womenforfootball.com- The 15th edition of UEFA Euro Cup 2016 came to an end in a disappointing fashion in Paris on Sunday. Disappointing, not only because the host nation, France, saw Championship trophy slip off their hands to Portugal in extra time of the Final. Not only because defending Champions, Spain was knocked out early in the Tournament. Not only because we saw ever increasing and yawning group games due to expansion of 16 to 24 teams this time.
Euro Cup competition, the most important competition in Europe and one of the most popular competitions around the globe this time around was at best a dull set of games played under a branded Tournament. Euro 2016, with 24 teams participating instead of the usual 16, kicked off with 6 Groups of 4, instead of 4 Groups of 4.
Instead of usual competitive nature of group games, in which only 2 top teams could advance from each group, in Euro 2016, majority of the 3rd team of groups could also advance to knock-out stage: Leaving many weaker teams less motivated to try their best to make it to top 2. The result was low quality and cautionary group games, in which teams advanced with fewer victories compared to Euro 2012. Number of points top teams of groups earned were also %30 lower than Euro 2012.
Moving on to knock-out stage, naturally as many teams do, teams played with tight defense to avoid conceding goals, even at the cost of leading up to Penalty Kicks. Round of 16 games were added to the format of competition for the first time. Round of 16 games saw surprising result of England and Spain’s elimination, with historic record by passionate first-timers, Iceland, making it to Quarter Finals for the first time in the country of 320,000 people.
Even the Final did not contain as much action and excitement as the final of previous rounds of Euro 2016. With Portugal guarding their net with majority of their players, counting on goals from counter-attack, the Final of Euro 2016, could easily be likened to Greece’s Euro 2004 triumph through their defensive tactics. Overall , throughout the competition, average number of goal attempts made by all teams were significantly lower than Euro 2012. So was Goal per Game ratio.
Here are 4 metrics to compare competitiveness and excitement of Euro 2016 to previous round of Euro Cup competition. Each metric is shown in chart for more clarity:
1. Average number of victories in each Group game: In Euro 2016, in average, teams could advance from Group stage to Knock-out stage with only 1.25 victories. In Euro 2012 however, with tighter rules in Group stage, teams advanced with average of 1.75 victories.
2. Average team points in Group games: In Euro 2016, with new relaxed rules, competition was lower in group games, and teams who did advance from Group games, did so with much lower points needed. In average, teams that advanced from group games, did so with 5.37 points. That has decreased compare to an average of 6 points back in Euro 2012.
3. Goals per match ratio: Throughout the whole competition, in Euro 2016, number of goals per game in average was 2.12 goals. That pares in comparison to 2.45 goals in average in Euro 2012.
4. Goal Attempts: This is a key metric that indicates how often teams were on offensive and their eagerness to dominate and score. For this purpose, goal attempts include both on-target and off-target chances created by teams. Throughout the competition, in Euro 2016, in average, 42 goal attempts were made by teams. This is almost %20 lower than goal attempts of Euro 2012. In Euro 2012, in average, teams created 51 goal attempts throughout competition.
It is not all doom and gloom though. Although with more teams participating, quality of Euro games deteriorated as evident for viewers, and backed by data, but on the positive side, in Euro 2016, the so called outsiders, in most cases perfectly challenged old-timers. Likes of Iceland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Slovakia, couple of times within their means, stalled the heartbeat of their strong opponents. And those heart-stopping moments are what makes football exciting to watch.