal or Denmark in the quarters. Group A might be easier to get out of but running into Group B hurts their chances. Still, it’s a pick that makes a lot of sense.
I’m more interested in the teams not picked by anyone, in particular, Italy.
Italy, Spain, Croatia and Republic of Ireland looks likes two heavyweights and two also rans. Hardly, but they should still progress, even if they were to lose their opener to the holders.
If they do their quarter final opponents will be from Group D - Ukraine, Sweden, France, England. Not one of the BBC’s pundits thinks they can make the final 4 from here. Maybe they’re thinking they’ll lose to France. All of them? Is the French team that good? If it was, wouldn’t somebody have picked them to win it? Only 3 of 16 have them to make the final.
Maybe the pundits are just afraid to stick their neck out. Pick the tournament favourites in some order and they won’t be far wrong. These are the same people who say there are no easy games in international football and “you can’t write off the Germans.” They also say stuff like this:
"They’re a strong team. They’ve got some great individual players and with the right team spirit they can go all the way. They’ve got a good mixture of experienced players from the top clubs in Europe and promising youngsters."
I made that quote up just now but I think it fits most teams in the tournament.
The problem with picking outsiders is that they’re all capable of making a run (“doing a Greece” or “doing a Denmark” as it’s usually known) so although Molby has gone for Poland, the same can apply to the Ukraine. Picking Poland and the Ukraine would be a bold move but at least he’s shown us his thought process. The other pundits haven’t really. They’ve simply said, “These are the best teams, I think they’ll all make it through, I can’t see anyone else beating them.” Thanks for that insight.
I really don’t see any value in articles like that. They’re about as much fun to read as my Wimbledon 2012 predictions:
Runner up: Nadal
Semis: Murray and Federer
These are the best players, I think they’ll all make it through, I can’t see anyone else beating them.
Now, where have I heard that before?
(Next blog: My Euro 2012 predictions - guaranteed to be as accurate as anything Alan Hansen comes out with.)