England favoured by football fans to win the European Championship

Stadium full of football fans.
Logo of the England national football team.
Unsplash - Winston Tjia

Predictions on Transfermarkt.com, based on football fans' assessments, identify England as the top contender for the European Championship title. According to sports economist Thomas Peeters of Erasmus School of Economics, these predictions are surprisingly accurate.

Predicting football matches is always popular, especially during major tournaments like the European Championship. There are many methods to make a good prediction. But which method works best?

Predictions with the Wisdom of the Crowd

For club matches, economists often look at the clubs' wage bills and home advantage. "These are two very dominant predictors of the outcome. For national teams, that doesn't work because you don't have a wage bill. But you still want to predict the results," says Peeters.

Therefore, economists use data from Transfermarkt.com, where visitors estimate the value of players. Peeters explains: "These estimates are averaged and form the valuation of a player. This works according to the principle of the 'Wisdom of the Crowd', where the average opinion of many people gives a good estimate of something uncertain."

What's the value of Memphis Depay? Of Cristiano Ronaldo? Romelu Lukaku? The sports economists have used the estimates from the thousands of visitors to the football website to assess how national teams perform. And it turns out: it works very well!

Sports economist Thomas Peeters with a football in hand next to the pitch.
Jelle Vermeersch

Reliable Predictions

Peeters' research shows that the valuations from Transfermarkt.com work better than the FIFA ranking for predicting match results. "The FIFA ranking can be politically influenced, whereas the values from Transfermarkt.com are purely based on the estimates of many fans," says Peeters. This makes the Transfermarkt.com values a reliable source for predictions.

You might think that fans of, for example, Feyenoord would give their players a higher value, leading to errors. Peeters says, "We investigated this, and it turns out not to be the case. It all evens out reasonably well, so you get good predictions with these market values."

England to Win the European Championship

According to Transfermarkt.com, the top contender to become European Champion is England. The English team has a market value of 1.52 billion euros. France follows in second place with 1.23 billion euros, and Portugal in third with 1.05 billion euros.

Despite the good predictions from Transfermarkt.com, the European Championship remains exciting, especially in the knockout phase: "During the 51 matches of a European Championship, chance plays too large a role to really predict who will win. Every model predicts that England will beat Slovenia. But the question is: do they win 90 out of 100 times? Or 93 out of 100 times? These are the margins you deal with. To really see results in a model of market values, you need to analyze 3000 to 4000 matches."

Peeters hopes his home country, Belgium, will do well. "From the knockout phase, anything can happen. The Netherlands also has a chance to go far. On paper, some countries are better, but I don't think the French or the English would enjoy playing against the Red Devils or The Netherlands. They have a chance. If the coin falls your way four times after the group stage, you become European Champion."

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