World Cup Fever – European Edition

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With less than six months until Russia kick us off for what’s set to be a fantastic World Cup it’s time to not only start getting excited but also, for the forward planning traders among us, to prepare your portfolio.

Looking back at Euro 2016, top performers and goal scorers often picked up the Media Dividends, but now after the recent announcement of Performance Dividends being included in World Cup matches, the potential to yield dividends this time around has dramatically increased.

In order to shed some light on who could be the ones reaping all these rewards, I’ve decided to produce a series of articles breaking down the fundamental stats that relates the tournament to the Football Index. Kicking it off with looking specifically at the European sides competing for the biggest accolade in the world’s most popular sport.

European teams make up 44% of the tournaments contender’s with fourteen qualified, which is more than every other continent by at least seven nations, given the Europeans a huge chance of taking home the trophy, not only that but European sides have won nine of the last ten competitions hosted within their own continent, showing a real presence on home ground. In index terms, if you’re looking for players who are going to have more chances of winning dividends (ie by playing more games) many Europeans could fall firmly into that category, with eleven of the fourteen sides previously reaching the semi’s or better.

But of these Europeans, who should you be looking at for picking up good scores? After all, just because a player is on the pitch, it doesn’t mean he’s going to win you anything. A great place to start with this is by looking at goals. Very rarely do Strikers or Midfielders win a Performance Dividend without scoring and in a tense tournament atmosphere, a goal could very well wrap up the Media Dividend for someone also.

Speaking of goals in Europe, there’s no better place to start than Poland’s very own Robert Lewandowski. At the time of writing, the Bayern talisman has just bagged his first ever Performance Dividend and with his form for the national side, I doubt it’ll be his last. During qualification, Lewandowski was the highest scoring player across all confederations with sixteen goals in just ten games which broke the previous record tally in a UEFA qualifying campaign held by Yugoslavia’s Predrag Mijatovic (14).

These 16 goals accounted for 57% of all of Poland’s goals during qualification and the big pole recorded an impressive four game-winning goals, and when there’s only a maximum of four games a day, a game-winning goal could very easily result in a clean sweep of Media and both positional and star player Performance Dividends and as Poland managed to find themselves in pot 1 for the draw, they have far from the hardest possible group giving several opportunities for Lewi to grab some dividends.

Sticking with game-winning goals, you can’t look past Cristiano Ronaldo, and whilst tipping the five-time Ballon d’Or winner as a goal scorer isn’t exactly a bold statement, his fifteen goals in eight starts from 31 shots on target (Highest in European Qualifying) averaging a goal every 51 minutes, as well as 4 game-winning goals, are definitely well worth a mention.

However, if you’re looking for someone who’s going to get goals that you may not have already considered, Christian Eriksen could be your man. Trading at just two pounds, the Danish midfielder hit eleven goals in qualifying along with three assists and although this includes two extra games due to a playoff tie with Ireland (in which he scored a hattrick!) the stats are pretty impressive. Not only that but Eriksen also managed to grab a game-winning goal in six of Denmark’s seven wins during qualifying and sharing a group with Peru and Australia (as well as France) may see them with an opportunity to grab a couple more wins and progress to the latter stages of the competition after an impressive qualifying campaign.

Looking at other options in the middle of the park you can’t look past the Germans, with the highest passing accuracy of 92% and most average possession with 69% it’s no surprise that Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich rank in the top three most completed passed with 763 and 753 respectively (both behind Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka with 834, who may be worth a punt himself?). However it may be surprising to hear that it is Kimmich of the two German’s who seems to come out on top in terms of PB potential, having racked up the most assists of any player in qualifying with nine, as well as chipping in with two goals. All whilst playing right back nonetheless.

Moving on to defenders, if you’re looking for clean sheets then it is actually the English who come out on top managing to keep their opponents out on eight occasions, meaning pass master John Stones could be a valuable hold, at least during the group games, providing, of course, we don’t bottle it this time around. Spain racked up seven clean sheets while German and Belgium managed to not concede on six occasions, giving these teams defenders a great chance of picking up 43 points for starters with a win and clean sheet bonus. Other than ball playing centre-backs, goal scoring defenders obviously tend to pick up good scores, which makes Belgium’s Thomas Meunier a great option after his impressive qualifying campaign scoring five goals and bagging seven assists in eight matches for the campaigns highest scoring team (43 goals, tied with Germany), and showing that he’s not scared to get forward down the flanks.

In summary, the European’s have a great chance of not only progressing in the tournament but also putting in some big performances to earn you dividends. With Opta rating three European teams in their top five countries with a chance of winning based on results probability, in the shape of Germany (11.4%), France (10.5%) and Spain (9.3%). As well as this, with six European teams being in pot 1 for the draw, in theory, they should be in with a favourable chance of getting through the groups. France, in particular, has a relatively easy group as well as Germany having little to worry about in the early stages of the competition. So while no one can predict exactly what’s going to happen, we now have a good idea of where the points are going to come from and how we as traders can plan early and capitalise on this knowledge.

Written by @FootballIndexLM


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