Can an actuary predict the winner of Euro 2016?

Can an actuary predict the winner of Euro 2016?
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As Cristiano Ronaldo hoisted the European Championship above his head in Paris and Portugal were named the European Champions 2016, EValue's actuary came to the conclusion that it is not possible to predict the winner of a football tournament based purely on population size.

It can however give a relatively good indicator. At the end of the tournament, the spreadsheet had successfully predicted 21 out of 51 games correctly and received 14 bonus points, leading to our actuary winning the EValue Euro 2016 predictions league.

July 8th Update

Following last night’s match between France and Germany, our actuary’s’ spreadsheet has a 50% accuracy rating, having managed to predict the Portugal vs. Wales game correctly, but incorrectly predicting a draw between France and Germany.

So what about this Sunday’s final? Well according to the spreadsheet, we will see the home town team, France, crowned Euro 2016 champions in Stade de France with a 2:0 victory over Portugal.

Original Post

One way or another, Europe has dominated the news over recent weeks. Even before the uncertainty of Brexit, Euro 2016 fever had gripped much of the nation. Since the start of the tournament, English pride has been high throughout much of the EValue office, with one of the Marketing team managing to make the trip to Marseille for England’s first game. Luckily he made it back in one piece.

EValue even had the England vs. Wales game playing in one of our conference rooms on the 16th June. Though there was a lot of excitement in the office following that game, I can’t help but observe a noticeable drop in excitement since June 27th, very strange. On the other-hand, one of our developers who was born and raised in Rhondda Cynon Taf has been beaming from ear-to-ear since Friday.

In addition to our usual sweepstake, where each participant draws a team out of a hat, this year we have also been running a predictions league. Some of the more knowledgeable football fans in the office have been predicting the winner of each game, with points rewarded based on accuracy – and bonus points for correctly predicting outcomes that few others predicted.

Over the years there have been many attempts to predict the eventual winner of football tournaments, such as looking at each team’s historic performance (though as we’ve discussed previously, past performance is not always indicative of future results), and even relying on Paul the Octopus to predict the winners.

While most of the office have relied upon their football knowledge and gut instinct; one of our senior actuaries took a different approach. He was curious as to whether there was any correlation between a country’s population size and the eventual winners. So in true actuarial style, he created a forecast modelling spreadsheet that aimed to predict the score of each game based on their population size.

As we approach the semi-finals, we’re happy to report that our actuary is leading the EValue league table, having correctly predicted 20 out of 51 games this tournament – with the exact score being predicted on 8 occasions, earning himself 14 bonus points. Though even his spreadsheet fell victim to predicting England would cruise past Iceland, forecasting a 5:0 victory to England. Proving that even the best models can occasionally be thrown off by uncharacteristically poor performances (though some would say England dropping out was very characteristic of The Three Lions over the past decade).

So to the inevitable question, who does the spreadsheet predict will win in the semi-finals? According to the algorithm, the results of the semi-final matches will be:

  • Wales 0 : 1 Portugal
  • France 0 : 0 Germany (presumably with Germany winning on penalties?)

We’ll have to wait till the 6th and 7th of July to find out how correct the spreadsheet is and of course, who it is predicting will be crowned the champions of Europe on Sunday.

This article is provided for entertainment purposes only.

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Ben Cicchetti, EValue's Marketing Manager

Ben, an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, has worked in the financial services and technology industries for over 10 years. He is passionate about injecting creativity throughout our marketing and communicating how our solutions can truly make a difference to people’s financial futures.

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