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Euro 2020 Betting Trends: What Changes During the Knockout Phase?

Euro 2020 Betting Trends: What Changes During the Knockout Phase? article feature image

Alexander Scheuber – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images. Pictured: Maarten Stekelenburg of the Netherlands.

The Euro 2020 round of 16 begins on Saturday. For bettors, that might mean it’s time for a pivot.

Single-elimination soccer is a little different, both in terms of the dramatic circumstances and the thought process that might govern your wagers. For starters, it’s important to remember that most bets only apply to 90 minutes of regulation (and not to overtime or penalties) unless specifically indicated otherwise.

For example, if you bet Wales on the moneyline, you need them to thwart Denmark in 90 minutes for your bet to pay out. But if you bet Wales “To Advance,” then overtime and penalties factor into the equation.

It’s also unavoidable that teams will approach win-or-go-home matches differently from a tactical perspective.

Here’s some context to consider between this weekend and when a new European champion is crowned on July 11.

Scoring Usually Declines During Knockout Play

While it’s not been true in every edition of the tournament, scoring at the European Championships has generally decreased when single-elimination play begins.

Since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 1996, teams have scored an average of 2.42 goals per game (gpg) in group matches. During single-elimination play, that number drops to 2.10 gpg, excluding goals scored in extra time. If you see odds on total goals that skew lower than you expected, this could be why.

However, while this holistic decrease in scoring is somewhat consistent over a larger time frame, it fluctuates from tournament to tournament.

At Euro ’96, there were only eight goals in the first 90 minutes of the tournament’s seven single-elimination matches; there were only 10 goals scored during the same span at Euro 2004. That was good for a drop of more than 1.00 gpg in each case.

In other editions of the tournament, the scoring rate dipped less than 0.25 gpg. And in the 2016 tournament, scoring actually went up once knockout play began — albeit from a paltry 1.92 gpg during group play.

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Moneyline Trends Often Shift

If a group stage is full of upsets, that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a Cinderella story that makes a deep run in the knockout phase. Nor does ample group stage chalk eliminate the possibility for a big surprise later on.

Here’s a breakdown of bettors’ return on investment (ROI) in previous Euros, broken down by betting position: Backing a favorite, underdog or draw; and by round of play: Group Play versus the Knockout Rounds.

Betting ROI At the Euros

Year, Round
2004 Group Play
2004 Knockout
2008 Group Play
2008 Knockout
2012 Group Play
2012 Knockout
2016 Group Play
2016 Knockout
2020 Group Play
2020 Knockout
Figures compiled from data provided by Odds Portal.

See!? It’s a mess!

If anything, the data above illustrates how small the sample size of international tournaments is — and why it’s difficult to glean larger truths from that historical data. Even though we always try.

Maybe there’s also a hint of a trend suggesting favorites are overvalued in knockout play, while draws are undervalued. But only a hint.

Penalty Jitters and Goalkeeper Stats

If you’re making a “To Advance” wager — one that factors extra time and penalties into the outcome — then you should consider whether extra time might favor one squad over another due to roster depth.

You might also consider some minutia from this tournament that most bettors will probably overlook — particularly as it pertains to penalties.

One consideration is teams’ failure to convert penalties so far during the 2020 tournament. Penalty-takers have made 8-of-14 in the group stage, well shy of the worldwide average of nearly 80%. Five different teams have missed at least one, and Spain has missed a pair.

On the other end of the spectrum, Golden Boot leader Cristiano Ronaldo has converted three penalties for Portugal. But he’ll only be able to take one of his team’s five spot kicks if it comes down to a tiebreak.

Then, there’s the goalkeepers. Although there has only been a focus on keeping penalty-saving stats for the last half-decade, there is enough data that you can sense which ‘keepers are better at stopping shots from the spot.

In the time period since has been able to acquire data, the Netherlands’ Maarten Stekelenburg and Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma have saved in the neighborhood of 30% of penalties that are on target.

On the other end of the spectrum, Switzerland’s Yann Sommer has stopped fewer than 5% of the penalties he’s faced that have been on frame.

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