A record 24 teams are about to compete in UEFA’s 2016 European Championship in France over the next month, culminating in the final which takes place at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday 10th July.
France, who won the tournament the last time it took place on French soil will be aiming to equal the three titles won by both Germany and Spain, with the Spanish hoping to record their third consecutive European title and to cement their position at the top of the tree both at club and international level, whilst Germany will be keen to add the European Championship to that of World Cup holders. But in a year that has seen some remarkable upsets, can there be a surprise winner as there was in 1992 when Denmark took the crown or in 2004 when Greece took the title in the final against hosts Portugal. Maybe 50 years after winning the World Cup at Wembley, could this be the time for perennial underachievers England to finally win their first European Championship?
SportsMatrix looked back over the games played by the 23 qualifiers, including playoffs and friendly matches against host nation France, as well as France’s friendly matches played during the period of the qualifying games, in order to see how the teams compared. Obviously there needs to be some caution regarding France’s data since none of their games could be regarded as being truly competitive.
Poland, with the lethal Robert Lewandowski leading the line, averaged most goals per game (3.3) and averaged the highest percentage of dangerous shots (43%) of all the qualifiers; figures certainly boosted thanks to the 15 goals scored in two games against Gibraltar. England, the only team to have a 100% win record in qualifying, averaged marginally fewer goals per game (3.0) than Poland; but were just as impressive in defence, conceding on average 0.2 goals per game. Romania’s defence was equally stingy, conceding fewest goals (2) in qualifying and with no goals conceded in any of their five away games; however along with Wales they could only manage an average of just over a goal a game.
Albania, making their first appearance in the finals of a major competition, qualified by reaching fewest (5.7) and suffering most (9.4) scoring chances per game of all other qualifiers and averaging fewest attempts on goal (9.4) of the other qualifiers.
Germany averaged most attempts on goal per game (23.3), with Switzerland (20.9) and England (19.5) close behind, whilst Slovakia (10.4) and the Republic of Ireland (10.8) averaged only marginally fewer attempts than the shot shy Albanians.
The dangerous Poland attack averaged most goals per game from their attempts on goal (3.3), with England (2.7) and Belgium (2.5) only marginally less dangerous; whilst at the other end, Albania (0.8), Wales (1.0), Romania (1.1) and Hungary (1.2) posed far less threat with fewest goals from their attempts.
Italy regard their present team as being one of the weakest in many years, however defensively they are still an impressive unit, restricting their opponents to fewest goal scoring chances per game (3.2), slightly better than that of England (3.5), Romania (4.1) and Croatia (4.2).
Germany (17.9), Spain (16.2), England (15.8) and Austria (15.3) all averaged most goal scoring chances per game, whilst Hungary (6.3) along with Albania averaged fewest goal scoring chances per game.
Whilst Poland averaged the highest percentage of dangerous shots, Northern Ireland, who finished top of their group, averaged a significantly lower percentage of dangerous shots (19%) than any of the other qualifiers.
When examining which teams posed a greatest threat when shooting from distance, Belgium scored eight times from outside the penalty area, accounting for 30% of all their goals. Albania, who managed seven goals in qualifying and two in friendlies against France, scored twice from outside the penalty area, this accounting for close to a quarter of all of their goals. Six teams (Austria, Hungary, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine) scored only once from outside the penalty area, with the lowest percentage of all goals from distance scored by Austria, Republic of Ireland and Switzerland.