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NMA Guide to Fantasy Euro 2020: Difficulty Tables

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Join us for a deep-dive into the Euros’ fixture-difficulty stats

Teacher writing on chalkboard Photo by Kirill Kukhmar\TASS via Getty Images

Following our previously-published comprehensive guide to Fantasy Euro 2020, in which my colleague Dhivakhar described his Ease of Fixture calculations, we thought that overwhelming our readers with even more tables would be a great idea!

To that end, we now dive even deeper into the abyss of fantasy statistics to construct customized Difficulty Tables (DTs).


Prelude

Before presenting the tables, I must explain my calculus. Many football fans find the FIFA rankings rather unrealistic because they continue to give weight to the outcomes of fixtures that occurred years ago. I believe there should be a reset button on the rankings so that they better serve their intended purpose: to characterize the current form and potential of each team.

Serious fantasy managers have already spent the last week sifting through stats, so in the interest of simplicity I’ve created the ‘National Team Efficiency’ index, or for easy reference, the ‘MiQ ranks’. I use the word “efficiency” since the calculation yields a percentage. I admit that this calculation is a bit simplistic, and I was unhappily surprised by a couple of the results. Below are the three main components of the equation.

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  • A: Relative Value: Unfortunately, in the world of football, team performances often correlate directly with budget. Why was it such a shock when Leicester won the English Premier League a few years ago? Because the Foxes’ wage bill was nowhere near the payroll of the perennial top clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, and the rest of the “Big Six”.

In addition to our coverage of the Champions League, Never Manage Alone devotes a lot of its efforts to the EPL, so for the sake of illustration we’ll use England’s national team as the example in each of the following explanations. Then you the reader may decide if you want to follow this guide as it is, make some tweaks of your own or just discard it all together.

With the most expensive squad in the tournament, England’s team value ranking is #1. But their FIFA ranking is fourth. A simple division yields that England’s achievement is 25% of what should be. This calculation was performed for all teams.

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  • B: Relative Rank: The lowest FIFA rank among the teams participating in the Euros belongs to North Macedonia at 62, while the highest is Belgium at 1.

England ranks fourth, so their relative rank score is determined by this equation: (62-4)/62 = 94%.

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  • C: Recent Performance: The last 15 matches played by each team (until June 5) were considered to calculate the victory rate of each team. England won 12 out of their last 15 matches and therefore score a percentage of 80%.

Fixture Difficulty Matrix

Now that we have generated these variables, we can incorporate them into a single equation that accounts for all three. The first two items are heavily dependent on FIFA rankings, so I allocated only 15% weight to each, leaving 70% to recent victories. My MiQ-ranks equation therefore looks like this: (15% of A) + (15% of B) + (70% of C). Still using England as our example squad, we generate a MiQ rank of 74%. (The nice thing about this equation, though, is that you can choose to weight the three variables any way you like based on your own opinion of their relative importance.)

Once I calculated MiQ-rank for each team, I could draw up fixture difficulty tables. Each cell shows the prospect for the team on the left when it faces the opponent in the column header. For instance, the green cell in the Italy row suggests that Italy should do well against Turkey (indeed, all teams in group A look good against Turkey).

  • RED (unfavorable fixture): The opponent’s MiQ rank is less than 5% lower, or the opponent has a higher MiQ rank.
  • Orange (tends toward unfavorable): The opponent’s MiQ rank is between 5% and 10% lower
  • Yellow (tends toward favorable): The opponent’s MiQ rank is between 10% and 15% lower
  • Green (favorable fixture): The opponent’s MiQ rank is more than 15% lower.

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Rankings

To be honest, I am surprised by the results generated for Croatia and Germany — many fantasy managers consider owning players from those countries a given. But based on what their MiQ ranks tell me, I believe that I will be avoiding both teams at least in the first round.

Here is a look at the raw MiQ ranks for every team in the tournament:

Because Belgium ranks 9th for squad value but first in the FIFA standings, they scored an astonishing 900% for the Relative Value score. Belgium’s #1 FIFA rank also gives them a tournament-leading Relative Rank score of 98%. Finally, only Italy and England scored better for Recent Performance, each of them coming in at 80% compared to 73% for Belgium. Dropping Belgium’s values into my formula yields a MiQ score that actually exceeds 100%. In short, my math indicates that the Belgians have the best odds to win it all.

The next group of favorites are Italy and France, with England, Sweden, and Portugal hot on their heels. Based on this data I cannot see Germany, Spain or the Netherlands mounting a serious challenge but anything is possible in football. And let us not forget about the dark horse teams, which I suspect will be Denmark, Wales and Hungary.

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While I make no claims that these tables are definitive, I hope you find them helpful as you choose players and plan your chip and transfer strategies. I will be keeping an eye on the comments and will be happy to explain my calculations for any and all teams if requested.

Finally, if you missed them, we covered Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, Group E, and Group F in a series of previous articles. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please join NMA’s mini-league.

Then visit nevermanagealone.com regularly throughout the tournament. We’ll have player picks and rate-my-team articles, as well as a Live Chat post for each match-day.

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What criteria would you use to rank these national teams? How would you weight your criteria? And how do you apply team rankings to the fantasy game? Please share your rankings and reactions in the comments!

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