Predicting the Winner of the EURO 2008 (A Statistical Investigation of Bookmakers Odds)

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper

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In June 2008 one of the biggest and most popular sports tournaments took place in Austria and Switzerland, the European football championship 2008 (UEFA EURO 2008). Before the tournament started millions of football supporters throughout the world were asking themselves, just as we did: "Who is going to win the EURO 2008?". We investigate a method for forecasting the tournament outcome, that is not based on historical data (such as scores in previous matches) but on quoted winning odds for each of the 16 teams as provided by 45 international bookmakers. By using a mixed-effects model with a team-specific random effect and fixed effects for the bookmaker and the preliminary group we model the unknown "true" log-odds for winning the championship. The final of the EURO 2008 was played by the teams Germany and Spain. This was exactly the fixture that our method forecasted with a probability of about 20.2%. Furthermore, estimated winning probabilities can be derived from our model, where team Germany, the runner-up of the final had the highest probability (17.6%) to win the title and team Spain the winner of the tournament had the second best chance to win the championship (12.3%). To adjust for effects of the tournament schedule including the group draw, we recovered the latent team strength (underlying the bookmakers' expectations) to answer the question: Will the "best" team win? An ex post analysis of the tournament showed that our method yields good predictions of the tournament outcome and outperforms the FIFA/Coca Cola World rating and the Elo rating.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2008

Publication series

SeriesResearch Report Series / Department of Statistics and Mathematics

WU Working Paper Series

  • Research Report Series / Department of Statistics and Mathematics

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